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The blog of Geneviève Gagnon, Founding President of Fourmi Bionique

Success in business is not without its setbacks; yet, that is all that we hear about; good moves, good news… and when there is less good news, we hide it, mask it or downplay it until the day when the company that we had heard so many good things about collapses and goes bankrupt, when no one saw it coming. For my part, if I’m still in business after so many years, it’s because I managed to avoid bankruptcy more than once. I fought against the many obstacles that stood in my way, I overcame challenges that seemed insurmountable at the time… In short, all of my experiences have made me the knowledgeable, resilient and proactive manager that I am today.

The truth (or at least my truth) of entrepreneurship I would like to share here on my blog is based on what I’ve learned at the helm of my company Fourmi Bionique, from its creation until today.

La Fourmi Bionique Inc. is the company I founded in 2003 in my kitchen. Passionate about granola and gastronomy, I designed the recipes for my cereals myself, developed the marketing, and found my market one client at a time. Today, Fourmi Bionique has around twenty employees, an SQF certified factory, over 2000 points of sale in Canada and France, and nearly 50 different products for sale. My company was offering an innovative product on the market in its early days. Today, however, the natural breakfast cereal market has become highly developed and fiercely competitive.

Being an entrepreneur is quite mysterious and intriguing for many. Admittedly, we talk a lot more about entrepreneurship these days, with all the start-ups, angel investors, entrepreneurship support organizations, start-up grants, revolutionary ideas, ideas that don’t make it, the race to make a company profitable… Nevertheless, there are still many aspects of entrepreneurship that go undiscussed. The “politically correct” business culture says that we must always be motivated and motivate others, that we must always give the illusion that anyone can succeed, that all doors are open to us, that everyone means well, that our social or ethnic origins, or even our gender are not barriers to success….

In fact, there are three worlds of business: the dream start-up, the little company that starts in a garage and ends up on the stock market in no time; the company which is created with large investments, begins with more than 20 employees and has a survival rate of 50% the first 10 years; and finally, the most widespread, the small business, which begins without employees and of which nearly 60% will have gone bankrupt within 10 years.

Furthermore, in the shadows of the big corporations, there is in fact a majority of very small businesses which are essential to our economy. In fact, in the province of Quebec, 73.4% of businesses that have employees have less than 9 and 50% of Quebec businesses generate less than $500,000 in annual revenues. Among all of these, there is a great disparity in entrepreneur profiles and types of businesses. This is why only 4% of them are considered to be highly efficient. By zooming in on the real picture, the illusions of the start-up slowly dissipate… Not to mentioned that fewer than 6% of entrepreneurs of small and medium businesses are women. What do these figures mean? What you have to understand is that there are different realities in entrepreneurship, and it is often only once you have been confronted with the day-to-day life of being an entrepreneur that you realize that the dream does not always turn out the way you expected.

Click on picture to enlarge.

What you have to take into account is that entrepreneurship encompasses different realities, and it is often only once we are faced with the harsh truths of the business world that we say, “I wish someone had warned me!” But don’t take this the wrong way – I don’t want you to give up on your dreams! But sometimes when we hear that we have to work hard in order to achieve these dreams, we don’t always realize what that implies. Knowing this can offer us a more informed perspective on the choices to be made. I myself saw the sacrifices that my entrepreneur father had to make during the 30 years that he managed his convenience store. I understood at a young age that entrepreneurship and wealth were not necessarily associated; rather, being an entrepreneur is a way of life and a professional choice based on personal motivations, but, above all, it is a demanding and exhausting job.

This is the perspective I want to give you. The truth that all success is the result of continually and relentlessly overcoming obstacles, and that stress and feelings of loss of hope are common to all who engage in entrepreneurship, no matter how much revenue they earn or the size of the business. Entrepreneurs who know how to get up after getting knocked over will survive, while others will give up. It’s a question of resilience and tenacity. The reality is that there is always a way forward; it is not always obvious, comfortable, or even smart, but to succeed, it is up to the entrepreneur to figure out the path to take. Having a good business plan or an excellent business idea will not guarantee success. Success in business is 80% psychology and 20% execution. And the truth is that most people don’t have the psychological profile to build and run a business.

I hope that my stories and experiences allow you, perhaps, to reframe or reorient your projects or your choices, to perhaps save time and money, to have fewer regrets, to feel less alone and less incompetent, to consciously make the right sacrifices. I wish to share through this personal outlet, a raw, real and palpable vision of the implications that entrepreneurship can have on your life.

