Uniting Canada's Largest Climbing Community

Sender Gear – Focused on serving the youth and adult climbing markets.

Sender Gear is a new climbing retailer with a strong focus on the youth climbing market. We caught up with owners Nick and Sharon Vukojevic and discussed competitions, shoes and climbing with kids.
Sender Gear
Congratulations on the new store. When did you open?
Sharon: Thanks Gus, we are very excited about our new business venture. We launched Sender Gear on December 16, 2016. As with any business venture, the build up to the launch was much longer than expected. Reaching out to manufacturers and building the online store was more time-consuming than we originally planned.
The store is uniquely positioned in the marketplace. Care to elaborate as to who you see as your core customer?
Nick: The simple answer is kids and youth climbers. The not-so-simple answer is all climbers.

Sharon: Our initial vision was to provide quality performance gear to kids. We found that as our young girls progressed in their climbing abilities, it was getting harder to find suitable shoes. This was especially true for our youngest daughter who started climbing when she was four years old. With such an early start to climbing, her technical ability eventually outmatched the performance of conventional children's climbing shoes.

Nick: By the age of seven she was allowed to a lead climb at our home gym. It was almost unheard of for a seven-year-old to be granted that privilege a couple of years ago. She was using kids' size 12 shoes and was quickly wearing them out she because she was climbing three days a week – she wanted to climb all the time. We tried to find some small technical shoes for her, but no one seemed to carry performance-oriented climbing shoes in her size. That’s when we got the idea for Sender Gear. We want to provide parents with the resources to make informed purchasing decisions as well as access to quality shoes and gear for kids and competitive youth climbers. Our plan is to be the first stop in a parent’s quest to get the right gear for their budding sender.

Sharon: And by default, because of the great suppliers/vendors we have on board, we also cater to the entire climbing community. We want to make sure that expecting mothers, kids of all ages, experienced climbers and even the family dog are covered!
Sender Gear Brands

Some of the many brands available at Sender Gear.

What do you think makes you particularly well suited to serve this market?
Nick: As parents of two competitive youth climbers, we still live the challenge of getting the right gear for our kids. We not only have to find gear that they like, but the equipment also has to fit properly and be appropriate for their abilities and physical growth. Weighing quality, durability and price point can be difficult, especially when you don’t have the information or the experience to gauge what you need.
Let’s talk a little about you. How did you get into climbing?
Sharon: Climbing for us started years ago with our older daughter Mateja. She started gymnastics at the age of two. By the age of seven, the club wanted her to start competing. She really didn’t have much interest in that aspect of gymnastics. Fortunately, we persuaded her to stay in for one more season as her younger sister had just started gymnastics and loved it.

That was the year the gymnastics club built a small climbing wall. She spent most of that year watching the climbing instead of focusing on her lessons and the next year she switched to climbing while her sister was training in gymnastics. She spent two years there before the instructor told her that the facility was closing so he could spend more time with his growing family.

She was quite devastated, so we started searching online and found Climbers Rock in Burlington. When we walked in for the first time, it was like watching a kid during their first visit to Disney World. We signed her up for a program that day. And since we were there waiting for her, we booked a learn-to-climb lesson for ourselves. It was then we finally realized why she was so in love with this sport. We were hooked just as much as she was. After years of both of us playing and training in various higher impact sports, the effects were taking a negative toll on our bodies. We were ready to explore something that was a little less damaging and climbing seemed like a perfect fit.

Fast-forward six years and our entire family is now involved in climbing. It is a great way to spend time together while staying active and having fun.
Sender Gear

Mateja and Dani are the two budding product testers for Sender Gear.

When we had talked over the phone, you shared an interesting perspective on who should take part in climbing. Care to recount your thoughts?
Nick: We believe climbing is for everyone. It’s really never too late or early to start and best of all, it's an activity that parents and kids can enjoy together.

We found the level of trust we have formed with our kids is immeasurable. Our kids know without a doubt, that we will always keep them as safe as we can when we are on the other end of the rope.

Sharon: Parents can also get involved as volunteers with their local Provincial Sport Organization (PSO). The local PSO oversees many of the formal climbing competitions. These events not only allow kids to have fun, but also potentially represent our country on the world stage. There are many available volunteer support positions ranging from judging to score keeping. And as competitions continue to grow, the need for volunteers is even greater.

It’s this sense of community and support that we love about climbing.
Sender Gear

The folks behind Sender Gear: Dani, Sharon, Mateja and Nick.

What are some of product lines that Sender Gear carries?
Nick: We carry Boreal Outdoors, Ocun, So iLL Mad Rock and Tenaya for climbing shoes. We also have Edelrid, Omega Pacific, Sterling Rope, Flashed, Friction Labs, HoneyMaxx and many more quality suppliers on board.

We specifically reached out to those brands that had small shoes sizes and kid’s shoes. We also contacted companies that offered harnesses and helmets for kids.
At the moment it looks like this is only an online store. Are there any plans to open a brick-and-mortar location?
Nick: We currently are not planning on a brick-and-mortar retail location. We want to focus on the online market as it allows us the opportunity to get kids climbing whether they are from in rural Saskatchewan, Iqaluit or Whitehorse. We also don't want to be limited by physical shelf space when it comes to presenting product lines. We want to provide our customers the complete catalogue of products offered by our partners.

Sharon: We also plan to operate the store with several different product purchasing options. We have already started stocking certain goods to fulfill common orders. Other items are already here in Canada, so fulfillment is only a day or two away for us. We are developing a pre-order system for other items where we will have order cut-off dates as well as fulfillment and delivery schedules. Additionally we will offer custom orders so customers can cherry-pick our vendor catalogues.
Sender Gear

Metaja and Nick debriefing after the comp. Photo: WK Photography

One of the biggest challenges when buying climbing equipment (e.g. shoes, harnesses) online is ensuring the right fit. What is your strategy to make sure customers get the right product in the right size?
Nick: We want our customers to communicate with us. We want them to let us know what shoes they are currently using, if they like the shoes and what performance and comfort qualities they want from a new shoe.

We are very fortunate that the reps for every brand we offer, are intimately familiar with their product lines. If we don’t know the answer to a customer's question, we know who does.

Sharon: A poorly fitted climbing shoe tarnishes not only us as a business, but the brands we represent.
During our phone conversation, you mentioned that you were going to have some interesting user-based reviews. Can you give us some details?
Nick: With our focus on product information geared to kids and parents, it just made sense for us to have our nine-year-old daughter give us a kid’s perspective on the shoes and gear. She's going into her third year of competitive climbing, and with just over five years climbing experience, she knows her stuff about climbing shoes and gear.

Sharon: With our younger daughter Dani assisting with the reviews, we believe she can offer a focused insight. We will write the reviews with her reports embedded as images, quotes and other relevant review data. Additionally, we will have a parent's assessment of the product covering topics such as durability, cost and suitability.

Nick: Our first such review is already published: https://www.sendergear.com/blogs/news/mad-rock-lotus-review-by-our-kid-krusher-danimal
Sender Gear
Sender Gear

The family that belays together stays together!

Finally, how do you see the website evolving to serve the climbing community?
Sharon: Our intent is not to just push products out the door, but to help match the product to the climber; from toddlers in full-body harnesses and intro shoes, to competitive youth climbers heading off to World Championships.

Nick: We have also reached out to a few people we know and trust to not only provide blog content, but also relevant information. We plan to have a youth climbing coach’s perspective and a medical professional's insight. We have given them free rein to present the topics and information.
More details about Sender Gear are available at https://www.sendergear.com/
Stacks Image 133191
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 35 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid-80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.