SMARTstart: Veteran entrepreneur gains an edge

Joni Daley is passionate.

The founder of Rival Axe Throwing has met with hardship and keeps persevering.

“Our purpose is to build community,” said Daley. “[To] have people come to a place that they feel comfortable and loved in.”

The farm girl raised in what is now south Calgary learned how to work hard at a young age. She met and married her husband and began a family. As a young wife and mother of three in her late 20s, her husband died 23 years ago of cancer.

She remembers the pressure of needing to make money, but also wanting to stay true to her purpose, which she summarizes is building communities, families and relationships.

Living in Airdrie with three kids to feed, she started a post-construction, commercial cleaning company serving Calgary and Edmonton, which grew to employ over 150 people at a time.

She handed that company off to former employees in the last five years as the operations of the business weighed on her health, including a brain aneurysm and major surgery with organ removals.

Daley started a new business, focusing on automotive detailing in a single commercial bay Rival Axe Throwing now calls home.

She had a vision of opening an axe throwing business in the building. The overwhelming interest showed viability for the idea, so she pursued it in 2017.

Having no experience in the industry, or even throwing an axe, she moved forward.

“Our motto is just giving a safe place for people to come,” said Daley, radiating as she mentions hosting community leagues and youth programs.

Daley sounds like the hero of her own story, and she is. She also got by with a lot of help from her family and friends, including joining SMARTstart in 2020.

She said the online workshops and SMARTstart community helped her navigate through the challenges of starting a business in an industry new to her. The up-to-date, locally relevant information helped her transition into a new business.

“You have to continue to learn no matter what, because every industry is changing rapidly,” said Daley.  “If you’re unsure of [how to run a business], go through SMARTstart…It’s about creating relationships in the community of people who can actually help you excel.”

“If you’re unsure of [how to run a business], go through SMARTstart…It’s about creating relationships in the community of people who can actually help you excel.”

Joni Daley, Rival Axe Throwing

Her mentor, Michelle Carre of Lochsmith Consulting, she said “was amazing.”

Daley’s business has weathered the COVID storm and is excelling, with mobile offerings and plans to expand into the adjacent bay of her building to meet demand. She loves what she does in getting to see people experience axe throwing with their friends and coworkers.

“I cannot believe that axe throwing creates so much joy…the whole building the roof goes off [when someone hits a bullseye],” she said.

Daley’s a big proponent of SMARTstart.

“You don’t have to figure out everything,” she said. “They’ve invented a wheel…Get on it.”

Want to connect with Rival Axe Throwing? Stop by their storefront location at 3113, 109 Gateway Drive NE, visit their website or follow their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Story and photography by Britton Ledingham.