Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

Written by Nébesna Fortin, interns coordinator and sustainable development officer of Cité Ecologique, born in Cité Ecologique.

In 1984, the founder of our ecovillage, Michael Deunov, and a group of parents started a project offering an alternative school for children who wanted to learn in nature and through concrete activities. The main idea was to built a school that would give priority to education and would empower each kid with their one own strength. The first two years, the project started as a summer camp. Due to the kids’ interests, it was soon transformed to accommodate families all year long. The ecovillage “La Cite Écologique” was then born. To meet the financial requirements, everyone pooled together their strength. Eco-businesses soon gravitated around the school. Furthermore, those working areas provided high school kids with the opportunity to do internships and educational activities directly linked with real economic challenges. The first business operated in the field of agriculture and food supply. Over time, economic activities diversified. Soon we ran an organic farm, a glass art workshop, a meaningful gift distributor and a sewing shop. At the beginning of 2000, youngsters who developed their leadership skills began to share their interest for managing their own projects. This way, new businesses started emerging. A new and inspiring project was created in 2008. I took the time to chat with this young entrepreneur to share with you what he had to say about starting a new business in an ecovillage.

Steve Grandmont arrived in 1984 , at La Cité Écologique. He was 9 years old. He took part in all activities and practical learning experiences with thirty other children at the ecovillage’s school. Then, he began an internship in the sewing business. Over time, he learned to manage the production’s follow-up. He also looked for sub-contracting agreements in Montreal and did the follow-up with home workers. Soon, he was named the one in charge of delivery and contracts with Montreal suppliers. His job allowed him to acquire the skills to manage a working group.

At that time, most parents and young adults were working in this sewing business. It was the main economic activity allowing parents to support the school and the ecovillage’s projects. Unfortunately, sewing contracts from all over Canada started to go overseas, to be produced at lower costs. In 2007, it was time to consider creating new job opportunities. Meanwhile, Steve became a happy new dad of a great little boy. More than ever, he wanted to pursue the dream of his parents and offer a nice learning environment that matched his beliefs and his vision of a more sustainable world. Motivated by the desire to continue this project he decided to start his own business. The area of selling interested him, so his first thought was to sell the ecovillage’s forest products. But his attempt was unsuccessful since the market value of wood was declining and the many restrictions did not give enough latitude to small producers. His second project was to start raising hens. A great activity but it was also too much controlled and frankly, not very profitable. All this was not enough to curb Steve’s aspirations.

After a challenging year, a great idea started sprouting in Steve’s mind. During his road trips, he became more and more aware of all the underutilized produces taking the road to landfills. Why not give a second life to these products? Soon, he began to pick up the vegetable oil in restaurants of the area. But he did not stop there. A bunch of other products could be reused also. Pallets, barrels and tanks crammed into his truck. Once at the ecovillage, they were cleaned and repaired. Within less than a year, there was more work than time. Steve finally quit his old job to focus on his new project: “Resource EnergyTerre”.

Today, his company is taking off. It’s focus on pallets recycling, the most profitable, and it’s called Palettes Grandmont. Well known in the region, it counts three employees. Steve works with several large corporations in Central Quebec.
– His plans for the future … continue to explore recycling, it’s the future after all!
– His secret … do what you love and believe in your dreams !
– His trademark… always strive to provide a quality service. He notes that service is a priority and should come even before the idea of making money.
The interview ends by asking him what advice he could give to other young people wishing to start their own business. His answer is simple: patience, believe in your dreams and respect your clients.

Steve is currently the father of two beautiful dynamic children filled with energy. A great project such as our ecovillage must diversify his economic ventures with several different activities in order to move towards a sustainable balance. Steve’s company is an inspiring example proving that it is possible to succeed economically while promoting ecological values and positive relations with your region.

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