Isabelle Lamarre | Journalist
It all started with the desire for change. Marie-Ève Lejour and her partner wanted to move to the country, raise a family and create their own job. They looked for an idea, tried a few things and ended up focusing on soapmaking. That's how Savonnerie des Diligences, a little gem in Austin in the Eastern Townships, was born.
The business opened in 2005, with a home-based workshop and store. The kids grew, the soap-making operation developed a structure and Lejour embarked on the journey to developing a business that suited her. With success came bigger and bigger decisions. Here she shares the key moments that have shaped her business.
Creating an identity
It was 2011 and the winds of change were blowing. Lejour was bursting with creativity. "What if the soaps had characters associated with them?" she thought. After digging into Quebec legends and the history of the Eastern Townships, in 2012, Lejour formed a working group and in 6 months, 30 legends were created, each one with a cheerful illustration. Gradually, the whole operation took on this fresh identity that gave them their distinctive visual signature.
From soapmaker to entrepreneur
2012 was also the year Lejour and her partner separated. She was at a crossroads and doubted whether she'd be able to handle the business by herself. "I looked into my children's eyes. What did I want them to remember--that I'd given up? Or that I'd taken a risk?" says Lejour. She decided to go for it.
It took one good year and a rough patch for the artisan to become an entrepreneur. Lejour got a hold on the business through consistent effort. "Consistency is central to life," she says. The result? A strong identity, a very vibrant business and this sense of joyful authenticity that attracts customers and keeps them coming back.
Hitting the million mark
Lejour achieved her target in 2014, when the company's sales grew by 50%. They've been on an upward trend ever since. In 2017, the original location was short on space and they moved into a building made just for them, where some 15 people work. Even with the move, Lejour and her team made 175,000 soaps that year and sales hit the million mark for the first time.
Lejour has no shortage of plans. She wants to improve processes, redesign the website, open up the shareholder agreement and share her management vision, but her immediate priority is focusing on her team. That's nothing new; the team has always been important to her.
"We can't achieve anything without the team," says Lejour. She wants to increase job satisfaction and make sure everyone is focused on adding value. "The team is what stokes my entrepreneurial fire," she says.
That's why every morning, she gets up determined to create an environment that promotes happiness, where everyone can fulfill their potential and balance their personal goals with their professional ones. A hammock, rooftop patio, the chance to travel the world ... anything is possible.
Recognition and awards
Eastern Townships tourism awards
• 2012 regional winner
• 2013 regional winner
Des Omer gala
• 2013 winner, young entrepreneur
• 2017 winner, innovation and tourism development
Ose entreprendre gala
• 2007 local winner - operations, processing and production
• 2017 regional winner, Successful Business Inc. award
• 2017 national finalist, Successful Business Inc. award
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