An environmentally conscious mother and stage property master seeking an outlet for her creativity, Isabel Deslauriers wanted to find a way to breathe new life into some of her daughter Charlotte’s old clothes. A menagerie of stuffed animals would soon follow. That eventually led to her founding her own company, Zazibel, even though she knew nothing about running a business. But people loved her handcrafted plushies and quickly spread the word — from colleagues, to their contacts and beyond.
That’s when one of her friends brought the Executive Education HEC Montréal Certification in Retail Operations to her attention. Because Isabel saw herself as an entrepreneurial artisan rather than an artisanal entrepreneur, she realized she had some catching up to do in terms of her business skills. So she signed up for the six-day bilingual program, offered in collaboration with the SAQ.
“I was making and selling my plushies without putting too much thought into the process,” said Isabel. “The program helped me draft a business plan, define my vision and zero in on my target customers. It was a little like starting over from scratch, only differently this time.” Not only did she acquire new tools to help her position her company for growth, but she also learned more about her customers, which she found particularly useful.
Some of the things in the program that stood out for her included how to cope with uncertainty and change, the obvious example being the COVID-19 crisis, as well as key marketing strategies and the individual personality test. “It helped me focus on my strengths and work on my weaknesses so things can keep getting better and better.”
As far as the guest speakers are concerned, Isabel admitted to being won over by the professionalism and expertise of Alain Brunet (cohort mentor, adjunct professor, and former president and CEO of the SAQ) and JoAnne Labrecque (academic director and associate professor): “She even reached out to me to help with my business model. She took the time to walk me through it and share her insights with me.” Isabel felt fortunate to receive personalized advice from an expert of her calibre.
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