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Exploring Life & Business with Shannon Ferguson of FanSaves

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shannon Ferguson. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Growing up, I was a competitive hockey player. I also played in soccer and softball leagues and started golfing at a young age. Though I was sidelined by an injury just as I was starting university, I have continued to have a passion for sports. After graduating with degrees in Communications Studies and Broadcast Journalism, I started a career in digital sports marketing for an online sportsbook in Montreal where I learned so many of the important skills that built my foundation in the industry. 

After exploring other marketing opportunities in Calgary and Toronto, some major life events including my mother’s passing brought me back to my hometown (a small city between Ottawa and Montreal called Cornwall). It was here that I decided to follow in my mom’s entrepreneurial footsteps and decided to start my first business; a marketing company where one of my clients was the city’s new minor professional hockey team, the Cornwall Nationals. 

It was through my work with this team that I met Kris McCarthy, a player at the time who broke his finger in a fight behind the net. He was asked to join the front office while he healed and became the team’s Sales & Marketing Director (as he had experience in this role in the league before). He and I hit it off right away and eventually started dating. It was that summer in 2017, while we were managing the Sales and Marketing for that team (as well as another one in the league), that we noticed a problem in the market as we worked to sell sponsorships. 

Both Kris and I recognized that businesses wanted more out of their sponsorship dollars than what the rink boards, wall signs and scoreboard ads we were selling them provided to them. Business owners were asking for something digital, something that brought fans into their stores while tracking customer demographics and return on investment. We didn’t have anything like that in our arsenal and couldn’t find anything similar that already existed so we decided to create it and that’s when FanSaves was born. 

Kris and I are the co-founders and FanSaves and have been life partners for almost five years now. He hung up his skates after a successful seven-year professional career a few years ago but we are both so glad that we get to live out our love and passion for sports every day while our competitive natures continue to allow us to grow our business in an industry we love. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has been the bumpiest, winding road possible, but it’s all been worth it. While Kris and I have a strong background in marketing and sales, we are non-technical co-founders so developing and app and growing a digital platform has been full of learning curves and many lessons along the way. 

Developing and growing FanSaves has been one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences and Kris and I are always sure to celebrate not only the big wins but also the small ones. It’s important in the startup world to keep your eye on the prize and continue growing your vision, even during the hard days, weeks, and sometimes months. 

We have bootrapped our business from the very beginning and only just opened our seed round but this has really allowed us to continue validating our product and ensuring product-market fit. When we were just getting started, we had to offer FanSaves to small teams to ensure our target market would be interested and that required us to have a lot of patience. It paid off though because now we’re working with more than 45 organizations across North America with beachhead clients in 10 professional leagues, including the Tampa Bay Cannons in the AUDL. 

We are also in talks with multiple major league teams in the NHL, MLB, and NFL which is exciting and we’re very proud of ourselves for getting through those early-stage bumps that we actually used instead, to fuel our fire. 

As you know, we’re big fans of FanSaves. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
FanSaves is a digital couponing platform that connects fans with deals from sponsors of their favorite sports teams, organizations, events, and more to help users engage with local businesses while tracking customer data and ROI. We have built a community of fans eager to support businesses that support their favorite communities. Think Instagram meets Groupon but for sports teams, events and organizations. 

We have three main customers who we are solving problems for: 

Teams and organizations: Sports teams have limited traditional inventory to sell to their sponsors, such as rink boards, wall signage and scoreboard ads none of which activate and engage fans or drive them into the sponsors’ businesses nor do they track customer data or true ROI. FanSaves is digital solution to this problem as we do all of those things traditional sponsorship can’t provide. For membership organizations, we’re digitalizing Member-to-Member discount programs. 

Sponsors/Members/Businesses: Sponsors currently spend their marketing dollars hoping they will attract fans into their businesses. They want to ensure there is value coming from their sponsorship and in a digital age, they need to be able to track the data to ensure they are targeting their marketing efforts and spend in the right place. FanSaves gives these businesses a way to track this data and better understand the demographics of people their sponsorship is attracting. The same goes for members of membership organizations who are looking to offer other members discount digitally. 

Fans: According to research, 90% of fans can’t name more than three sponsors of their favorite teams. FanSaves allows fans to support their favorite organizations and spend money on brands that are relevant to them. Currently, no couponing apps allow users to not only support businesses but also the teams and organizations they are affiliated with. 

We have worked hard to grow a strong community of fans and we are so proud of how we are connecting teams, sponsors, and fans and really helping to transform the digital landscape that has been happening in the sports industry. 

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
Success is waking up every day and feeling happy and content. 

It looks different for so many people but for me, building a successful startup has definitely had its challenges but I am just so grateful every day for the life it has allowed me to lead. 

Some people define wealth in dollars and cents and while that’s nice, I actually think that real wealth is about time and freedom. If you have built a life that affords you time and freedom then you’re richer than most. 

The best thing about founding a startup is that I get to do something I love every day and even though many days are long and there can be those road bumps along the way, I ultimately just love what I do. 

And because I love what I do, I’m happy and therefore successful. 

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