in the spotlight – Shannon Ferguson – Co-Founder and CEO of FanSaves

If you have been lucky enough to work with Shannon Ferguson, like we have then you know she is a true professional.  You know that she is as passionate about helping you grow your business as she is about growing her own and that is always willing to share the secrets to her successes.  Which is not much of a secret, because it comes from her hard work and determination. 

Spotlight on Business Magazine sits down with this innovation and energetic to learn more about one of the co-founders of FanSaves, as Shannon openly shares where her drive and passion comes from. 

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Spotlight: Tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies, when you are not planning strategy, innovating or helping clients connect with customers?

SF: I grew up playing competitive hockey so any time I can lace up my skates, I like to get out on the ice. We built a nice rink on the river in our backyard so you can often find me out there or inside cheering on the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Francisco 49ers!

I also love photography and editing pictures as well as graphic design and film editing.

I’m a big fan of reality TV so I try my best to carve out time for my favourite shows: Big Brother, Survivor and the Bachelor.  I also love to travel but Covid has put a damper on that.

Now let’s learn more about Shannon Ferguson the entrepreneur, have you always been in the apps design and brand marketing industries? 

SF: I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with honours in 2008, receiving my BA in Communication Studies. I followed that up with a post-grad diploma in Broadcast Journalism from Loyalist College in 2009. Most recently I completed the Sports Industry Essentials course from Columbia University. As you can probably tell, I love to learn and hope to one day study law as well.

I was eager to begin my career in broadcast journalism once I graduated in 2009, right in the middle of the recession. During my internship at Entertainment Tonight, it was clear that many of the positions I aspired to get right out of school were not being hired for. I ended up working in marketing and PR for a few years and then moved to Montreal and landed a great job in Sports Marketing for an online Sportsbook.

I loved that job and while I was there, I started my first blog, The Love Hawk, which allowed me to share my writing with the world through dating and relationship advice. My blog helped me get international exposure and before long I was contributing to the Huffington Post, Elite Daily and other publications. Not only was I able to grow my confidence, but I was also able to teach myself how to build a website, promote my own brand and create my own digital assets.

Life then took me on a bit of a ride to Calgary and Toronto, where I continued to work in advertising and marketing, but in 2015 my Mom passed away suddenly so I gave up big city life to move home to Cornwall, Ontario. After dealing with complicated grief, I decided to start my first company, Rhoice Marketing & Events. This business led me to helping a new professional hockey team that came to town and it was through my work with this team that I met my FanSaves co-founder and boyfriend, Kris McCarthy and in the summer of 2017, we started our business which has grown so much since then.

At the same time that I was running my marketing company and creating FanSaves, I was also hosting a local TV show, Community Matters, on Cogeco and getting to work in TV in my hometown allowed me to accomplish the big goal I had set out to conquer in 2009 of being on TV. I worked there for three years, until my workload with FanSaves became too busy.

I’m so grateful for all my experiences and the many winding roads that led me to FanSaves and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

When did you make the decision that you wanted to become an entrepreneur and start your own business and how did you select this industry or business focus? 

SF: My Mom opened her own international freight forwarding business when I was nine years old, so I basically grew up around entrepreneurship. As an only child to a single Mom, I got a lot of hands-on experience filing papers, alphabetizing folders, making photocopies and working on her old MS-Dos computer which I believe helped me become the entrepreneur I am today. I learned early on how necessary it is to be a strong leader, to be able to manage time efficiently and manage people with grace and that you have to keep moving forward even when things go wrong, knowing they will get better.

Working mainly in Sports Tech isn’t a huge surprise to anyone who has known me for a while. I’ve always been a big sports fan and growing up as a competitive athlete, this is an industry that just makes sense for me. Progressing from working with two hockey teams to now helping teams from many different sports is awesome and introducing new verticals has also been right up my alley because it allows me to meet so many awesome people from many different walks of life.

Did you have a mentor?  If so, who was it and what was the most important lesson they taught you? 

SF: My biggest and most important mentor will always be my mother. In the time we had together on this earth, she taught me so much about life, business and the importance of being a kind human being.

She was so strong and I’m so grateful I got to grow up around such a resilient woman who never gave up and who always found time to help those who needed it. The most important thing my Mom taught me was to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

After she passed away in 2015, I called on her strength often to get me through and I still hear her voice of encouragement daily. I truly believe I’ve found so much success with FanSaves because of everything my Mom taught me before she left and I only wish she could see all that I’ve accomplished because I know she’d be so proud.

What was the inspiration behind FanSaves? 

SF: Kris and I created FanSaves to solve a problem we were having when selling sponsorship for two minor pro hockey teams. Businesses wanted more than the traditional rink board, scoreboard ads and wall signage we were offering to them. They wanted something that brought people into their stores while tracking ROI and customer demographics, so we decided to create an app that offers fans discounts and deals from sponsors of their favourite teams.

Since then, we’ve grown to service more verticals than just sports and are currently helping over 43 organizations across North America, including Chambers of Commerce, universities, colleges, events and media, like Spotlight on Business!

Can you tell us about a particular project that you have worked on or are going to be working on that stands out to you?

SF: We recently launched our new Flash Deals feature on FanSaves which was a big project and helps FanSaves be more pandemic proof. Flash Deals allow businesses to sell packages or gift certificates through our website, giving them the chance to generate revenue even if their business is closed because of lockdown.

Currently, I’m also a YLAI (Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative) Fellow which will help me improve my leadership skills and business strategy from mentors and other business leaders, like how to take our business from 5 to 50 employees, over the next four months.

What is your greatest strength and what is something that you struggle with as an entrepreneur and or businesswoman? 

SF: I think my biggest strength is the ability to just get things done. I’ve always been great at organization and project management and when I get an idea to do something I don’t stop until it’s done. I believe they call that tenacity. I do struggle with always wanting things to be perfect but I work hard daily to remember that it’s impossible for everything to always be perfect and that “perfection is the enemy of progress.”

What motivates you as an entrepreneur and small business owner?

SF: I love working for myself and don’t think I could go back to working a 9-5 for someone else. That motivates me a lot on the tough days and helps me to remember my why. I also love knowing that what we’ve created from scratch is truly helping people and knowing that we have created something that has the potential to be really huge.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from today? 

SF: Still running FanSaves while spreading my message of determination and success. I’ll be standing on a stage after my book signing, speaking to up-and-coming entrepreneurs about what it takes to build a successful business and brand while overcoming obstacles like grief, loss and divorce. I really want to make an impact and help others through my own success.

As a small business owner herself, Shannon understands the power of being able to connect and stay engaged with your customers.  We personally believe that the sky is the limit for this amazing and talented entrepreneur, and we are very excited to have her as part of our Spotlight on Business Family and we are confident that your mother would be very proud of your accomplishments but more importantly the caring person that you have become.

by Lee Ann Atwater