We chatted with Hin Lai, Founder of Sidekick Tools. Lai’s company provides niche products to a select group: recovery tools for Crossfit athletes. Lai launched the e-commerce business in 2013 and has doubled revenue every year since.
Crossfit is intense. Why do you love it?
After a workout, you feel like you spent all your energy, like you put a ton of work in, and it’s an accomplishment. I’m hooked.
Can a passion become a business?
For a business to work, it needs three things: to be something you’re passionate about, something you can be the best at, and something you can make money from.
Is Crossfit popular enough to do all that?
We always knew entering the U.S. market was vital. Our research showed thirteen times more Crossfit gyms in the U.S. than in Canada. Nearly 7,000 there, and just over 500 here.
How does a Canadian company get traction in the U.S.?
We found a top-tier Crossfit athlete with 35,000 online followers. She would post about our product and within minutes we saw a flood of sales. It was only a matter of keeping up with demand and building more relationships with additional influencers to grow our brand. People often look for new strategies – what are the hot, new ways to market. But doubling down on our strategy, I’m confident it works. We sell in more than 50 countries now.
The logistics of international sales can be challenging. How do you approach it?
Initially we worked with U.S. fulfillment partners to help us distribute in the U.S. However, two years into it, we realized we could do it much faster, more accurately and cheaper, all from our warehouse in Edmonton, Alberta. The number of resources that can help with international shipping from Canada is growing every day. Over 65 per cent of our revenue now comes from the U.S. The big push for us this year is expanding into Europe and creating new products from scratch.
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