In 2003, Geneviève Gagnon, the founder of La Fourmi, began her entrepreneurial journey in her own apartment kitchen. She spent several months creating unique flavors in a period of experimentation and passion during which she perfected her blends.
Later that same year, finding the production capabilities of her kitchen too limited, Geneviève began producing in a local bakery where she rented the equipment outside of busy periods. This solution was still limited as she had to bring her ingredients and tools each time she wanted to produce, and the availability of the oven was restricted. Nonetheless, this three-month phase allowed her to improve and scale her production processes.
In 2004, a meeting with a mentor who owned a food production factory enabled her to move her activities to a space with a storage area for her equipment and familiarize herself with a smaller pizza oven for the production of her granola. After spending a year in this factory, she moved to a caterer’s facility, where the company benefited from two pizza ovens and greater scheduling flexibility, leading to a significant increase in productivity.
In 2006, La Fourmi made a leap forward by moving into a 4,000 square foot space at the Dompark Complex in Montreal, a former textile factory converted into an eco-responsible complex. For this, the company took out its first loan from the BDC and began work to renovate the premises, which were not equipped for food production. This move marked the beginning of an era of sustained growth. In 2009 and 2010, the warehouse successively expanded by 3,000 and then 1,000 square feet, signs of growing commercial success and renewed ambition.
In 2017, the company optimized its production space with an additional 2,000 square feet and improved the organization of the production area and an increase in the storage area. The expansion continued with the enlargement of the offices by 1,500 square feet, including a locker room, break areas, a dining area, and a meeting room. June 2023 marked a new turning point for La Fourmi, with the addition of 3,000 square feet of storage space, followed in October by an expansion of the production area by 500 square feet, bringing the total facilities to 15,000 square feet.
Throughout the journey, La Fourmi has continually invested in cutting-edge technologies, such as automatic weighing and multiple packaging lines, thus significantly increasing its productivity. However, the company has also faced setbacks, notably by investing in a lower-cost automated packaging machine that proved unusable in production due to its capricious nature. This episode reminds us of the risks associated with attempts to save on production equipment costs.
In 2023, La Fourmi, still focused on innovation, is testing a new technology that promises to further improve productivity without compromising on quality. This development positions the company as a pioneer in North America in the use of this technology.
Over the span of 20 years, La Fourmi Bionique Inc. has remarkably evolved, going from an apartment kitchen to premises of 4,000 square feet and eventually to 15,000 square feet! This story illustrates not only the gradual and sustainable growth of a company but also the importance of perseverance and adaptability in the business world, reflecting the determination of its founder, Geneviève Gagnon, and her team in their continuous quest for excellence.