SME Universe | Start a business in 48 hours with $1

In two days the suitcase was in the bag.

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Marc Tison

Marc Tison
The press

The six young entrepreneurs, also students, had found an idea, designed the product, started production and sold it on the website that was created at the same time.

It was just a reusable bag made from orphaned sweaters and t-shirts.

The Écozac team – the brand they created that same weekend – took part in Défi48, which consists in starting a profitable business in less than 48 hours with a capital of $1.

More than 300 participants took part in the qualifying tournaments, which were held in eight cities.

“Our goal was really to learn,” explains Élisabeth Viau, co-founder of Écozac and master’s student at HEC Montréal.

She gathered a few colleagues and acquaintances around the idea, a heterogeneous group of schoolchildren and students whose common element was an interest in entrepreneurship.

The regional qualifier they signed up for, Laval’s, took place on August 6th and 7th. The rules allowed for an initial consultation on Friday. That same evening, they held a video conference to set their strategy.

“It was still a test to get by with six members,” says Élisabeth Viau. We realized that each of our ideas ultimately had a common theme, namely ecology. »

To be fair, let’s name the five other teammates: Caleb Miller, Mathieu Morin-Lamy, Ophélie Mayol, Patrick Nassar, Raphaël Sauteur.

Their common eureka came around 9pm. They would make reusable bags with used clothing.

We needed raw materials. Elizabeth’s friend and roommate, Caleb Miller, was on the team. “Of course he had old sweaters. »

He made the sacrifice. “It’s part of our mission,” she defends. They were sweaters that he no longer wanted. They’ve been together for a long time. »

Means of production were needed: a sewing machine. “We asked friends, they were happy to lend it to us. »

We needed qualified employees. “My friend couldn’t sew at all, but we put him to the sewing machine. »

Elisabeth and Caleb settled on the balcony of their apartment and started production straight away. “We had the scissors in our sweaters around 10 p.m. in the evening,” says the entrepreneur.

Two intense days (and one night)

The next morning, the official start of the competition, the small team moved their factory – “the sewing machine, our sweater pockets” – to the Hôtel de Laval, where the regional qualifiers were held.

Responsibilities were shared. Elisabeth and Caleb were responsible for design and production. Two other team members worked on the brand image and logo. The third duo began studying the market and the competition.

Their supply chain matched: They cleaned out their closets and ran thrift stores across the city.

Work continued overnight from Saturday to Sunday “to build our website, make more bags, build our brand image”. The advertising service was set up the moment Elisabeth was photographing the rehearsals in the middle of the night.

Sunday was dedicated to distribution channels. “We sold a lot of bags through our website,” reports the young entrepreneur, who remembers that it was all over within 48 hours. “We gave everything, we didn’t sleep much. »

But with their jersey pockets, they won the first round.

The final

The final, which brought together the winners of eight regional qualifiers, took place in Mont-Tremblant on August 18-20. Two members of the original team who were unable to attend, William Dupont and Ouchylon Suong, took their place.

“We had to prove that our company is profitable, that growth is possible, that we can be sustainable and explain what we want to do for the future,” describes Elisabeth.

Undoubtedly they were convincing: they made a second triumphal march.

The fine team won the first prize worth $10,000 in cash and expert advice: notary public, accountant…

The adventure did not end on these laurels.

“We’ll continue with that,” assures Élisabeth Viau. We really want to continue this to learn more and then move on to the next step which is to develop new products and new markets but always with the same circular economy mission. »

They’ve already proven they have more than one trick up their sleeve.


A running production at Vrooden

Vrooden changes the grain

The small industrial brewer gave up barley and hops to devote himself to rice. Indeed, the proliferation of microbreweries in Quebec has dealt a blow to the company, which amid the storm is abandoning beer to pursue Asian beverages. It was no doubt logical that this eastern transition was communicated by The Voice of the East, on 24.08. One of the two co-owners, Carol Duplain, announced that Vrooden would devote itself entirely to making makgeolli, a Korean rice wine, and would soon begin sake production.

“We will be the third player in Canada to make sake and we are the only ones making makgeolli. I’d rather fight with three guys in Canada than 450 brewers [de bières] in Quebec,” he told the Granby newspaper. The company also produced a non-alcoholic beer that is very popular with sober beer lovers. Vrooden was founded in 2016 by Hervé Gagnon and Carol Duplain, based on the latter’s experiments, which were inspired by complex German brewing methods. The microbrewery launched its Makgeolli in June 2021.


Karl Mongrain, President of Mongrain since 1995, wants to expand the activities of the family business in the west of the country.

Mongrain grows in British Columbia

Mongrain, a Québec specialist in building envelope protection, is beginning to cover the western part of the country. The first seed of that growth was a 50/50 joint venture agreement with Cascade Roofing of Chilliwack, near Vancouver, earlier in 2022 but announced on August 23. Its President, Karl Mongrain, intends to continue the path of expansion in the west by increasing joint ventures, subsidiaries and acquisitions.

Karl Mongrain has been at the helm since 1995 and represents the third generation within the family business, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1955. In addition to its headquarters in Mirabel, Mongrain now has offices in Vancouver and Ottawa with 100 employees. The envelope for the transaction was not disclosed.

Digital Fortresses for SMEs

New digital walls are emerging. The young Quebec company launched its platform on August 25, which makes a sophisticated anti-piracy solution accessible to SMEs. is Canada’s first application cybersecurity platform (that protects web applications) powered by artificial intelligence, the company claims. This platform hosts SMEs’ valuable systems in a cloud fortress and protects them from privateers and other Internet Visigoths.

Once the drawbridge is up, the security of these companies’ web applications will be fully managed and supported by artificial intelligence. The launch took place at the offices of VARS, the information security division of Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, which announced the same day the acquisition of Montreal-based company Mercues Innovations.

“It is integrated into VARS as a data governance subsidiary,” explained Guillaume Caron, President of VARS, during a phone interview. In addition to its ten employees, VARS expands its arsenal with a complete solution, including technological tools and a virtual person responsible for the protection of personal data, to help companies comply with the requirements of Law 25.

This requires the implementation of a full data governance program by September 2023, but still a major need for protection,” commented Guillaume Caron.


The Canadian cluster SCALE AI has announced that 12 new AI projects will be supported by a funding round of 50 million. The Montreal-based company Logibec’s DAL-IA (Artificial Intelligence for Management, Supply and Logistics) project is one of them. He wants to fight stockouts in hospitals by better forecasting the consumption of more than 50,000 important products.

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