Women Who Lead

 Mint Green Group’s Joanne Fletcher on Leading Iconic Sporting Good Brands in Canada

From startups to restaurants to high-tech corporations, women are taking the business world by storm and leaving their mark. This week, we speak to the CEO of a company tasked with leading the presence of global brands like K-Swiss and ’47 in the Canadian marketplace.

Joanne Fletcher got her start in brand marketing and strategy straight out of university. Her career began with Kraft Foods, working in consumer-packaged goods. From there she had the opportunity to work in a number of different industries and cities, with Merrill Lynch and Puma in Toronto, Nike in Portland, Oregon and Barnes & Noble in New York City. 

Since 2014, she has been the CEO of sporting good company, Mint Green Group. A full-service distribution company based in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Their team of 65 full-time employees delivers knowledgeable customer service, in-store merchandising solutions, marketing activations, PR and brand engagement, and the management of Canadian eComm store-fronts.

The company has partnerships with iconic brands like K-Swiss, ‘47 brand, and more. 

The ‘47 brand has licenses with all of the pro sports leagues – the NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL and CFL. As sole distributors of this brand in Canada, Mint Green Group sells Raptors headwear and apparel all year long under, but not surprisingly demand ramped up during the Raptors championship run earlier this year. 

“It was an incredible time, for both our city and the entire country. That’s the amazing power of sport – it brings people together – people who might have nothing else in common other than their shared love of their local team,” said Fletcher.

While, the company has a what-if plan every season on what’s going to happen if a Canadian team goes all the way, to keep up with the demand, the Mint Green Group team was working  for six straight weeks. Starting with Kawhi’s historic buzzer beater on Mother’s Day, straight through until the end of June. They worked around the clock – seven days a week, day shifts and night shifts. “We hadn’t had a Championship team in Canada since 1993, so it was a long time coming! We were exhausted, but so happy,” said Fletcher.  

According to Fletcher, as a company rooted in sports, they have definitely learned how to deal with the ups and downs of winning and losing.

Another big brand in their portfolio, Mint Green Group is also the official and sole distributor of K-Swiss in Canada with Fletcher leading K-Swiss strategy throughout the country. 

Their latest strategy, K-Swiss is all about supporting the entrepreneurial journey via their “CEOs Wear Sneakers” campaign. So far, K-Swiss has worked with a variety of local CEOs on this campaign, including Lexi Miles of WaxOn and Swish Goswami of Trufan.  

Joanne Fletcher shares her insights on the K-Swiss brand and what it’s like being a female CEO in the sporting goods world.

How has the K-Swiss brand evolved over the years in Canada?

At its core, K-Swiss is a heritage tennis brand, founded in 1966 by two entrepreneurial brothers in California. And it’s always been known for its iconic, court-style aesthetic, and it’s West Coast vibe. More recently though, as the sneaker world grew into a bit of a “Coke vs. Pepsi” space, K-Swiss wanted to bring a differentiated voice to the conversation around sneakers, where we didn’t get drowned out by the noise around pro athletes or the music scene. 

Our team spent a year studying youth culture and, with the data we collected, we were able to identify a unique place for K-Swiss with “millenipreneurs.” We needed to reintroduce the brand to that generation and do it in a way that’s different.

It was a starting point for our entire global brand reset. We wanted to be the sneaker that outfits and inspires the next generation of CEOs. Now K-Swiss keeps these self-starters, hustlers and around-the-clock grinders in mind and speaks to this growing group through direct to consumer tactics and its “CEOs Wear Sneakers” platform. 

What’s on the horizon for the K-Swiss brand in Canada?

We want to be the go-to brand for people who are defying convention and pushing the boundaries when it comes to what’s possible as an entrepreneur in Canada. 

Can you tell us about how K-Swiss is supporting the entrepreneurial journey via their “CEOs Wear Sneakers” campaign? How does this connect to the values of the brand?

K-Swiss is committed to supporting and celebrating entrepreneurship with its CEOs Wear Sneakers campaign. We want to empower the next generation of leaders in a way that is so much broader than sneakers. For example, a few weeks after we launched one of our most recent Gary Vaynerchuk collections, I was travelling and had worn the shoes to the airport. As I was going through security, somebody else in the lane was wearing the same Gary Vee shoes. I saw them, and they saw me. We were total strangers, and we were probably on different stages of our own journeys, but it was the first time I felt that the shoes were more than just sneakers. They connected us through a sense of shared values and mindset. That’s the essence of the values of our brand. 

You’re one of the few female CEOs in the sporting goods world. Why do you think there aren’t many females in this industry? 

Historically, sports have been a male-dominated industry and it isn’t a surprise to see this reflected in the business of sporting goods too. Over my years of working in this business, however, I’ve seen tremendous change; in motivations, perceptions and in the enthusiasm that comes from disrupting the standards of what a sporting goods company looks like. This has been one of my biggest convictions as a leader in this field; I want to bring as many tenacious, intelligent and intrepid women with me as possible. 

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a female CEO in this space?

The fact that I am even asked this question is a challenge. It shows that I’m perceived differently than my male counterparts and is something that I don’t want the next generation of CEOs to encounter.  

Do you have any advice for women entering the business world?

Tie up your laces and get ready to hit the ground running. You’re about to change the world!