Weekend Warrior: Squash serves creativity for MAKE Vancouver CEO Stacy Hall and COO Duncan Maxwell

Stacy Hall and Duncan Maxwell often preface business meetings with a game of squash.

Credit: Adam Blasberg

Stacy Hall and Duncan Maxwell often preface business meetings with a game of squash

MAKE Vancouver CEO Stacy Hall had an unusual start to her squash “career.”

She used to play tennis with a friend who was a proud member of the Jericho Tennis Club. Back in 2001, when the club was offering a special deal, Hall’s friend started pestering her to join. The Alberta native gave in, thinking that she’d become a good player. (“I didn’t,” Hall says with a laugh.)

Hall was looking for a good workout, but she wasn’t getting that as a beginner tennis player. “You’re hitting the ball out, you’re hitting it in the net; whereas with squash, even when you first start, you can spend 45 minutes in that square box and get a really great workout,” she contends.

Hall fell in love with squash at the first bounce, just like her company’s COO, Duncan Maxwell, did when he was 12.

At a friend’s squash-themed birthday party in his hometown of Victoria, a young Maxwell was handed a racket, given instructions and told to go play. “I remember just loving it as a kid,” he says.

He started competing at 15, attended New York’s St. Lawrence University on a squash scholarship and now plays in both amateur and pro tournaments as an adult. Maxwell participated in the Squash Doubles Association’s Pro Tour between 2018 and 2021, reaching a world ranking of 38 out of some 130 players in that last year.

Four years ago, while coaching, playing and teaching at the Vancouver Racquets Club, he met Hall. At the time, Maxwell was also trying to get his management consulting business off the ground. After he gave Hall a few lessons, their conversations started turning to business.

“Stacy hit the ball great,” he recalls confidently. “She took feedback really, really well, which is awesome.”

(“I did?!” Hall interjects on the Zoom call.)

Maxwell joined MAKE and Promosapien first as a consultant in 2020, and then as COO in 2021. Both businesses are owned by parent company Justin Stitches, which Hall co-founded with her sister 36 years ago, taking over full ownership nine years later. MAKE is a permanent retail store on Granville Island and a pop-up in Gastown offering funky artisan-made goods from B.C. and Canada.

“Promosapien is the corporate B2B customer sales side of the business,” Hall explains, noting that its goal is to create custom “swag” for corporate entities. While MAKE products have a clear local focus, Promosapien ships merch internationally.

Hall and Maxwell enjoy playing a game together before talking business. “It’s a great preface for a meeting… gets the creative juices flowing,” says Maxwell. As an open player (meaning he’s in the top 25 to 35 spots in the province), Maxwell competes both locally and nationally, and he won the B.C. Men’s Championship in 2020.

But it’s not easy to find the time to balance business and squash. Maxwell volunteers five hours a week as assistant pro at the Vancouver Racquets Club, and his discipline shines through, especially when he talks about his first time playing competitively.

“It was the Pacific Northwest junior championships and I remember not knowing how to act or what the etiquette was in competitive and tournament play,” he says. After observing an older kid slam his racket into the wall, Maxwell did the same when he lost his first game. “And my dad comes to me very quietly and he’s like, You will never disrespect your equipment ever again or you will never step on another squash court. And I think that’s the only time I’ve ever thrown a squash racket in annoyance.”

With plans to play professionally in the U.S. next year, Maxwell is getting back in shape. In fact, the one constant in both executives’ schedules (apart from meetings) is exercise. Hall plays city league and local tournaments, but one of her most memorable moments is being invited to play with the Canadian team a few years ago at the annual Lapham-Grant event against the U.S.

“I was like, Why would you invite me?” Hall remembers. “She said, ‘Well, you’ve just been such a fantastic supporter of squash… I get it, you’re not of a high level, but we just really, really want to thank you for all your support over the years.'”

Teamwork and competition seep into business for Hall and Maxwell, who are avid supporters of squash both within the company and outside. “I’ve always been striving to be better, to do better, to figure out how to improve tiny bits incrementally—and I think that’s followed me through my business career,” says Maxwell.

Warrior Spotlight

Under parent company Justin Stitches, CEO Stacy Hall launched Promosapien in 2002 and MAKE in 2011. She involves the businesses in squash tournaments by sponsoring prizes, gear and more. Last year, Promosapien sponsored the national championships in Vancouver, where both Hall and COO Duncan Maxwell competed in the women’s 55+ and men’s 30+ categories, respectively. Maxwell placed fourth and is planning to balance business and play when he joins the U.S. pro doubles tour next year.