It’s only once you’re at the top of the hill can you see how far you’ve come. Too many people today give advice without having experienced what it’s like to manage a small business for many years, which is dangerous. That is why I felt the need to create this blog, where you can read about the real experience and perspective of a small business operator. My experience is very different from that of serial entrepreneurs, because all the choices I make are for the long-term. Far from the ephemeral, but always close to the precipice!

The Price of being Women Owned
I recently underwent an audit to validate that I am a majority shareholder with over 51% of my company. I am in fact very proud to still hold 75% of…
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Surrounding yourself with the right people and reaching out for help
A 2003 article by the journalist Jessica Bruder, “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship”, describes the phenomenon of the pressure to perform and succeed that so many entrepreneurs face without talking…
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Spirituality and leadership
How can one not to grow and evolve in a journey as rich and intense as that of entrepreneurship? What a fertile opportunity to constantly surpass oneself, to discover one’s…
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How much is my company worth?
At various occasions in the life of a business, the entrepreneur will wonder how much his business is worth. Whether there is an equity transaction, the arrival or departure of…
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The motor of success… and it’s fuel of choice
You need to be very motivated to start a business. Wanting to make money shouldn’t be the main or only motivation; you also need to be psychologically ready to succeed.…
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How much do I pay myself? Part 2
Who decides how much I should pay myself? In the context of a sole owner, the question does not even come up, because the entrepreneur has the latitude to give…
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How much do I pay myself? Part 1
As entrepreneurs, we are confronted in different ways with the salary issue, both from a psychological and from an operational point of view. Depending on the stage of development of…
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In praise of the Antihero
My dad had a convenience store for thirty years (and a supermarket for about ten of those years) so I was immersed in this universe all my childhood. I understood…
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Beware of creditors… more than debts! Part 2
Financial obligations can become heavy burdens It is important to properly plan for fixed costs such as salaries and rent. Add a little more to this estimate, because there will…
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Beware of creditors… more than debts! Part 1
Financing a business is one of, if not the main concern of most companies, and for good reason. Bad choices in the start-up phase can have an impact on the…
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The vertigo of growth. Part 2
Plan for success and prevent failure Your sales forecasts and those of your distributors will sometimes be too optimistic. We are often tempted to embellish them in order to seduce…
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The vertigo of growth. Part 1
Growth is the main goal for any for-profit business. For some entrepreneurs, it even represents the ultimate objective. Yet, growth comes with its challenges and risks, which you need to…
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Operating in uncertainty
On several occasions in the past, I have had to deal with uncertain situations and precarious finances. I have also faced the possibility of not making it through several crises…
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Exporting… at what cost? Part 2
Leaving the field wide-open for competitors As your company deploys all its resources and attention to other territories, is it leaving the field open to foreign competitors who wish to…
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Exporting… at what cost? Part 1
The supreme attraction of international trade Nowadays, in this era of globalization, it seems impossible to imagine that the growth of a business can happen without expansion into new territories.…
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Six myths on how entrepreneurial success should be measured. Part 2
Myth no. 4: «It’s easy to make money once the business is off the ground» It is believed that a business becomes a money-generating machine once it is well oiled…this…
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Six myths on how entrepreneurial success should be measured. Part 1
When it comes to starting a business, high or sometimes unrealistic expectations of financial performance are often projected. We are frequently told that the first five years are the most…
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So, you want to please everyone? Part 2
Say “no” to your employees The line between entrepreneur and psychologist can sometimes get really thin (in my case it did!). This is probably the most difficult and exhausting aspect…
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So, you want to please everyone? Part 1
When I started my entrepreneurial adventure, I wanted to please everyone. I felt vulnerable and I was sorely lacking in self-confidence. I jeopardized my business and personal relationships on several…
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An entrepreneur can have 9 lives… if he knows how to land on his feet!
In the professional path of an entrepreneur, several obstacles may arise, and sometimes they can be pretty imposing. These will test our ability to overcome adversity, they will develop our…
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The adventures of an entrepreneur who wanted to become a mom…
In 2004, when I started my business, I attended many roundtable discussions of women entrepreneurs, many of whom also had children. I wondered how they managed to reconcile motherhood and…
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