“Here, kid. This is for you,” said Cookie, one of the league’s staff members. His voice drummed out across the warehouse like thunder as he approached me with axe in hand, his hair blowing back in the wind like Thor.
The minute my fingers touched the handle, a gust of wind threw back my hair like strands of golden lightning. The buttons on the crotch of my jeans popped off like a bullet as my testicles swelled out to the size of bowling balls.
“W..W..What’s happening to me?”
“There’s no time for that, just throw the axe! NOW.”
Without another moment’s hesitation, I spun on my heels and hurled the axe across the room towards the first target I saw. The moment it connected with the wood, a pillar of light shone upon me as I felt a surge of manhood war-cry from inside me like never before.
It was then that Matt Wilson walked out.
B.A.T.L. (Backyard Axe Throwing League) is one of those companies that make us re-think the way we approach building a successful business model. In 2014, not all businessmen require a degree, a suit, or even their sobriety. Wilson, the league’s founder, may not be a business school graduate, but he does have a keen understanding of how to drink beer and hurl axes like a drunken lumberjack—and it’s given him a leg up on all of us.
For Wilson, running a successful business is a mixture of three essential components: beer, testosterone fueled competition, and the sheer joy of lobbing sharp objects through the air at high velocities. It’s difficult to imagine a more enjoyable way of spending an afternoon—something that Wilson and his band of tattooed axe wielding employees certainly understand. After 15 years of bartending, Wilson turned this realization into an increasingly popular Canadian sport that is strategically stereotypical.
B.A.T.L., aptly named for its humble beginnings, spawned from an all too familiar scenario.
“I was at a cottage with two buddies, having beers just hanging out, and we kinda just started hucking axes for an hour or so, and it was really satisfying. When I came home, I went to my roommate and was like, ‘You gotta try this,’” Wilson told me.
As it turns out, axe throwing is pretty damn liberating. Wilson decided to form a backyard league with a handful of friends, and everyone who tried it was hooked from the get-go. It didn’t take long before they realized how widespread the enjoyment of axe-throwing really was.
“Everybody on earth wants to throw an axe, they just don’t know it yet,” claims Wilson.
So far, the theory seems to hold up. In a very short period of time, Wilson took the league from a casual backyard setup to a full-blown axe-throwing phenomenon with two downtown locations and over 3,000 new throwers every month.
For whatever reason, throwing axes just seems to click with people.
“We’ve done 19-year-olds’ birthday parties, and we’ve done an 84-year-old’s birthday party where two of the people were in wheelchairs. Even they were sinking axes and loving it! Every type of person digs it.”
Despite a fairly pricy cover ($40), one of the coolest things about B.A.T.L. is that it has a BYOB policy. In other words, bring as much booze and as many munchies as you can carry; they even provide a fridge to keep your drinks icy. The only catch is that alcohol must be canned (no glass allowed) and hard-liquor is not permitted. Beer, cider, and coolers are all fair game.
B.A.T.L. is planning to expand across Canada and into the states over the next few years. Whatever happens, I’m proud to call axe-throwing Toronto’s newest homegrown sport, and yet another shining example of the entrepreneurial success that can be derived from drunken ideas.
Perhaps Wilson has invented Canada’s next populist sport—and thank god, because curling is about as stimulating as erectile dysfunction.