Entrepreneurship - The Sputtergotch Story
December 4, 2014
What drives a successful investment banker with 20 years invested in an established career to leave that path and start up a neighborhood toy shop? Garry Koebel, owner of The Sputtergotch Toy Company, sat down with me to talk about it. The new business put in place a mission of creating active imaginations and that is exactly the type of thinking that led Garry into the venture now known as The Sputtergotch Toy Company.
For those who have had the pleasure of meeting Garry, he is exactly what you would think of when you think of a toy shop owner…fun. But he has a serious side as well. Although he plays hard and has a lot of fun with his staff and customers, Garry also takes his business very seriously.
Garry and his business partner, Kristen Simonson, took two years to plan and research in preparation for this change. They had the vision of establishing and growing a local neighborhood toy shop which could provide an alternative for families and specialize in a large variety of unique and interesting items to appeal to every taste and style. Garry felt that he was creating a service for not only individuals in the City of Swift Current, but also those in smaller surrounding communities by providing these types of products and services.
When asked what the best business decision he has ever made was, Garry didn’t hesitate in revealing that taking the giant leap was by far the best decision he has made...the hardest, but the best. He knew full well there were risks involved in starting up a new business, but with risks also come rewards. Following advice he was given many years ago, Garry makes it his goal to treat all stakeholders with respect. He ensures that everyone he works with is treated this way, especially his customers. He believes that by working hard to establish strong relationships with his customers, not only will they appreciate it, they will refer his business to others.
Garry and Kristen now have a staff of 5 employees who make the Sputtergotch experience like something out of a storybook. Garry knows that finding the right people is essential and makes it a top priority that they are taken care of and treated like family. By working at creating a healthy and fun internal corporate culture, Garry is emulating what he has seen in other successful business men and women throughout the years.
Over the years, Garry has observed numerous business leaders from southwest Saskatchewan who started out with nothing but with hard work and determination ended up owning successful businesses and giving back to their communities. He regards these individuals as role models who were pivotal in his journey toward entrepreneurship. Now Garry is the one in that position, and he doesn’t take that responsibility lightly.
This past year, The Sputtergotch Toy Company has sponsored over 200 individual donation requests through which they happily give back to the community. Garry recognizes that as a small mom and pop shop he isn’t able to say yes to everyone, however he does what he can. Small businesses like Garry’s all around the community give back through donations and contributions to events and charities. They support our community. If we value these types of investments from our local businesses, do we as consumers not have a responsibility to keep our business local whenever possible? Shopping local and supporting businesses that support our community will only strengthen our city and region long-term.
The Sputtergotch Toy Company has been a member of the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce since they opened their doors in 2011. Garry has also been a strong supporter and leader of the Downtown Business Association (DBA) for many years. He believes that the Chamber of Commerce provides a great conduit for businesses to receive communications surrounding topics currently going on in the business world and local issues.
Garry says that time is the most precious resource for business owners and one that businesses can’t afford to waste. The Chamber helps businesses do this through advocacy, training, education, cost-savings programs and by connecting them with other individuals and businesses in our community. Chamber events give businesses the opportunity to build and grow their business network through connections they make. Garry believes that the advocacy the Chamber provides is also a big bonus for his business. He also sees that there is a lot of change and improvement in the downtown core and is very thankful to the City of Swift Current for continuing to create and grow a positive environment for investment in our community. Even though it isn’t always an easy road, he says the City continues to persevere and move forward toward growth and expansion of existing infrastructure and services.
Ultimately, Garry loves managing his business because it gives him the freedom to make decisions. He does however not make decisions lightly since he knows that they can make or break his business. He likens starting up and growing a business to having a child. First, they depend on you for survival, then they suck all of your resources in their efforts to grow and thrive; all the while, you hope that they grow up to be something wonderful, but ultimately you can only hope and do your best. And like having a child…there are definitely fun times too which you should embrace and look forward to.