We had the good fortune of connecting with Aislinn Munck-Owen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aislinn, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I believe the driving factor behind Home Ice and what has allowed me to grow my customer base and stay in business is a genuine passion for the products and services I sell. I’m a former professional figure skater and since the age of five, I have been absolutely obsessed with the world of figure skating. While the years of competitive and professional skating have taken a toll on my body and I don’t skate with the same intensity I used to, I don’t ever see myself losing my connection and relationship with the ice. I still try to skate at least once a week and am always trying out new types of boots and blades.
I often get asked if I went to school for business or if I always knew I wanted to own a store. The answer is: absolutely not. I would say the administrative work and the organization that’s required when you own a business does not come naturally to me. I hate being a “sales person” and despise book keeping and accounting but I just genuinely love working with skates (boots and blades) and getting to talk to people every day about their skating goals and ambitions. When a potential customer reaches out to me about buying skates, I really strive to make sure my driving motive is education rather than making a sale. Often times the skate that is the ideal match for a skater is not going to be the most expensive one. There’s a lot that goes into selecting the right boot and blade for a skater: foot shape, size, age, level, skating frequency and future goals. Profit should never be a deciding factor.
I have found that there are lots of resources for helping business owners navigate the nuts and bolts of business management, but a genuine passion for what you are doing is something that can’t be learned in a class or gained through a seminar. I believe my 26 years (and counting!) of skating experience and my sincere desire to help other skaters develop their own meaningful relationship with the ice is what has kept me in business and I truly believe that if I ever find myself losing that passion and love for the sport, it’s time and find a new career, however; I don’t see that ever happening!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
While figure skating is evolving and we are seeing more diversity in gender among skaters ( and that’s a good thing!) the overwhelming majority of figure skating participants are girls and women, yet when it comes to skate technicians and skate shop owners, almost all of them are men. In fact, I have never even had the opportunity to get my skates sharpened by a woman until I learned how to do so myself. I hadn’t given this much thought until a few weeks into managing a skate shop and I noticed occasional pushback from some first time customers. My line of work is not overly physical but I do use tools for a lot of my services, and this seems unnerving to some first time customers. Usually after a brief conversation and explaining my background, I’m able get most people to stay, however; I do occasionally have some folks who simply walk out of the store when they find out I’m the one who sharpens and handles the equipment. This can be incredibly disheartening, but it’s rare and I try not to dwell on it.
Aside from having the audacity to use power tools while wearing a dress (yes, I indeed had a customer express concern over this once), I really think what is unique about my business and my vision for Home Ice is that all of my past and present employees are also experienced figure skaters. That’s not to say that I haven’t met other skate technicians who were excellent at what they did without a personal figure skating background, but to me, having that personal experience is everything. Customers aren’t just buying skates, they’re often looking for a community to grow with, share their experiences with and gain advice from. I’ve adored all of my employees because they have valuable experience on the ice that they bring with them into every customer interaction. Little things like advice on how to prevent and treat blisters, how to properly tie skates (it’s more complicated than you’d think!), or what you can do to control your nerves before competing or performing in a show – these are all things you can hear on any given day in Home Ice and I love hearing how the conversations evolve past the typical sales jargon. Figure Skating can often seem elitist and intimidating and I really strive to help customers feel welcomed into this world regardless of if they’re brand new, or they’re an international competitor. The ice is for everyone!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ok, well there’s a solid chance that my friend is a figure skater, so obviously they would need to take a tour of the Skating Club of Boston in Norwood, but let’s venture outside of the figure skating world. You can’t visit Boston without walking the Freedom trail and strolling through Quincy Market. Touristy? Yes, but still an absolute Boston “must”. I would also recommend walking through the Boston Commons. If it’s Winter time, you’ll get to see Frog Pond which is one of the most charming outdoor ice rinks in the country… dare I say the world? Or if it’s Summer time in the Commons, you can take a ride in one of the Swan boats which is magical (even for adults). If you’re a fan of Italian food, the North End’s Hanover street has tons of amazing restaurants and you HAVE TO finish the night with a Cannoli from Mike’s or Modern’s (the two famous pastry shops on Hanover street). The Aquarium is worth a stroll (yes even for adults) Lastly, I recommend the MFA (museum of fine arts) but wear good walking shoes because the place is massive!
And a quick shout out to the homeland: if you ever find yourself in Helena, MT you need to get yourself a hamburger at the Windbag and a steak at Silver Star.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It really comes back to my parents. Figure skating is a very expensive and niche sport and I grew up in Montana where there are only a handful of ice rinks in the entire state and they’re only open September through April. My parents knew that there were not very many resources (facilities or coaching) available where we lived and sending me to a different part of the country to train was not a financial reality for us. Despite these obstacles, they never once discouraged me from skating and trying to push myself as far as I could go in the sport, even though it was possibly one of the most impractical sports to try in a state where cows outnumber people. From setting 5 am alarm clocks, driving me 4+ hours to different towns and making countless sacrifices to help pay for my insanely expensive hobby, I’m still in awe of everything my parents did for me and my love of figure skating.
Other: email: email@example.com
Alyssa Katzoff Gillian Robidas