Living in Canada involves owning a helluva lot of winter accessories and it never really matters how many you have, because somehow you always need more. But what is it about a product that makes you turn a blind eye to an over-flowing drawer or knit goods and gets you to open up your wallet for more? To me, that comes down to quality, style and a story or a cause that I love. This is what instantly caught my attention about Gibou Montreal, a winter accessories brand that creates sustainable products that are hand-knit by retirees. Not only are the styles beautiful (just take one look at those chunky oversized blankets) but the brand’s commitment to working with the retirement community made my heart swell. I decided it was time to find out more about Gibou, and the woman behind this exciting Montreal-based brand. See below to meet Sarah Beaudoin of Gibou Montreal in the latest instalment of #FounderFiles!
Business Name: Gibou
Name & Title: Sarah Beaudoin, President and Founder
Education: Architecture BA, Masters in Management (May 2018)
GC: Tell us about your brand, what do you do?
SB: Gibou creates winter accessories hand-knit by retirees. Our fur is completely recycled and the wool is 100% Canadian. Our products are made with love and care in Montréal, Québec.
GC: How did you start your business? What inspired you to start?
SB: I was passionate about knitting. One winter, I made myself a hat with an old family fur coat. Everyone in my entourage wanted one… I think I knit about 60 that same winter. And I wanted to knit even more! So, the next summer, I developed branding, a website and a supplier network. During Fall 2014, the company was started.
GC: Why do you love what you do?
SB: I feel like I’m exactly where I belong. I love experimenting with materials, developing products, thinking of new projects, creating new collaborations and working with creative people.
GC: What makes your business special?
SB: Our values! The importance of being eco-responsible through recycled fur and Canadian wool. And, of course, the fact that our products are entirely hand-knit by retirees in Montréal.
GC: What makes your product special?
SB: Our clients say that they adore our products because they love the look; then the deal is sealed by the functionality and warmth.
GC: What was it that made you want to work with the retirement community, and how did you find the people you work with?
SB: The idea came to me during Gibou’s first season, FW14, when I was overwhelmed by orders. My mother, aunt and a good friend were the first ones to help with the Christmas order production. Afterwards, we realized that the solution was right in front of us. Our little team has since grown. Fifteen women now help produce Gibou styles!
GC: What has been the most rewarding part of working with retirees?
SB: The biggest reward has been realizing that, for the women, knitting is much more than a hobby or a job. Knitting is a tool that helps them get through difficult times in their lives.
GC: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running your business?
SB: It’s worth it to surround yourself with people that you feel good around, that share the same values and who have a similar business vision.
GC: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your business in Canada/Montreal?
SB: Montréal has an abundance of creative and inspirational people. Being surrounded by the community is so very encouraging and stimulating. I’m happy to say no cons come to mind.
GC: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own business?
SB: Be passionate about your business and believe in your project.
GC: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting your business?
SB: I learn as my business grows, but I think having a more developed financial knowledge would be beneficial.
GC: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs to prepare for?
SB: It all depends of the industry and the business. In my case, I would say – don’t underestimate the powers of social media and be ready to invest energy and resources.
GC: What has your experience as an entrepreneur in Canada been like?
SB: Very positive. Canadians are seem to support new projects and they’re always poised to help others. They’re also more and more conscious about buying 100% Canadian products.
GC: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated?
SB: There’s no perfect formula, but staying active helps tremendously. I’ve participated in two half IRONMAN triathlons in the past couple years. Training helps me unwind and come back to work with fresh, motivated eyes.
GC: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
SB: I’m told that I’m pretty stubborn when other people try to give me advice; I don’t have any mentors but I surrounded myself with inspiring, interesting entrepreneurs.
GC: Where do you go or what do you do to look for inspiration?
SB: During summer 2017, I participated in an HEC Montréal managerial innovation program in Montreal and Barcelona. It completely took me out of my comfort zone and I came back with so many new ideas.
GC: As a Canadian based company do you have international goals and if so why?
SB: Certainly! The last three year, I’ve been focused on establishing myself in Québec. In 2018/19, the mission is to conquer the rest of Canada. Afterwards, I think that the U.S.A. and Europe are completely feasible.
GC: Who is the Gibou client and where can Gibou items be purchased?
SB: The Gibou client is female, between 20 and 40 years old, living in a cold climate.
Keep up with Gibou daily on instagram at @Gibou.ca