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Jason Stoter of Vivere was vacationing on a beach in Mexico in 2002 when he was approached by a man selling hammocks. They were large and colourful, and thinking it would make a great gift, he purchased one for $20. The hammock was made from nylon which is stronger than the cotton many hammocks are made from, and Jason was impressed by the quality of the construction.

Within days Jason became intrigued with the idea of creating a business that would provide quality hammocks to Canadians, even spending a few days of his holiday looking for a wholesaler, before coming home to Canada for Christmas.

He returned to Mexico in January 2003, determined to find a hammock manufacturer. On the first day of his search, Jason met a seller and went to his “hole in the wall” shop. He was admittedly a bit nervous as he climbed the rickety stairs, but there on the second floor was a massive warehouse of hammocks. Jason bought as many as he could fit in his suitcase, with a plan to order inventory for his budding business before returning to Canada.

Right Place, Right Time

On the last day of his trip, Jason realized he had room for a few more hammocks and returned to the shop. While there he met an Australian named Richard who asked Jason to have dinner with him and his wife that evening. During dinner, Jason talked about his plans to sell hammocks in Canada and the Aussie convinced Jason to buy Brazilian hammocks – they were better quality at a lower price. Richard’s wife was Brazilian and had a business contact that Jason could connect with. It was a life changing meal that Jason does not regret.

With that, Vivere was born. The name Vivere means “to live” and the hammock symbolizes a balanced lifestyle which is a wonderful way to live.

When asked about his greatest business risks, Jason laughs and replies, “Sending $60,000 down to Brazil, with my fingers crossed, praying 5000 hammocks would come back.” He had recently finished university, had student debt and was using lines of credit to raise the funds. When the shipment arrived from Brazil, he stored the hammocks in the empty bedrooms of his rented house, ready to ship to a retailer willing to buy them.

Jason’s full-time job as a controller provided a regular pay cheque, but his heart was in his hammock business. He started to work a four-day week, working at his full-time job Monday to Thursday and spending Fridays knocking on doors.

It’s ironic that he was working so hard to sell a product designed to “relax the world™”.

For the next few years Jason divided his time between his controller job and his passion project. He was a one man operation, managing to double his sales every year, but he knew he could do better.

The Leap of Faith

A question for many entrepreneurs who have started a business while still working at a full-time job is when do you decide to leave behind the steady salary and go all in?

“I took the leap of faith in 2009,” Jason says. “I knew I would have positive cash flow that year, and our sales continued to double year over year. Once I was working at it full-time, that’s when the business really took off. In the last five years, the company has grown to $20 million in annual sales.”

While it started with cotton hammocks from Brazil, Vivere has expanded using many fabrics, including Sunbrella. They also provide colourful outdoor seating options, such as chairs and sun loungers.

“Our customers would ask us if we could source different products and we would say, ‘Sure we can!’ It allowed us to expand our product line, selling more to existing customers and adding new customers.”

In June of 2016, Vivere moved into a new 27,000 square foot facility, and employs 15 people including two in Europe, and a sales rep in the United States.

Jason acknowledges that one of the foundations of building a successful company is finding great people. “It’s important to invest in the right team, incentivize them and make it a great place to work,” Jason explains. “I want the people who work for me to love what they do and have a balanced lifestyle.”

Jason always believed the business would be a success. “I had a vision that Canadians would really enjoy these hammocks,” he says. “Even at the times I was rejected, when I would make 10 phone calls and no one would see me. My wife was really supportive and I would just keep going, making more calls, celebrating the small successes.”

Today, Jason likes to give back, providing guidance to other entrepreneurs. “I didn’t have a mentor early on, but I did meet other business owners who were willing to sit down with me, have a coffee and answer my questions,” he says. “Today, a lot of people want to have coffee with me, and I am happy to do it. I love to give back and help others.”

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