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Créavenir Youth Entrepreneurship Program: 3 vital elements to starting a business according to CEO of Solutions Otonomi

November 27, 2023

Floréal Villanova, CEO of Solutions Otonomi

In this first of 4 profiles, discover how Créavenir can provide a springboard for your business by providing you with accessible financing and personalized support. Let's start with Floréal Villanova, co-founder and CEO of Solutions Otonomi, who tells us about 3 elements that played a decisive role in starting his company. 

Following a decade-long stint in the solar industry in France, and 1 year working abroad in Texas, Floréal Villanova moved to Quebec in 2018. As someone who is always looking for ways to make things better and easier, Floréal realized that the experts in his field could really benefit from a software solution to help them design standalone solar projects.  

As there was no such software on the market, he founded Solutions Otonomi with his colleague and friend, Théo Germain. Convinced of the project's viability, the 2 partners decided to quit their jobs and go into business together. 

1. Be patient, stay strong and never give up

Restlessly eager by nature, Floréal developed the ability to bounce back from the challenges that often face business owners. Some weeks would be full of good news, while others brought more than their fair share of challenges. If you're riding a rollercoaster, keeping things in perspective, reaping what you've sown—and, most importantly—staying on track to reach your goals will help you stay confident. In Floréal's opinion, you have to treat your entrepreneurship journey like a marathon, keeping in mind that you need to learn how to walk before you can run. 

2. Open your eyes and ears 

Floréal is a big believer in keeping your ear to the ground and asking for feedback so you can grow with your clients and meet their needs. Listening enables you to pivot. If a critique invalidates hundreds of hours of programming, for example, he'll take a deep breath, swallow his pride, and try to really understand what he's being told. His ability to take setbacks in stride and his willingness to understand reservations when they're brought to his attention is crucial: "Don't focus on the product, but on the problem," he says. 

3. Surround yourself with the right people

"Listen to your mentors and coaches. They might not have all the answers, but you can draw from the insight of people who have experience." 

Networking is paramount, says Floréal, particularly when you're just starting out. Before you start knocking on doors to get coaching or financing, it's important to thoroughly take stock of your options. It's a great opportunity to learn from the experience of others, sharpen your skills, and build your confidence.

With help from organizations and events such as Défi Montréal External link. This link will open in a new window., the École des entrepreneurs du Québec External link. This link will open in a new window. and the Cooperathon External link. This link will open in a new window., Solutions Otonomi has successfully transitioned from the startup to the growth phase by building an extensive network of contacts in a wide variety of disciplines (human resources, research and development, artificial intelligence, etc.). A key factor that made a real difference in the lives of the 2 entrepreneurs is the relationship of trust they developed with their account manager and, more broadly, with their financial institution.  
"I'm so pleased about my experience—I'd be happy to be a Desjardins ambassador. Everything went so well from the get-go!" 

Why Créavenir? 

Créavenir is an entrepreneurship program designed for young people. Starting a business in a new country can be daunting—Créavenir can provide a great financing solution. Having access to a $15,000 line of credit provides valuable flexibility, especially when facing tough months. And a $5,000 grant can be very helpful!

Did you know?

An information session on starting a business is available to help you learn more about Créavenir. Find out what the program can do for you!  External link. This link will open in a new window.