Big Kahuna Sport Co.
Big Kahuna Sport Co. is a Surrey, British Columbia based institutional sporting goods business that serves all of Canada. Gord Querin founded the company in 1998 with just two assets.
“I reached out to existing customers from my former employer who at the time was a leader in the industry, and is now a competitor. Starting only with a lawn chair and a cell phone, I contacted customers asking for their support. Then reached out to suppliers, again asking for that same support, and it went on from there,” he recounts.
Big Kahuna has grown from humble beginnings to three brick-and-mortar locations: a head office in Surrey, British Columbia; and two other locations in Calgary, Alberta and Burlington, Ontario. In addition, Big Kahuna has sales offices from Vancouver to Halifax. But although the company has acquired new markets over the last few years, their focus remains on quality over quantity.
A customer-oriented attitude has been at the heart of Big Kahuna’s corporate values since its foundation.
“I built a nice network of loyal customers, and really enjoyed that interaction by making a difference in people’s lives—both athletes and coaches across the country—through providing products and services in a way that made them happy to deal with us. I learned through working for my previous employer how much I loved the service side of the sporting goods industry,” states Querin.
“Think big, service bigger”
The Canadian Business Journal first profiled Big Kahuna in December, 2013. Since then, the sporting goods provider has become the national distributor of Schutt Sports, a top football equipment brand. Big Kahuna has a staff of 60 people, 14 of whom were hired in the last year in order to fulfill their mission statement of “think big, service bigger.” To provide superior customer service, sales representatives are now teamed with a customer service agent. The sales representative, who manages a given territory, dealing directly with customers and accepting their orders, is now able to provide that information to a service agent to process the order through to delivery, streamlining the process. The new hires allow the sales representatives to have more time to be in front of their clients, and focus on their strengths.
Ecommerce is one of Big Kahuna’s current business growth focuses. The company has launched a successful online team store program, in which schools or associations are given an account with Big Kahuna to provide them with ecommerce solutions for their clothing. Through the website, clients can make purchases directly for a specific period of time.
“Before, what would happen was that a coach or athletic director would have to go through everybody’s orders and place one large order, receive it, and then collect money from numerous people. This is a solution for them,” adds Querin.
The online team store also offers customized decoration and embroidery services. Big Kahuna also has a fundraising program of custom labelled barbeque or hot sauce. Big Kahuna works with clients to design custom labels, and then produces and ships the gluten-free, Canadian-made sauce which the client resells for a profit.
“Every sports organization in Canada needs to fundraise, so we have that solution there for them as well,” says Querin.
Big Kahuna takes pride in providing all of their partners with superior service. They have many three- to five-year contracted partnerships with over a hundred schools, associations, colleges and universities across Canada, providing them with great pricing and marketing support, in some cases offering athletic scholarships. They have also partnered with the non-profits KidSport and Athletes Against Bullying Alliance.
Through the partnerships they maintain and the service they provide, the company continuously demonstrates their genuine passion for the sports industry in ways that go above and beyond their competition. For example, last year, Big Kahuna orchestrated a kind act for a school in need.
“In December of last year we did a random act of kindness for a low-income school called Holly Elementary. They have just over 500 students who are very needy, and I dressed up as Santa Claus and our marketing team made a video about it. ‘Santa Claus’ delivered a soccer ball and Adidas bag for all 500 students. We also donated a touch screen computer kiosk with educational software to their library, and I had my Rotary Club donate $10,000,” Querin recalls.
“We showed up kind of unannounced, and we surprised the students with this gift. Our whole staff got involved, and it was overwhelming.”
Kahunaverse is another innovative initiative of Big Kahuna Sport Co. It is a social platform of user-generated content that celebrates their customers, allowing them an outlet to share their sports-related photos and videos.
Last year, Big Kahuna launched the “Kahunaverse ambassador” campaign. Athletes could apply and send in a video about why they should be an ambassador. They were then given a marketing kit to promote Kahunaverse within their network or region. Monthly challenges throughout the year provided opportunities for participants to gain points, and whoever had the most points earned scholarship money.
“The challenges were things like making a video for our hot sauce or a video about why your team is the best in the country,” Querin says.
A positive corporate culture
Querin is a firm believer that treating people well is the key to building a successful business.
“Businesses always want to grow their revenues, which we will do organically anyhow, but our big focus is to be better and more efficient to become a stronger, more sustainable business.”
Pervading Big Kahuna’s corporate culture is a commitment to providing exceptional service to all stakeholders in the sports industry, including their own staff. This involves ensuring that staff members have an exceptional work environment, enabling them to deliver high quality service.
For instance, all employees receive a card on their birthday, a recognition plaque after five years of service, and an extra week of holidays after ten years, along with a $2,500 travel gift certificate to cover their expenses for a well-deserved vacation. When Big Kahuna’s sales force achieves their targets, they are rewarded with a company trip to Las Vegas. (Last year, 17 employees attended.) The company also organizes a sales contest, and whoever wins gets a trip for two to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco. Lastly, Big Kahuna has a company-wide incentive this year that will take all 60 staff on a tropical vacation when they hit their sales target.
“Our people are the best in the business by far. Our culture is so strong that it drives our people to work harder, longer and with more passion. People ask me, ‘How do you manage someone in Halifax? How do you make sure they don’t sit around doing nothing?’ It’s because we’ve built such a strong culture that everyone wants to do good. We provide the best tools in the business so that people have the best marketing support, product and go-to-market strategy,” remarks Querin.