Small Business Award winner spotlight: ORKA Performance
This October, at the 40th Calgary Small Business Awards, ORKA Performance was announced the winner of the Grant Thornton Emerging Growth Award. The team at the athletic training and rehab facility has worked with an impressive slate of athletes here in Calgary, now owners Taylor Evernden and Travis Gaudet have opened a new facility in Edmonton in November 2023.
Managing growth and maintaining standards
When it comes to maintaining their high standard of service while planning and executing expansion, Taylor says the style of his work has evolved over time to continue to meet, exceed and reset goals.
“When we first started, I was heavily on the floor coaching athletes 30 hours a week then trying to sneak in the admin work in the 10–15 hours left over and always spilling into more time,” says Taylor. “As we started to grow, the biggest thing was getting the right people on the bus. Travis and I knew the direction we wanted to take the company and, to do that, we needed to assemble the best team we could."
Through strategizing and finding a great team to help them, Taylor and Travis were able to focus more on the business while feeling confident their team was still providing outstanding coaching, athletic therapy and rehabilitation services to their clients.
“We were able to branch off and work a lot more on the business rather than being stuck in the business, but it’s a pretty dynamic workplace,” says Taylor. “I still have my hands in the coaching side of things, working with professional athletes in the morning, so we’re still involved on the floor. We also spend time developing our team so they can develop and grow as staff. Overall, we wouldn’t be able to manage this growth without having the right people on the ground.”
Differentiating themselves from other athletic training and rehabilitation facilities has also helped ORKA Performance grow. Taylor believes their use of technology and data is pivotal for an athlete’s rehabilitation or training plan.
“We’ve brought in world-leading technology to objectify the rehab and performance journey,” he says. “We leverage data to make an informed decision for these athletes. From day one post-op to the end of their rehab journey, or on the performance pathway, we’re collecting data to guide that process. Our integrated team is another game changer for us. Through communicating with our physiotherapy staff, sports medicine doctor and our strength and conditioning coaches, we can culminate the ultimate plan for the athlete which puts their development front and centre.”
“We always say we are athlete-centered. Everything we do is for the benefit of the athlete and we think that’s what makes this place special.”
Although he jokes that he became a strength conditioning coach because he never made it as a pro-athlete, Taylor finds plenty of inspiration that motivates him to continue to grow ORKA Performance as a business.
“Growing up, I was heavily involved in sports, I went to university playing soccer and that was where I got my first taste of the training side of it all, at the Human Performance Centre at the University of Saskatchewan,” says Taylor. “Ultimately, I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to go into pro sports, but along with Travis, we transitioned into this business and never looked back.”
Taylor outlines that Travis has a similar story and together, that led to the opening of ORKA Performance.
“He played baseball at a very high level in university and he decided to go the physiotherapy route. We had the opportunity to connect our minds and create something and we jumped at it,” he says.
“Our clients and our athletes keep us in the field. Being able to support them through a variety of different angles in their careers is really important to us,” explains Taylor. “When they’re down in the dumps after a major injury, being able to lift them back up and create enough vision on their rehab journey so they can see the end, celebrating everything from the first run or jump, signing university letters of intent or professional contracts—that’s ultimately what drives us.”
Beyond the clients, Taylor also finds motivation in his team. “Our staff is one-of-a-kind; every single one of them plays such a pivotal role in driving the business forward,” he says. “It’s those people under this roof that create the outcomes for our athletes and when the athletes come together with the staff, special things happen.”
Paving a path for growth
While the team is happy with their progress in expanding ORKA Performance so far, they are also looking forward to future growth and are setting goals for continued expansion.
“We’ve been working round-the-clock on opening our Edmonton location and clinic, which is our first step towards growth and expansion,” says Taylor.
“Another big piece for us has been connecting globally with other businesses and practitioners to share what we’re doing. We were down in Brisbane, Australia presenting on our systems for performance testing and the technology we use with our athletes which was a great opportunity to work on the education side of it.”
For now, Taylor says he is looking forward to making an impact in the communities ORKA Performance is already involved in.
“Community involvement is big for us and we want to branch off into charity as well,” he says. “We would love to partner with an organization like KidSport and be able to give opportunities to kids whose families might not be able to afford it.”
Continued expansion into the education side of the business, along with filling a gap by providing medical diagnoses, is a longer-term growth goal Taylor outlined.
“We work with sports medicine and rehabilitation professionals who take our courses here,” notes Taylor. “We run one course called Plinth to Podium which gives full insight into how we rehabilitate an athlete and the systems involved, but expanding our educational offerings is a big focus for us.”
“We want to have a good footprint in Western Canada. We would love to venture out to BC—we just want to be able to expand that footprint and our medical offerings,” Taylor remarks. “I think we are seeing a major shortage right now in the ability to diagnose an acute injury in a timely manner. So many sports injuries happen and not enough organizations are able to diagnose, so we want to be able to provide a timely diagnosis to an athlete and get them on the right pathway the first time around.”
As a born and raised Calgarian, Taylor says he feels proud to be a part of the local small business community and to see the impact they each have in the city. The team at ORKA Performance went to the Calgary Small Business Awards to celebrate the work they have done and draw inspiration from other businesses, not expecting to win.
“We always tie it back to our team. This win is a testament to the work our team is doing in the community to provide evidence-based care and close the gap on a needed service for the athletic community here in our city,” says Taylor.
“When you’re in the startup phase, you always have a lot of doubts about the path that you’re taking and you always second guess certain components. This award was a nice recognition that we’re doing something right and creating a company that will continue to make an impact. We are excited for what’s next and we can’t wait to continue to connect with Calgarians and Edmontonians.”