Sports marketing app FanSaves wins $100,000 Renfrew County pitch competition

Fansaves
Members of the FanSaves team, from left to right: Hannah Ross, Kris McCarthy, Shannon Ferguson and Sean Kyte. Photo provided

After more than a year on the “pitch circuit,” the founders behind local sports marketing app FanSaves have seen their hard work pay off with a $100,000 win at the RC100 competition.

The RC100 is an annual pitchfest in Renfrew County that looks to support early stage companies and, in turn, promote investment back into the region. After qualifying for the initial onstage competition in June, FanSaves advanced to the final three boardroom pitch in late July. Co-founders Shannon Ferguson and Kris McCarthy found out they won the sizeable prize Wednesday.

The pitchfest journey predates the past three months for FanSaves, which launched two years ago in Cornwall as a digital solution for local sports teams to attract corporate sponsors. Ferguson says the firm has gone out for nearly every pitchfest imaginable in the past year, a strategy that saw the firm represent Canada at the Get in the Ring global competition in Germany back in June.

“We put our name in the ring for everything,” Ferguson says. “We didn’t initially set out to be all over the pitch circuit, but it just organically happened.”

While the company hasn’t walked away winners from every event – nor has every application been successful in the first place – Ferguson says the tenacious approach has served FanSaves well.

“We really learned how to be resilient,” she says. “Not giving up and getting better every time has really paid off.”

In addition to developing a thicker skin and perfecting the pitch, FanSaves saw an incremental marketing bump with every pitch. The more the company showed up at events around Ottawa and beyond, the more the FanSaves name spread and the more familiar the entrepreneurial community became with McCarthy and Ferguson. Pitching gave the co-founders a reputation for “hustling,” she says.

FanSaves will receive its winnings in the form of a convertible note, which at the end of the term will either be paid back to the Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation with interest or converted into equity shares of the company.

Part of the investment will go directly back into Renfrew County. FanSaves will soon run a free 12-week “innovation program” for students, recent graduates or anyone in the Pembroke area looking to get into a new career. With the help of some mentors, the firm will run through challenges the team has experienced in the early days of FanSaves to generate solutions and give a sense of what a career in startups can be like.

At the end of the program, FanSaves will offer jobs to some of the most promising candidates to open up a satellite office for the firm in Renfrew County.

Ferguson says it’s important to dispel notions that rural economies can’t support careers in tech. She hears stories about students who head off to university or college but don’t want to return to their hometowns out of fear that there’s no relevant work waiting for them; she hopes FanSaves can help to change that impression.

“We really want to bring tech jobs and innovative jobs to Renfrew County to help it really grow,” she says.

The remainder of FanSaves’ winnings will go towards improvements to the platform and boosting the young firm’s marketing budget. Ferguson says the chance to spread the FanSaves brand – without having to sing its praises directly from a pitchfest stage – marks a major milestone in the startup’s journey.

“Everything we've done thus far, we've really done it on a shoestring marketing budget. So for us to be able to really start advertising FanSaves and pushing it with some funds means so much to us.”