Launching a business as a student

Sarah Beaudoin’s Word’s of Wisdom

Thursday, January 19, 2017
I have chosen to think about entrepreneurship differently and I invite you to do so too. Entrepreneurship does not have to be the culmination of your experiences as an employee. Rather, it should be a rewarding process in which you shape a career that reflects your beliefs about the job you want. From this point of view, it becomes important to encourage students to use their time and energy to develop entrepreneurial projects.

This is exactly what I did. After finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture, I was looking for a field that excited me more. So I decided to change my path. I returned to university as a Master's student in Management at HEC Montréal. This is where Gibou came to be.

I did not know it at the time, but the environment I was in, was going to give me the support I needed to start my business. Two weeks after I launched my transactional website, I was sitting in my program director's office, asking him what the procedure was to cancel courses since I was completely overwhelmed with orders. To my surprise, he supported me in the process and helped me lighten my course load. He also initiated a discussion on the possibility of doing my Master's project on my company while being accompanied by an entrepreneurial professor. It was at this point that I became aware that the university offered valuable resources. 

A few months later, while I was completing my Master's project on my company, I won a scholarship competition that helped me finance Gibou.

So what is Gibou anyways?

Gibou is a company that creates hand-knit winter accessories. I had been making hats for over ten years and I was extremely passionate about knitting when I decided to launch my business. Since I was receiving so many compliments from my inner-circle, I decided to start selling them informally. In the Spring of 2014, I thought it would be interesting to reach a larger clientele. To do this, going online seemed like the ideal solution. So in my spare time as a student, I came up with the brand, the look and the logo in addition to the website in the months that followed. 

In September 2014, Gibou launched online. 

At the beginning, I created a Facebook and Instagram account to get my brand known, I partnered with blogs and I offered hats to sport teams, I also wrote articles for radio stations. After receiving a very large order, I asked for help from retired people in my entourage to help me with production. From year one, our little team grew from three knitters to twelve…and they all love knitting as much as I do. 

So, the first two years of operation were devoted exclusively to E-commerce. Then, in the spring of 2016, I wanted to reach a different clientele who liked to shop; I created a small network of points of sale that corresponded to the values of the brand. There are now Gibou items in all of the Simons boutiques in Quebec and in some specialty stores in Montreal, Mont-Tremblant and Québec City.

Determination and passion

Today, I want to encourage all the students out there who want to be their own boss. From my perspective, it’s important to take advantage of all the contacts you come across in University, because they give you the opportunity to talk about the projects you have in mind and will give you helpful feedback. In addition, teachers can prove to be valuable resources; they can share their knowledge and experience with you. You should talk to them about the projects that excite you and keep in touch with the ones who really believe in you.  

Also, the flexible hours of student life can really be an advantage and should not to be overlooked. Once you’re in the workforce, it can be difficult to just let everything go overnight to "jump" into the business community. 

Whether you’re a student or not, starting a business requires an immeasurable amount of passion and determination. There won’t always be a perfect moment to launch a business, but you need to be open to the occasions that present themselves, to grab them and not be afraid to push forward!