An interview with Joey Walsh of HockeyStickMan.
Describe your business.
HockeyStickMan is the largest Pro Stock Hockey Equipment dealer in Canada. We offer a comprehensive buyback program to pro, college, and junior teams and then sell the products to customers looking for quality equipment at a lower price. Our business has traditionally focused on online sales and we now serve customers all around the world, however the HockeyStickMan warehouse is newly located just off the 401 in Belleville, and it is open to the public.
What brought you to the region?
We started the business in the basement of my dad’s house, located on a farm halfway between Belleville and Napanee, known for its large outdoor rink in the front lawn. Two barns, a large basement and garage gave us plenty of space to operate a business based on selling pro stock hockey sticks. However in 2018 we began selling pro equipment as well which required the purchase of our own building in Belleville.
What makes the Bay of Quinte a good fit for your business?
Hockey enthusiasts from all levels regularly come from hours away just to see our selection or one-of-a-kind products. Being right off the 401 in Belleville gives us a location in Eastern Ontario halfway between Toronto and Ottawa where day trips to our warehouse are a regular occurrence from both major markets and all the smaller cities and towns in between. We often welcome vehicles from all over Ontario who are either making a special trip or are pulling in off the highway on their way to a game.
The HockeyStickMan Warehouse is also strategically located right by the CAA Arena, making it the only opportunity in the country (that we are aware of) where you can watch Pro Hockey and shop a large selection of Pro Equipment. On top of that, both of these opportunities offer among the most affordable prices! The Bay of Quinte region itself offers a great mix of competitive and recreational hockey.
What was the hardest thing about starting a business?
Starting this business wasn’t hard at all. Certainly it was a lot of work, but it’s always been a labour of love. We take great pride in knowing that we are helping both hockey programs and hockey families.
Over the years it has grown naturally by word-of-mouth and the simple desire for people to be able to acquire top-end quality goods for less money. Managing growth on the other hand has been more challenging. It is no longer strictly a family-run business; we have had to hire a number of full- and part-time staff as well as manage incoming inventory from all over North America, which includes extremely fun but time consuming trips to both the east and west coasts.
It also requires a lot more time and effort working with bookkeepers, accountants, and lawyers as opposed to doing what I enjoy most — sourcing products for a great price and meeting customers to help them find the right gear. That said, we now have a lot of that infrastructure in place and I am confident I can now spend more time doing what I do best!
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the area?
Any sort of successful entrepreneurial endeavor is going to take a lot of your time and effort. In my opinion you need to choose a product or service that you truly believe in, something that will drive your desire every day.
On top of that you will need to surround yourself with a support network that is also passionate about your vision. For me, this is my family. You can’t do it yourself, and you need to understand that it won’t be just you that is making sacrifices.
We started this business to try to save hockey families money and have kept that in mind every step along the way. When following this simple principle, business success has always followed.
What surprised you about starting a business in a smaller community?
We opened the Belleville warehouse in 2019 and found that the products selling were actually quite different from [our first] Toronto showroom. We find that on average there are a lot more Toronto customers motivated to purchase from us because they can save on a specific stick or piece of equipment, whereby the average Belleville warehouse customer is more motivated by saving money in general. This has been part of the reason we have expanded our business to have more of a selection of used gear and buyouts / clearance items in addition to our top-of-the-line pro model stuff, which has been really successful thus far.
What’s your secret to surviving winter?
Hockey is so important to the entire Ontario economy, because it is such a vital contributor to the hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in smaller towns and regions like the Bay of Quinte.
In our opinion, having the HockeyStickMan Warehouse along with professional hockey (Belleville Senators) and some of the best junior hockey programs (Wellington Dukes and Trenton Golden Hawks) in the country is a great draw to the Bay of Quinte in a time when our lakes and rivers are frozen over and beaches closed.
I really encourage people to follow these teams, the level of hockey is incredible and all three are producing players that will go on to play in the NHL. Watching the progression of these young players before they become stars is a lot of fun, and there is no area that is developing players better than we are right here in the Quinte Region.
If you were to have one word tattooed on you, what would it be?
My brother has our family code of arms tattooed on his back which includes Walsh, and my other brother and I have considered getting it also. But for purposes of this interview I gotta say HockeyStickMan……..