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Launching a business: good support is key

March 1, 2021

Valérie Chartrand was a school daycare worker when she decided to turn her passion for sewing into a business. She was able to launch Créations Écoval with the financial assistance and support she received through the Desjardins Microcredit to Businesses program.

An entrepreneur at heart

Over the summer holidays in 2019, Chartrand toyed with the idea of starting a business. “When my boys were little, I made a lot of their clothes. I put sewing aside for many years but came back to it later on and started making reusable snack and sandwich bags. I was receiving Employment Insurance benefits over the summer, so I qualified for the self-employment support program. I developed a business plan, created a few samples and went to pitch my eco-friendly business idea to the people at my regional county municipality. They loved it!” she says.

Full speed ahead

Chartrand planned to work on her business part-time while continuing to work at the daycare. But she didn’t expect it to take off so soon. “I’d taken over our home basement to make my reusable snack bags, so my husband set up a space in our garage for my sewing workshop. I couldn’t keep up with the demand, so it wasn’t long before I brought 2 employees on board.” To buy a new sewing machine, she applied to her local Fonds d’emprunt and got financial support through the Desjardins Microcredit to Businesses program.

“This financial partner came at the right time and allowed me to hire a sales representative who got Créations Écoval products into 40 retail outlets in Quebec. They’re also available on my online shop.”

Good support

2020 was a turning point for Créations Écoval. That’s when Chartrand left her daycare job to devote herself to the business full-time.

“Desjardins microcredit is much more than a loan—it also comes with entrepreneurship consulting services, like various training and access to mentoring. Desjardins provided so many tools that helped me grow my business,” says Chartrand.

Microcredit also gave Chartrand the leverage to access other sources of funding to further develop her business. “I’m really proud I’ve been able to help create jobs in my area and contribute to local economic development. And in March 2020, Fonds d’emprunt des Hautes-Laurentides named me the most inspiring businesswoman in the Laurentians,” she says.

Microcredit, macro opportunity!

The Desjardins Microcredit to Businesses program not only helps entrepreneurs and others who are self-employed to achieve their business dreams; it also offers an overall approach to learning that includes technical support and personalized coaching.

Grabbing opportunities

When the province first went into lockdown last spring, everything suddenly stopped for Créations Écoval. “I remember my Desjardins Microcredit to Businesses mentor telling me that entrepreneurs have to seize opportunities! And that’s exactly what I did: When Premier Legault made masks mandatory, I quickly created a few samples and put them online. The response was immediate!” says Chartrand, who has sold 15,000 masks to date.

Chartrand takes advantage of every opportunity and includes a pamphlet about her various products with each order. “The pandemic has given my company more visibility throughout Quebec! I now offer bowl covers, napkins, reusable straw/utensil bags, mesh produce bags and bread bags, and I’ve got more new products on the way. I’ve just moved into a commercial space in Sainte-Sophie. Now that I have a storefront, I’ve added another feather to my cap, since I can promote other local artisans. 2021 is shaping up to be a great year,” says Chartrand.

To learn more: (In French only)

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with your local Desjardins Business centre.