Guided by a sense of solidarity, he lends a helping hand to entrepreneurs in a period that is shaking up the business world. Interview with Serge Beauchemin, investor member of Strøm Nordic Spa, founder of alias entrepreneur-e, member of Ange Québec Capital and… soon-to-be grandpa!
Serge, how are you doing in this trying time, especially for the business world?
To be honest, I have a lot on my shoulders. I’m under a lot of pressure. I’m working a lot. It’s funny, I often hear people mention that they’re looking forward to the end of the lockdown because they’re bored. For me, it’s just the opposite! I don’t have time to be bored. Remote working has opened up new possibilities. Before, attending five meetings in one day was quite a mandate. Today, you can participate in five meetings with people from all over the world in a single afternoon. The crisis we are going through is transforming our work structures and brings its share of challenges.
For example, today, I have 7 meetings on the agenda and I am hosting a live tonight in front of 800 people. It’s like that almost every day! I invest a lot of time into alias entrepreneur-e, a platform where entrepreneurs can get help, concrete content and connect with each other. On March 1st, the platform became free for the general public: videos, podcasts, articles and accompanying guides. A very appropriate moment given the context of the pandemic, which has come to destabilize entrepreneurship.
As soon as the crisis began, we started doing live broadcasts, because we realized that people needed to be reassured. These initiatives break up loneliness and anxiety, they allow people to come together. The success was excellent, we decided to make it a routine. Every Thursday, we hold large discussions with influential members of the political and entrepreneurial community. For example, I have had live meetings with ministers such as Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy; Mélanie Joly, Federal Minister of Economic Development; and Jean Boulet, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity. On each occasion, entrepreneurs were able to ask their questions online. I also invited well-known and lesser-known entrepreneurs to tell us how they were experiencing the crisis, how they saw the reflation.
As an investor for about ten companies, I also took part in emergency executive committees. Nine out of 10 companies have felt the impact of the pandemic. In the majority of cases, I had to get involved to put out the fires!
On March 1st, my involvement with Ange Québec Capital began. My first mandate was to raise $100 million for Quebec start-ups. Initially, I told myself that with Covid-19, it was really the worst time to raise money. Then, around the third week, I realized that it was perhaps the best time! Companies need money, and the mutual help and solidarity is palpable.
In spite of the workload, intellectual and cerebral stress and fatigue, I think we’re going through an extraordinary period. There are demonstrations of solidarity that are unparalleled. I try not to think too much about yesterday. I try not to anticipate too much. I’m doing my best for today. I only have power over what I can do in the here and now. I don’t have power over what happens, but I still have power over how I react to it.
There is also a remarkable craze for buying local. It’s beautiful to see. It’s encouraging. There are a lot of local businesses that I encourage whose sales have skyrocketed, including 1642 sodas.
The speed with which governments are acting and correcting is also remarkable. You encourage action (and then correction afterwards). The public seems to be more supportive of this kind of authenticity. Confidence is increasing. It is refreshing to see these changes in politics.
At the same time, we are witnessing a technological revolution! Technology that seemed inaccessible to some is now becoming necessary. We are more connected than ever before. Grandparents are reconnecting to their grandchildren via the Internet. This is good news!
In business, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. The number of businesses that have taken these three months to rethink their business model, create an online store, join social networks and review their visual identity is impressive. Online business is experiencing major growth. I am very excited about this.
At home, my partner and I have a ritual: she doesn’t leave the bed without having her first laugh of the day. We get up every morning laughing, happy to live in a real earthly paradise. We are lucky to live by the water, near a lake that is very popular with migratory birds. We are overflowing with gratitude and we thank life for all the privileges we enjoy. Living here in Quebec. Being healthy. To have excellent relationships with our family members, our friends. Every morning we are grateful. These days, we start our days thankful to be able to watch the geese at breakfast.
And the most beautiful news: I’m going to be a grandpa for the first time! My youngest son, Nicolas, and his partner Laurence told me the news in an unlikely context. My greatest sadness was not being able to hug them to tell them how happy I was. Sadness and joy at the same time. That’s also what this crisis is all about: full of paradoxes.