Nick Walker, Co-Partner of Victoria-based frontrunners.ca has been an avid runner for as long as he can remember. Following the completion of his degree at the University of Victoria in 2005, Nick partnered up with longtime friend, Mark Nelson, to open his storefront, Frontrunners Westshore.
The partnership that began as an athletic sponsorship opportunity quickly grew into a successful business endeavor. Today, Frontrunners employs 25 staff at four locations in British Columbia.
“We worked with Rob, who was the original founder, and he mentored me throughout the process,” says Walker, who fell upon entrepreneurship by chance. “We focused on our knowledge and expertise in biomechanics, to try to grow the running and walking community,” Walker says when asked what the about the Frontrunners mission.
The frontrunners.ca story
Rob Reid, company founder and owner, opened his first storefront in Victoria after relocating from Calgary in 1987. Not only is Reid a prominent mentor and incredibly active community leader, he is also the chair of the Terry Fox Centre, a founding sponsor of Every Step Counts, and a former elite marathoner.
“[Rob] has been incredibly community oriented and he has always donated as much of his time, money, and support as he possibly can to the cause,” says Walker.
Through its four independent running stores, Frontrunners is bringing together and growing the running community out West by promoting health and fitness. Their website, frontrunners.ca, hosts information not only about the four stores, it’s also an online hub for their running clinics, special events, sponsored athletes and community initiatives.
On choosing .CA
Frontrunners has been a .CA since the get-go, there wasn’t even a question, says Walker.
“.CA is a strong domain. It’s easy and helps to relay that we’re Canadian, rather than a big global, corporate entity.”
He notes the company largely relies upon its social media network and following to spread the word about their .CA site.
“We worked on a little bit of SEO, obviously Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and all the social media activation,” Walker says. “Victoria is a close-knit community so it’s more about word of mouth. We’re always trying to promote the website, so that people can find info about the store. We just redid our events calendar. We’re trying to build ourselves up as the place to go for running and walking events on timelines.”
When asked about the biggest lesson he has learned through starting up his business, Walker says, “Always be open-minded and able to adapt. Consumers change so quickly, the way people shop changes.”
He is planning on showcasing Frontrunners’ storefront items on its website shortly, but will opt out of an e-commerce plugin because he’s found that generally people want to physically try the shoe to see if it fits, rather than purchase online.
Bringing the running community together online
Walker and Reid have also managed to put together a second .CA website as a spinoff of frontrunners.ca. Called the Independent Running Retailers of Canada, or IRRC.ca, it is an association that connects independent running stores across Canada.
“Independent stores across Canada that are part of IRRC support each other and share best practices,” says Walker. “They work with vendors to actively promote independent businesses in Canada, working to set ourselves apart from the big box stores.”