Winner of the Doing Good category of the 2021 Tales of Triumph Contest, Sasha Senior started skateboarding as a way to make friends when she was 13. Her family had moved from Toronto to the small town of Alton, Ontario, and she was looking for a way to fit in. Skateboarding led to friendships and connection. It also ignited a life-long passion that would lead to a successful small business and a way to give back to her community.
An ecommerce success story
Senior, a 31-year-old mother of two, opened Bliss Skateboard Shop in Windsor in 2020. The shop offers complete, assembled skateboards and the components to build your own – including decks, trucks, wheels and bearings. Bliss also offers a selection of tools, grip tape, wax and apparel.
The original plan was a brick-and-mortar shop and to use online channels for promotions and to drive awareness. But the shop’s opening day, March 20, 2020, came at the start of Covid. The business strategy took a hard turn.
As soon as we had our opening, we had to shut the doors the next day. I had to figure out how to put all my products online and… sell them that way.
The shift worked.
Besides www.blisssk8shop.com, Senior used Instagram and Facebook to get the word out. The small shop gained recognition and support from Canadian skateboarding brands and garnered attention in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
But moving online so quickly came with growing pains. Making sure that the stock matched what was online was the biggest. “At first I was doing everything manually because I didn’t know how to sync the products,” says Senior. So, if someone purchased a skateboard, she had to manually go online and remove it from inventory. “You don’t want to be doing that all the time,” says Senior. Using software to sync her point-of-sale system and online channels changed everything. “I was like ‘Oh, my God, my life is so much easier!’” says Senior.
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A small business that gives back to the community
Before opening her store, Senior took a trip to Jamaica, taking a hockey bag with her. “[It was] full of shoes and helmets and pads and skateboard decks, and I handed them out to kids out there.” The experience influenced her vision for Bliss Skateboard Shop. “That was such a great feeling. I just wanted to make sure that when I opened the shop… I did something like that here too. I wanted to give back to the community.” And she did.
Bliss Skateboard Shop is more than a business, it’s a community hub. Senior gives informal lessons when she’s out boarding and runs two programs to bring skateboarding to the local kids.
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Through Build a Board, Senior collects skateboard parts that would otherwise go unused and builds new skateboards with them. She then gives those boards to kids who couldn’t otherwise afford them. “A lot of people will try skateboarding and then say, ‘this isn’t for me,’” explains Senior. “Then they just set their skateboards off to the side and they won’t use it anymore. It’s like hey, if you’re not using those wheels, let’s give ’em to someone who’s going to use them.” In a good week, Bliss Skateboard Shop could hand out five gently used boards.
Senior reaches out to her community through Boards in the Hood to fundraise for brand new skateboards that are distributed to under-served communities. She runs a contest where kids write in and explain why they want a skateboard and what skateboarding means to them. Senior’s given away 30 boards and is sending another 10 to Walpole Island First Nation.
Focusing on sustainable growth and community outreach
With light at the end of the COVID tunnel, business has been good. Senior’s focus on measured, sustainable growth and giving back to the community will continue to be foundational to the Bliss Skateboard Shop business model.
This year, Senior ran a skateboarding club for 40 kids from a low-income neighbourhood. Each and every child got new gear.
It’s been very fulfilling for me to see the smile on the kids’ faces when they get a brand-new skateboard... we’ve kind of created like a skateboarding hub… because we’ve just been giving back to the community so much
1 Aziz, Tahmina. CBC News. “Here’s how skateboarding helped this Windsorite connect with the local community.” Oct 16, 2020.
2 Canada Post, 2021. “Interview with Sasha Senior of Bliss Skateboard Shop.”
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