AFTER READING AN ARTICLE ABOUT two hockey-playing moms who went into business together, in the Toronto Star Business Section, we wanted to know more about the women and their on- and off-the ice lives. So, we asked.
We are very pleased that Cindy and Lori Nickerson of She Plays Hockey were willing to contribute to our Minor.Hockey.Life.
Although it was mainly Cindy Nickerson who responded to Minor.Hockey.Life. Q&A, Lori Nickerson (they are sisters-in-law as well as business partners), tells us that she plays hockey, but none of kids do. “It’s hard to believe,” says Lori, but “my boys don’t play hockey…they are skiers/snowboarders and karate kids.”
And for now, with her daily life a hectic as it is, she’s okay with that. “Hockey is my thing, my time for myself,” says the mom of three, “which is very important when you’re a mother of three boys. It’s a way to keep my sanity at times.”
Lori also told Minor.Hockey.Life. that Cindy and her family are “flown blown hockey” and that “her kids are actually named after hockey equipment. Seriously….”
While, we’re still not sure if Lori’s comment was tongue-in-cheek, or not, we love the that fact that Lori makes a hockey connection; it’s an indication of the strong relationship these women have with the game.
Q&A with CINDY NICKERSON of SHE PLAYS HOCKEY
You are both moms, hockey parents, and employees. With two jobs and full hockey lives, what’s your secret for balancing and scheduling work/life?
I don’t know if there is a secret, it’s more like you have to be very good at prioritizing and don’t obsess about keeping a routine, you have to go with the flow. You have to let go in a few areas…my house cannot be neat and tidy 24-hours-a-day, I can’t cook a perfect meal every night, the clean clothes can’t always make it into the drawers, but we all get to where we have to go everyday.
What were your greatest joys in hockey this last year?
Great hockey moments are all with my kids games now, with every goal, perfect pass, great defensive play. I’m not sure there is any form of entertainment as enjoyable as watching your own kids play a sport you and they love.
Hockey folks can be immensely supportive. In what ways, if any, has the hockey community helped move your business forward?
I would say that our biggest support come from strangers, people who have bought our products, love it and have spread the word. We’ve had customers in other provinces asking is us to send out business cards and posters so they can put them up it the arena’s they visit.
The support is amazing and word of mouth is a very powerful tool.
What did your kids say when the first shipment arrived?
I remember one of my sons asking for something he could wear so I had to explain that he can get what he needs from any sports stores, our products are for the hockey girls.
What was the most surprising, or unexpected element of running a business?
Probably how unpredictable it is. We can go with a product in one town that flies the shelves and in others they don’t get looked at. The range of opinions is huge too, I used to get upset with negative comments until I realized, the positive far out numbered them.
Also, all the decision making is yours (big and small). There is nobody there to help you decide what you should or shouldn’t do, you just have to find your own focus groups, or trust your instincts. A bad decision can be very costly. And being a small company that is dangerous.
Had you been looking for a small/home/entrepreneurial business opportunity or was it the concept for She Plays Hockey that took you in this direction?
She Plays Hockey took us in this direction, ironically born in an arena change room after a game. The idea was just to make a couple t-shirts and sell them at tournaments, it has, and will continue to evolve and grow as we find more time, new ideas, suppliers and other connections.
With any business venture, there are always naysayers. What negative comments/feedback are you most proud of overcoming?
The only negative comments I can remember was some people thinking we were expensive. We would explain that our quality was tops, and that our products were North American made. Having Canadian made garments is something we are very proud of and we will continue to produce.
We now have overwhelming support with regards to our quality and style.
Do you have one, memorable, or inspiring moment in the past year with the business, or personally?
I would have to say the article in the Toronto Star. The credibility it has given us has been amazing. It was our 15 minutes of fame.
Ten years ago, I was laid-off just as I switched career paths (mid-career and back from mat leave). At the time, I saw it as a blessing, even in the challenge of starting again. Cindy, do you feel the same about your current job situation?
I am very confident about our product and the ideas we have that haven’t even been developed yet, so having time to actually make them happen is a blessing. It’s nice to have the nervous excitement about what the future holds.
The article in the Toronto Star drew attention to your product line and potential customers. Did it bring sales as well as interest?
It did bring sales, and lots of attention to us personally. It made ShePlaysHockey “bigger” in a sense. People who had heard of us where now inquiring. People I’ve know for a couple of years had never actually visited the website until after the article. I guess it made it ‘real’ in their mind.
Cindy you’re a forward (Stouffville), Lori you play defence for a Scarborough team. Would you like to share with us the positions, teams, and a player profile for your kids?
- My 10-year-old son, Cooper, plays defence for the Markham Waxers Atom AA.
- My 9-year-old son, Mitchell, plays forward for the Markham Waxers Minor Atom AA.
- My 6-year-old daughter Cori just started playing in the Novice division of Markham. Stouffville Stars and I have yet to keep a dry eye watching her and all the girls on the ice.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Hockey is a great sport mentally, physically, socially. Things the kids learn on the ice and friendship they make will last a lifetime. Although it can be incredibly competitive and tempers flare on the ice and in the stands, you really have to sit back and enjoy, especially when they are young, it is what it is, and the kids will take the game to whatever level it’s intended for them.
She Plays Hockey sells casual apparel for hockey-playing and hockey-loving girls and women from t-shirts and hoodies, to board shorts and hockey bum sweat pants. From toques and baseball hats to undergarments, their website shows the in-stock inventory, but they also do custom orders.