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The CEO's Journal- Entry 20- 2019 Recap

Wow. What an incredible year.

Looking back, I can confidently say that 2019 has been the year that has led to more personal growth than any other year. The thing about growing a business is that it FORCES you to evolve. For my business to grow, I needed to grow first. As a result, 2019 was essentially an entire year of me systematically stepping outside of my comfort zone. It was stressful and it was thrilling.

Throughout most of my life I’ve seen taking risks as scary and I had the tendency to look at all the things that could go wrong. But The more I’ve matured and gone through my own life experiences, the more I've realized that nothing great was every achieved without risk.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the risks we took this year and how they worked out for us:

Elevate All Star Weekend

I still can’t believe we did this. I mean where did we get the audacity to believe that we could put together an event like this??

So much could have gone wrong! What if we spent too much money? What if no one came to watch? What if the players didn’t want to participate? What if the jerseys didn’t come out the right way? What if there was a severe snow storm (a valid fear in St John’s in early May) that day?

I couldn’t tell you what caused us to ignore all of that but I am proud beyond words that we did. All Star Weekend ended up being the best day of the entire year for me. It was an incredible night of competitive basketball that tons of people came out to watch. It was the perfect example of why it is important to face our fears. If we hadn't decided to commit to this event, we would not have been able to put together a night that all players, parents, fans, staff and volunteers would remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. I am now a firm believer that life’s greatest opportunities are often concealed within our greatest fears.

Out of Town Pop up Shop

We literally debated right up until two days before the event about whether or not we should attend this out of town pop up shop. Why? Because it was a 2 hour drive each way and we needed to rent a vehicle to transport all of our merchandise. And let me tell you, that rental was not cheap. It was a risk because we had no idea how the pop up shop was going to go. Yes, this was a group of student-athletes we had not yet seen before, but we had no idea whether they’d be interested in our brand or not. I came very close to saying “forget it” and staying home that weekend. But instead, I followed both my gut and the words my mom spoke to me many years ago: “You have to take risks if you ever want to get anywhere Austin.” I’m glad I did.

This pop up shop ended up being the most successful one that we’ve EVER had by FAR. Jaylen (one of my best friends) and I were in absolute disbelief. We sold out of almost every single item and let me tell you, we did not pack lightly for this event. This pop up shop was literally 4x more successful than the next best one. I drove home that night exhausted, but incredibly proud and thankful that we decided to take the chance. I now always think back to that day whenever I feel hesitant about taking a chance.

Adidas Top40 Camp

Participating in this this event is more of an accomplishment I wanted to highlight rather than a risk we took.

Although they are technically a competitor, being invited by Adidas to help coach their Top40 camp was an honour. The event is essentially an exclusive camp for the top grade 9 and 10 basketball players in the province. To be contacted and invited to assist with such a significant event was an amazing experience that signified to me the respect our basketball training program is gaining. To be invited to help coach the best players in the province means that we are seen as being some of the best coaches in the province. It was very encouraging and I am truly thankful to have been able to participate.

Public Speaking

I have always hated public speaking. Literally nothing makes me more nervous.

I’m an avid reader, and most of the books I read mention something along the lines of “Fear is the single most likely thing to hold you back in life. But by facing your fears, you learn to overcome them.” So although nothing terrifies me quite like public speaking, I made it a point to face it multiple times this year by speaking to high school classes.

Each time felt easier than the last and at the end of every speech, I walked away feeling so proud that I not only faced my fear, but I helped to share my messages with the stars of the future.

As you can see, a common theme here is that every time I faced a fear, I walked away feeling thankful that I did. Face your fears!

Restructuring the business

As you guys know from reading my other blogs, I am very busy all the time. I used to think that this was a good thing. I was being productive right?

And it’s true, I was being productive. The problem is that there are only 24 hours in a day and there is only so much I can get done in that time. As the business continued to grow, I needed to work more and more to sustain the growth. Not only was it not healthy, it wasn’t efficient and ultimately it put a limit on how much the brand could grow. A change was needed.

So what did I do? I took a solid month (yes, a whole month) off of the usual day to day tasks and instead focused on restructuring the business. As I’m sure you know, taking a month off was definitely not easy and it wasn’t guaranteed to pay off. It was a risk that I took with the hopes that by taking a step backwards, we’d be able to take 10 forwards.

It worked. Thanks to the restructuring, I was able to hire on staff part-time and we now have an expanded team working towards the shared goal of building what will one day be Canada’s biggest athletic apparel brand. It’s been an unbelievable experience having their help and support and I am so thankful for each and every individual on our team.

Elevate has come a really long way since my first inventory order (10 t-shirts). It’s still so surreal that things have grown to where they are now. This is actually a real business that not only fully sustains myself, but also pays many of those around me. It’s an amazing feeling to see the growth we’ve seen.

There has certainly been MANY obstacles along the way. Yet still, I am proud to say that we have been able to keep things trending upwards. The journey to building Canada’s biggest athletic apparel brand has been, and will continue to be a long one. But as long as we focus on building this thing one step at a time, I have no doubt that we’ll eventually get there. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. Feel free to shoot me a follow on Instagram @DedicatedAustin

- Austin