A Winnipeg entrepreneur has scored a game-winner with his business building backyard ice rinks.
Ryan Starkell, owner of My O.D.R., says thanks to the pandemic, business is so brisk, he's on a bit of a hiring spree to satisfy demand.
With most other forms of entertainment shut down, customers are filling his Facebook account with requests knowing code red is in place until at least Dec. 11. Backyard recreation isn't affected by the restrictions, he said.
Starkell started installing backyard rinks at the end of September. Since code red came into force, demand has exploded.
"I’ve started about 10 rinks. I’ve got five just about finished and I plan to have my first one done this Wednesday," said the 37-year-old.
"I just booked another 15 or 16 this morning, and I still got 50-something Facebook messages to go through that people have been patiently waiting a couple of days for me to respond to them… So, I’m assuming that number is going to go up a little bit once I get a hold of all of them."
The business started out with just Starkell and a friend, but with the increase in rink requests, he hired a second rink builder, and is currently looking for a third.
Starkell said he expected to be busy this year but believes the code red restrictions and his latest Facebook posts on the company’s account showcasing some of the rinks they're working on has sparked more interest. (The Free Press ran a lengthy feature on backyard rinks last week).
“I posted pictures online on Saturday of some of the rinks I haven’t quite finished yet. Within minutes of me making the post of those pictures, I got an abundance of responses and I haven’t got to them all yet.” – Ryan Starkell
"I posted pictures online on Saturday of some of the rinks I haven’t quite finished yet. Within minutes of me making the post of those pictures, I got an abundance of responses and I haven’t got to them all yet," he said.
Starkell said there has been smaller rinks installed for families with younger children, but he gives his clients room for creativity when it comes to designing their home rink.
"I give my clients the option to do something completely customizable," he said. "So, if someone wants something wrapped around their house, I’ll make a circle around their house if they want. I have one guy that I’m building for that actually has a tree that’s going to be in the middle of his rink."
He added that his most popular rinks range from $800 to $1,550. Starkell said his team of two builders and one "water boy," who drops water off at the rinks, also offer maintenance — bi-weekly resurfacing costs $125 a month and weekly resurfacing costs $200 a month.
With more people staying home, Starkell said he’s in the business of giving families something to do during the lockdown.
"It’s all for the kids," he said.
"I’m in the business to make money, but I love making people happy. I like going out of my way and doing what I can to see the smiles on their faces… Even if I weren’t to make money on it, I would be happy to be doing it just for the fact these people really appreciate the work we’re doing for them because their kids are so excited."
Starkell’s phone continues to ring and his Facebook notifications keep piling up, but he said he’s happy business is taking off because he’s been preparing to launch the company for almost two years now.
"I’m really excited with the amount of attention I’ve got and it’s keeping me overwhelmed. It’s a hard challenge and I just hope I’m able to pull through for everyone in a timely fashion because they’re coming in faster than I’m able to build them at this point."