Pivoting Businesses Turned Passion Into Profit
When her business plans shifted due to COVID-19, Heather Bolt Touma decided to pivot and create a new business that could adapt to the new reality. Rink Threads was born, a Windsor-based hockey apparel store for fans in Canada and the world. With the ShopHERE Powered By Google Program's support, Heather was able to build her online store and start selling her products right away.
“I'm now a proud business owner who confidently operates on a day to day basis and is managing a strong online presence.”
When 2020 began, Heather's dream was to open a vegan bakery in Windsor, Ontario. She had been working on this project for over a year and was a month away from opening day, but then COVID-19 hit. She knew it would become an uphill battle to get that type of business to thrive. With no clear next steps but a lot of information about opening and running a business, she decided to shift and go with another longtime dream.
When she was 5 years old Heather fell in love with hockey, and by the age of 8, she was already playing in a league. Her passion for the sport was immense, and one of the things she enjoyed the most was wearing hockey apparel. But being a girl, this wasn't easy. All the hockey-themed shirts and clothing she found were either in the boy's section (when she was lucky) or adult-sized men's shirts. That's why being faced with pivoting to a new business, after dreaming up her first t-shirt design, and receiving a very well-timed email from the Windsor Essex Small Business Centre about an eCommerce workshop, Rink Threads came to life.
Through the Windsor Essex Small Business Centre, Heather was introduced to the ShopHERE Program, a way to help small businesses and artists create a free online store. With Mario, her mentor, they took Heather's ideas and designs and launched them into a full-scale eCommerce website. Through the program, she learned to run ads on Facebook and Google with strong results, read the data and use it to improve her business.
For Heather, the ShopHERE Program was a great way to get convenient and well-packaged help, with unparalleled resources and great one-on-one advice.
“I am forever grateful for these programs and attribute the fact that I'm even in business, and this isn't still just an idea in my head to them. Mario was the reason my business is doing as well as it is! Rink Threads would not be what it is today without the ShopHERE Program and I'd probably be stumbling through the confusion of Shopify, Facebook Ads, and Google Analytics.”
With her 8-year old self in mind, Heather has made Rink Threads a store for everyone. Since she knows hockey players and fans come in all shapes and sizes, she has made her products available from sizes XS to 4XL. She’s keeping them all at the same price by absorbing size upcharges, and making an active effort to get away from gender labels by making her pieces based on size: “Adult” or “Youth.” Inclusion, diversity, compassion and heart, are the pillars on which Rink Threads is built on. “Our focus is on funny and relatable hockey designs and sayings, and we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to express themselves with fashion. Everyone's welcome to shop here and can be assured that all super cool designs will come in their size.”
After two months of having her e-commerce store up and running, and with her customers expressing how much they love the site, she has launched a very successful brand ambassador program (Called GOAT). Heather has seen a significant increase in her website daily sessions and orders and gained a lot of knowledge and confidence that will help drive her forward.
“Use the tools you have available to you. Keep learning. For every single down, there's a big up on the way; you just need to find the key to unlock it and outlast the dip.”
You can get your uniquely-designed hockey t-shirts, hoodies, accessories and apparel from the Rink Threads website here. If you are a small business or know someone interested in learning more about the ShopHERE Program and how to apply, click here. To learn more about Digital Main Street and how it is helping local businesses survive the pandemic, click here.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.