Calgary man launches unique company to keep in touch with rodeo roots
The cowboy who was once a bull rider packs up for a weekend of rodeo and the long trip ahead to the next arena. His dark leather boots are cleaned up, his western shirts ironed, and his cowboy hat shaped. He loads up the truck for the drive but instead of a rope or saddle, this cowboy packs his laptop and video camera.
After growing up participating in rodeos for most of his life, Ted Stovin, 23, found his natural path as a bull rider. But after sustaining a shoulder injury that required surgery in 2010, Stovin found a new calling in the form of a business idea that catapulted him into the forefront of the rodeo industry.
Forced from the backs of bucking bulls to outside the arena, Stovin began capturing the spirit of rodeo and sharing it with thousands of online viewers.
“It was really just a niche to be filled,” he says. “I went to a bull riding, and at that time, I was recovering from a shoulder surgery. I filmed it all on my phone and put those videos on my website and people started watching.”
BUILDING A BUSINESS
Three years ago, Stovin attended a workshop in Florida to build his own website. Not quite sure what it was going to be, he called it Everything Cowboy.
Photo by Kelsey Simspon
Today, Everything Cowboy is a popular rodeo media website. It consists of videos, pictures, stories, rodeo results, and information of smaller events throughout Alberta, and Western Canada. Even though his focus is on promoting Canadian rodeo, Stovin’s audience includes followers from all over Canada, the United States, and even Australia.
Although it is not the only media to cover Alberta rodeo, Everything Cowboy is one of the only online outlets solely dedicated to rodeo represented by all the different associations. With nearly a dozen rodeo associations in Alberta alone, media coverage has always been fragmented between the different organizations.
Western living, horse industry magazines and daily newspapers usually touch on rodeo when big stories arise but Stovin’s company was one of the first online enterprises dedicated solely to the promotion and coverage of the rodeo industry.
Everything Cowboy posts up-to-date news on all rodeo topics. The main breadwinners of the site are the videos that are usually uploaded instantly after an event — keeping the fan engaged and instantly gratified.
The site connects the echoes of the screaming fans, the dust of the arena, the drops of tears and sweat of the competitors, and the thrill of the eight-second rides to the viewer at home or on the road with a mobile device.
Stovin says rodeo as a sport and an industry is hard to keep up with whether you are a fan for the day, or a lifetime or even an anxious family member that couldn’t make it to the rodeo.
Photo by Kelsey Simpson“Rodeo is at a place right now where it is really tough to watch, and it is really tough to follow for someone that has never seen it before,” he explains. “We need to be doing a better job of making it easier for the fan.”
Stovins says that rodeo broadcasts need to be better produced in order to draw in more fans.
With nearly 100 media passes hanging on the wall behind him, Ted Stovin sits at his kitchen table talking about the humble beginnings of Everything Cowboy like it was yesterday.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO LEARNING
Traditional learning has never suited Stovin. After completing high school in his hometown of Drayton Valley, Stovin enrolled at New Mexico Junior College on a rodeo scholarship in 2008.
By 2009, Stovin got the ball rolling by riding bulls in four countries in just two months, and then wrote about his experiences.. This was the first time Stovin was paid to write. Since then, he has written about everything from post-secondary scholarships to rodeo events for Horses All, Rodeo Connection, Canadian Pro Rodeo News, Western Horse Review and the highlight of his writing career, the All American Cowboy.
After receiving his associate of arts degree in general studies from New Mexico in 2010, Stovin went to the University of Las Vegas to study business. He returned to Alberta in 2012 to continue his business degree at the University of Calgary (U of C).
However, after a semester at U of C, Stovin dropped out to pursue his business even further and by July 2012, Stovin was dedicating all of his time to his website.
Photo by Kelsey Simpson
While most university students fear being a dropout, Stovin credits the value his mother placed on life-long learning and the extra courses he has went through to his success today.
“I’ve been to courses every year since high school to learn outside of the conventional systems,” says Stovin. “Often at those courses I’m one of the youngest, if not the youngest there. But I’d say I’ve learned just as much at those as I have in real school.”
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS
Throughout Stovin’s career, he has experienced a full range of jobs from a plumber when he was 16, to working at a car dealership, construction and even as a mailman while he was in college “for a sweet $7.50 an hour.”
Most of these jobs supported his rodeo career. When times were good Stovin rodeoed full-time earning at least $5,000 a year until he finished high school. When times were less successful, like in 2007 when he broke his jaw, Stovin put his rodeo career on hold to work and save for when he was able to get back on bulls again.
After starting his company in 2010, Stovin was freelancing for various publications while trying to get his business off the ground.
