France Michaud | Desjardins Group
How do you stand out in the competitive restaurant business? If you're Émilie Frigon and Marie-Josée Girard, you tap into a unique niche.
With close to 30 years of industry experience between them and parents who are business owners, it wasn't long before the two young women considered opening their own business.
Frigon and Girard, who live in the small town of Normandin, Lac-Saint-Jean, wanted to come up with a way to differentiate themselves. Through a rigorous market study, they identified a winning niche. "Normandin is where Dédé Fortin [the late charismatic singer of Les Colocs] grew up. Besides the famous Main Street, we also have a festival named after him. Why not keep building on that?"
The scene was set. Restaurant Dédélicieux is a "tribute to Dédé Fortin's energy and passion." The singer's albums, photos and posters line the restaurant's walls and everything on the menu has names associated with him. "Our goal was to offer what other local restaurants didn't have--things like paninis and sautéed pasta...We wanted to add some colour!"
Off to a good start with solid training
Their adventure began with a business start-up course offered by the Maria-Chapdelaine local development centre, which helped Frigon and Girard conduct their market study and develop a business plan.
They were also directed to community resources, including the Société d'aide au développement de la collectivité (SADC) Maria-Chapdelaine and the Créavenir youth entrepreneurship support program. The 2 entrepreneurs feel very fortunate to have received support from all the programs and organizations they approached. "When you believe in your venture and you're passionate about it, people feel that," says Frigon.
She says that Créavenir provides significant economic development. "This program is different from others in that it offers financing based on young entrepreneurs' ability to pay it back. Feeling so supported was really important to us," she says. Frigon and Girard also received ongoing support from Caisse populaire Desjardins des Plaines boréales and the SADC Maria-Chapdelaine, a Créavenir partner. This support can be so valuable through what is sometimes a complex business start-up process.
Starting Dédélicieux definitely involved lots of challenges. "In the very beginning, the programs we had access to paid our salaries. But we had to quickly make sure that we were being paid from our restaurant revenue. "It's important to dream, but you also need to be realistic. You have to know your business inside and out! I now know exactly how much a slice of bacon costs," says Frigon with a laugh. "And we continue to improve on that front, because every cent counts."
A business is like a baby
Although they only served breakfast and lunch in the beginning, the 2 business owners recently started offering reservation-only group dinners. A smart way to make the restaurant profitable while limiting risks, since it allows Frigon and Girard to plan expenses and staffing based on a predetermined number of clients. "It's another way for us to stand out and bring a little something extra to Normandin," says Frigon.
What do they have their sights set on next? "We want to own our own location, and maybe expand our space," says Frigon, who isn't content to rest on her laurels and wants to keep meeting her customers' needs. "Our business is like a baby: we need to support it, take care of it, help it grow and be there for it at all times!" she says.
Some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
Rule number 1: fall in love with your venture...
...you need to believe in it and go for it!
Rule number 2: distinguish yourself...
...and give your target customers something different.
Rule number 3: surround yourself with good people...
...but make sure you're not so dependent on them that you can't move forward.
Dédélicieux in brief
Owners: Émilie Frigon and Marie-Josée Girard
Business name: Restaurant Dédélicieux
City and region: Normandin, Lac-Saint-Jean
Year established: 2012
Number of employees : 12 (2 full-time)