In 2015, a small group of friends and family from Stoney Creek, Ontario, launched a business to sell classic Adirondack chairs with a twist - customized designs, adding a more meaningful and personal touch to patios and decks across Canada.
Having been up and running for a few years, mycustomsportschair.ca has grown its online business significantly. Their success can be attributed to expanding their selection (scoring more licenses with sports leagues), maintaining an interactive website that allows you to view your designs as you create them, and producing high-quality products that withstand the Canadian elements, all made locally at a 10,000 square foot facility in Stoney Creek.
From left to right: Mike Ruberto (SVP, Sales), Ricky Walton (President and Founder), Matt Ruberto (SVP, Marketing).
We spoke with Matt Ruberto, senior vice president of marketing, to share their story on what it’s been like to grow a successful online business in Canada.
Where did the idea for the business come from?
We realized that the patio/deck furniture that you can buy looks all pretty much the same. We were excited by the idea of getting your own custom chair, similar to a customized hockey jersey – we are all ex-NCAA Division 1 hockey players. When we first launched, we got a license to produce chairs with NHL team designs. You could customize your chair a few different ways - home or away jersey colours, names and numbers.
How has your business grown?
While we started off with the NHL license, we’ve been able to expand our product selection by securing licenses with other leagues and big brands such as Molson, CIBC Bank, Coca-Cola and Weston Foods and Metro.
We started making chairs in Ricky’s garage. We quickly grew out of that and subletted a property to build chairs in someone's warehouse. Now, we’re in our fourth warehouse in five years. My Custom Sports Chair now produces and manufacturer all their products locally in Stoney Creek, ON.
We’ve also started offering more than just chairs but similar products as well, including end tables, footstools, and a mini chair that’s the perfect size for kids and smaller adults, perfect for the beach and sports fields.
We get orders from individuals – either buying a chair for themselves or as meaningful gifts. We also get corporate orders, where businesses put their logo and branding on the chairs, creating a unique custom experience.
Why do customers love your product so much?
There are a few reasons that we hear from customers.
The ability to customize means you’re getting something truly unique. You can put pretty much any design you can think of – it’s not just about sports, that’s just what the original idea was all about. We get a lot of unique requests like pictures of pets; someone even created a chair with a picture of their boat on it. Our customers are excited when they receive their custom chairs, and they often take pictures and tag us – we interact with customers a lot on Instagram and Facebook. We’ve seen videos of unveiling chairs at birthday parties, even seen some people with tears of joy when they opened the gift.
They are quality chairs that are built to last. They’re made with 95% recycled material. They’re weather-tested, so they can hold up throughout a Canadian winter and in the hot summer sun too. The chairs have been designed with comfort in mind. We’ve also had customers tell us that the number one reason why they bought our product was that it was made in Canada – for some customers buying locally made products, when possible, is important.
Our top picks from mycustomsportschair.ca
Tragically Hip | Buffalo Check | Toronto Maple Leafs
How are your products made?
Our chairs are made in Stoney Creek, with Canadian products, including resin.
Manufacturing locally has a few benefits:
- It helps reduce the time it takes for customers to receive their chair. It only takes a few weeks to receive your chair and it’s something we’re always working on improving.
- It helps reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing and shipping products to Canadian customers.
- It creates local jobs. We have over 20 employees on our roster at the facility and then a creative team that runs our print shop.
How do you ensure customers have a positive online shopping experience?
We hired out the development of the website from the beginning of the business. We’ve developed a fully interactive website that allows you to preview your chair live as you create it. We want to reduce any worry people have about ordering a product online without seeing it in person.
Our .ca domain and website are for our Canadian customers; about 75% of our sales come from there. We use geolocation to determine if someone is visiting from the states – if that’s the case, then you’ll get redirected to the .com, which lists prices in USD and has U.S. shipping details. Having two websites and domains for our two main markets helps serve our customers better.
Important question: Is it called a Muskoka chair or Adirondack chair?
People only really call it Muskoka chair around the Muskoka area and in the GTA. Everywhere else pretty much knows it as an Adirondack chair.