“It took a year-and-a-half before I made any money on it but now it is going pretty good and it is defining me right now.”
He covers his costs and by selling advertising on his website, YouTube cheques for circulating enough viewers, sponsors, freelance writing, and producing rodeo events.
On his days off the rodeo trail, Stovin can also be found at the factory of one of Calgary’s oldest businesses, Smithbilt Hats on 12th Street S.E. After working with Smithbilt while his company was still growing in 2012 and taking a break until March of 2013, Stovin returned to the shop.
Stovin enjoys working at the shop because it keeps him connected with his rodeo lifestyle.
Beyond the many pictures covering the walls of proud and famous Smithbilt hat owners, down the hall is the factory of the famous brand.
Photo by Kelsey Simpson A few days a week Stovin returns to Smithbilt to help sand and finish cowboy hats that have become well known in the rodeo world and even royalty when Prince William and Princess Kate visited the Calgary Stampede in 2012.
Brian Hanson is vice-president of Smithbilt Hats and has become a personal friend of Stovin’s. As an active rodeo enthusiast in Alberta, Hanson says “Ted’s enthusiasm for rodeo and all things ‘cowboy’ is genuine and infectious and it shows through in his writing and on his website.”
As far as Stovin sharing rodeo with the masses, Hanson says Stovin “is bringing awareness to the sport in a positive manner which benefits everyone involved with rodeo.”
Even though Stovin likes to be around the cowboy environment at Smithbilt, he says he can’t always be there. Following the rodeo trail means living the rodeo lifestyle which includes lots of travel.
With his weekends becoming his work days and the mid-week becoming his time off, it is hard to keep up with others and maintain an organized schedule for one person let alone trying to co-ordinate with another.
While other businessmen can be found downtown doing the daily grind from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Stovin keeps a very different schedule.
“I think ‘random’ is a very good way to describe it,” he says.
Stovin says he makes up his schedule as it goes along but events usually take a lot of preparation time. He spends most of the week preparing for a weekend event, and during the competition he is busy running video cameras and updating social media.
As his business expands, Stovin is taking on more roles focusing on aspects of rodeo events such as music directing. However, Stovin has grown into a place where he can hire others to cover an event for him so he can focus on the next event.
Stovin operates his business from home in southwest Calgary, a popular place for those in the rodeo world
Deanna Kristensen, Stovin’s roommate, is a journalist and photographer for Western Horse Review. She occasionally collaborates with Stovin on rodeo stories.
“Ted sees that there is an audience starving for the entire rodeo cowboy package (online and in print). Everything Cowboy is about promoting rodeo and providing information to its fans through various forms of media,” says Kristensen in an email interview. “He is now a trend setter in the world of promoting rodeo.”
Despite the large amount of work and hours away from home, Stovin doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. His positive attitude doesn’t let him focus on the negative.
Stovin credits his parents for his go-getter attitude, both of which were their own entrepreneurs who started and grew businesses in Drayton Valley.
Photo by Kelsey Simpson
“I knew early on that I never wanted to work for someone,” says Stovin. “I wanted to be my own boss. Both my parents worked for themselves and that really made me who I am.”
CONTINUING THE RODEO LIFESTYLE
Despite the ups and downs of the business and keeping up with the rodeo trail 24/7, Stovin says it is easy to sum up why he continues with Everything Cowboy and why he continues to grow and perfect the business.
“One of the biggest reasons I keep it going and I think it works is because it helps so many people.
“You can be riding 10 hours away from home, or how ever far it is, and they can watch their husband or brother or whoever it is and they can watch that and I am the guy that does that,” explains Stovin. “I think they all appreciate that and are thankful that they can keep track of their families. I think that is the biggest thing for me. It is not a one single thing but that idea of how it works.”
In the future, Stovin sees expansion as a big priority. Right now, as a former bull rider, Stovin has great coverage of almost every bull riding event in Western Canada. Admittedly, Stovin says he needs to do a better job of covering all of rodeo events like the website name Everything Cowboy suggests
Basically, it is easy to sum up Stovin’s ambition: “I love rodeo and I want to make it better.
“I mean I love it because I grew up in it,” explains Stovin. “It is kind of the only thing I know right now. Yeah, I play hockey a little bit and go snowboarding but everyday is cowboy stuff to me and I want to keep that going as long as I can help and make sure that lives on and that is what I want to do.”
Ted Stovin is not your typical young Calgary entrepreneur. His office is wherever he has to be, in his truck, his hotel room, or his kitchen table. He is not dressed in expensive suits or polished black leather shoes, but in jeans, dusted-creased cowboy boots, collared western shirts, and a grey felt cowboy hat.