https://countryliberty.ca | https://www.sawyerhannay.com
I was born and raised in a small town called Rexton in New Brunswick - re: one of my inspiration for my clothing brand "Country Liberty". Before my entrepreneurial journey, I was heavily involved in hockey. So involved that it eventually led me, leaving home and relocating to Halifax, Nova Scotia at 16 where I played Major Junior hockey for the Halifax Mooseheads.
Making this team really exceeded my hockey career expectations and goal, because no one from my community had made it this far in almost 30 years so I was very grateful to have arrived there. Moving forward, as a Moosehead hockey player I was scouted and drafted to the NHL by the Vancouver Canucks. This was a dream come through, because never in my wildest dream did I see my young self in this position living out my childhood fantasy! I went to various NHL camps, before the Canucks offered me a contract for me to join the Salzburg Redbulls in Austria in Europe at 19. They wanted me to play professionally overseas so I could develop my skills and eventually come back! However, I realized the cultural differences between rural New Brunswick verses Salzburg Austria was a huge shock. I grew up very proud of where I was raised and grew up. So I decided at one point that it was time I represented my hometown (the pride I felt). My next opportunity landed me playing professional hockey in the USA. But I ended up leaving the pros, that way I can pursue my college education and also play college conference. Through this process, my entrepreneurial spirit was awaken embedding my project management skills and desire to represent my hometown. That is how "Country Liberty" was born (the logo, tees, social media page etc). I didn't think much of it, I figured I would play pro hockey again and accelerate my degree to get there a little sooner. Thankfully, I finished my 4 years undergraduate degree in 2.5 years while playing University hockey and starting my business! Day by day the "Country Liberty" brand was gaining traction. Right there, I felt this an opportunity for me to expand the "Country Liberty" brand community and culture - importantly spending more time and energy following through with it! Shortly after graduating it became my outstanding priority and hockey was secondary. Fast forward, we are doing great and growing gradually as a brand. We are currently in 45 retail stores and online! We have a complete collection from hoodies, fleece, hats to sweats and socks!
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
I had tons of hurdles. I think with business one needs to expect them and prepare your mindset for them - because they WILL come! Like many startups funding is always a problem - early stage. I remembered not many people took me serious until I showed results, brand awareness, distribution, cash flow, product sourcing, social strategies, and much much more!
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
The most recent book I have finished reading is Gary Vee: Jab jab jab right hook.
I have read 4 of his books, I certainly recommend them. I also got a lot of value out of the mindset books: "The subtle art of not giving a f***," and "You are a badass."
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Business, friends and family are the toughest thing to juggle. I think you need to be extremely self aware, meaning aware of the personalities you are working with and communicate effectively. Surround yourself with the right people, with the right positive mindsets because that is key. Don't entertain negativity in a positive business environment.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
There is certainly a lot of contirubtuing factors to the success we've had. My gratitude is the satiation I get of doing what I love. This keeps me grounded and motivated through hard times - example are financial set backs, etc.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
SO MUCH! That being said I wouldn't change much, I have learned the hard way and I am glad I did. To me this is a journey, a process and I am not looking for a shortcut. I want to grow and be proud of my work at the end of the day.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
My single most important piece of advice would be find something you are passionate about. If you are chasing fancy things, money, popularity, etc. you will drive yourself crazy when set backs take place or when "dark days" arrive. Business is all about adversity and I believe when you are passionate about your project you will remain motivated regardless of the world around you.