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How This Woman Grew Her Sports Tech Startup Successfully In A Male Dominated Industry


Shannon Ferguson is no stranger to male dominated spaces. She grew up playing competitive hockey, starting out in a  boys league and her career progressed into the sports industry, which is male dominated as well. But this experience has only grown her skills and allowed her to lead her team with authority and credibility.

In 2017, Shannon and her co-founder and life partner, Kris McCarthy, were managing the sponsorship sales and marketing for two minor professional hockey teams when they recognized that sponsors craved a more digital way to activate and engage fans. That’s when FanSaves was born.  

FanSaves is a digital platform that offers fans discounts and deals from sponsors of their favourite teams and organizations. The social couponing platform can be thought of as Instragram meets Groupons bridging the gap between teams, fans and sponsors.

FanSaves is currently partnered with over 550 businesses and more than 40 teams and organizations across North America including four ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) teams. These ECHL teams are affiliates of the AHL which are farm teams of the NHL. They also have a strategic partnership with Collegiate Sports Management Group (CGSM) out of New York City who drive the business performance of collegiate athletic conferences and schools across the US.

The startup is also in talks with multiple teams in the NHL, MLB, and NFL and recently opened their Seed Round, raising $750,000 USD to help as they scale into the major leagues.

The pandemic proved especially challenging for teams to promote their sponsors as arenas and stadiums sat empty across North America. In-game advertising became less effective, and teams began recognizing the imminent need for digital sponsorship assets.

FanSaves solves that problem by incentivizing fans to support team sponsors through discounts and deals, driving traffic into those businesses and allowing them to capture important customer analytics. The platform is free for anyone to use, with exclusive deals available for season ticket holders and team VIPs.

Shannon offers these tips for women entrepreneurs who are building a business as well:

Never give up

As a woman business owner, you are bringing value to the world. It takes hard work and determination to build a business, and there will be tough days, but don’t give up.

Take negative feedback and spin it to a positive

There will always be no’s or doors that close, but if you reposition that negative feedback and look at it for what it taught you, you will always be able to give that feedback a positive spin and use it to your advantage.

Have a voice and get people to listen

Even if you are the only woman in the room, you need to have a voice and get it heard. Show confidence in your ability and people will listen. Speak with authority and conviction.

Build a diverse team

Diversity is important and offers a new perspective to any problem. It is important to work with people from all backgrounds to have new opinions and uncover blind spots.

Start the business and the money will come

Don’t allow a lack of capital to hold you back from realizing your dream business, just start and be incredibly resourceful. FanSaves was built from the ground up, bootstrapping the startup with government grants, loans, money from startup competition wins and a small friends and family round and she knows first-hand that being scrappy pays off.

The bottom line is when you have an idea on how to start a business and a passion behind it, you need to follow your heart. There will always be challenges in the road, and with perseverance and grit you will overcome those challenges.



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