For Patrick Jackson, the owner and operator of Changing Gear, it seems like only yesterday that he moved from Vancouver up to the Yukon, but 20 years later he’s still here using his experience and passion to run a successful store.
Jackson started the sporting goods consignment store Changing Gear just over a year ago in Whitehorse and has seen success, persevered challenges and adapted to the ever-changing Whitehorse community.
Originating from Vancouver and predominately having his background in computers, it may have seemed a bold step to start a consignment store focused to sporting goods. However, Jackson has always had a passion for sports, particularly soccer. He also worked seven years outdoors with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at Taku River in Northern B.C. Having previously owned and operated businesses, he wanted to incorporate his passion for sport and manoeuvre into a new market segment – retail.
He came up with the idea a couple of years ago. He was sitting in front of the old Midnight Sun coffee shop and wished there was an affordable outdoor gear store. From this little idea he finally started drafting the comprehensive business plan two years before his opening date. He researched stores down south and finally was prepared to take the leap of starting his business.
“It wasn’t taken lightly. When it officially opened, from all the work put into it, it already felt it was opened for some time,” Jackson said.
What are some challenges that small business owners face in Whitehorse or in retail? “Seasonal change over is a lot of work in the space we have allotted,” Jackson said. He added that they start changing over for winter in August.
However, like most small businesses starting out, the biggest challenge is juggling work and family.
However, with every hurdle faced, success is even sweeter. “The biggest success is simply all the great Yukoners that come into the store,” Jackson said. “Because of the type of store we are, we get to hear great stories and adventures.”
Other successes that have promoted his brand and reputation are community events that bring people together and provide an important service for equipment recycling.
An example is the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) gear sale at the end of August: by 10:10 a.m. – which was 10 minutes after opening – hundreds of people had already taken most of the gear. This was a community event organized in partnership with other businesses. For example, Equinox brought gear so kids could practice on a climbing wall, Skatemaster’s Mobile were doing skate sharpening, and there was even a face painter.
Jackson is also helping to fill the void that was left when the Salvation Army Thrift Store closed its doors in May by hosting a flea market. The flea market is held once a month during spring and fall in the greenhouse next to the Changing Gear store.
There have been five held so far where people rent tables and part of the proceeds go to Mae Bachur Animal Shelter in Whitehorse.
Another change that will be felt by the community and could increase customers is the cancellation of the Mount McIntyre Society ski swap that was held annually in October. “We will probably see an impact with this cancellation,” Jackson said.
There remains more work to do in the future. “We want to continue to try and meet the needs of the community,” Jackson said. “Help parents’ affordability with growing kids and continue to support the community through sponsorship or other avenues.”
What advice would Jackson give to those who want to start a business, particularly in Whitehorse? “There are lots of resources available to everyone. Do your homework,” Jackson said. “Also, things always cost more than you think.”
Regarding the day-to-day challenges of owning and operating a small business, “Once you get to a certain point, even if it’s a failure, there are two things. One: even if you didn’t succeed, at least you tried. Two: it’s very satisfying.”
For more information on Changing Gear check out www.ChangingGear.ca. The flea markets have closed for the season and will start up again in May. For more information check out www.WhitehorseFlea.ca.