It’s the dream of many young professionals, grinding away at their 9-to-5s.
After all, what could be better than following your passion and getting to be your own boss at the same time?
But for just as many people, the idea of starting their own business comes with a healthy dose of doubt. Can I afford it? Will I be successful? Will I fail?
This is why National Bank helped us catch up with well-known Quebec entrepreneur Olivier Primeau. As the young owner of the insanely popular Beachclub, the largest outdoor club in North America, if there’s anybody who could give us some advice on this subject, it’s him.
1. What inspired you to start your business?
First of all, I was tired of my job and bored of doing the same thing over and over again. When I decided to jump into entrepreneurship, I wasn’t sure of my choice, but I was very excited to find out. I knew I was lucky because I had the luxury to do it through trial and error. Above all, what inspired me the most is the love that I have for electronic music and to please people. The combination of all these factors has allowed me to create Beachclub.
2. When did you notice there was as demand for a place like Beachclub in Canada?
The first time I visited the old Beachclub as a customer, I realized that there really was a huge potential. I immediately saw that it was a unique location in Quebec and that we could take advantage of the growing popularity of DJs and electronic music worldwide.
3. Beachclub caught on like wildfire – tell us a secret of your marketing strategy. Also, how did social media factor into it?
Two of the secrets to our social media strategy is our storytelling and how we use a spokesperson to represent the brand. We put social media at the forefront of our business and it has really paid off. Social media is a big part of our company’s culture.
One of the elements of our marketing strategy that worked really well was using me as the main ambassador for the brand. The idea was that I, the owner of the venue, would be the voice that would communicate Beachclub’s narrative via various social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Social media is about telling a story and it’s so much easier to tell a human’s story than to tell a brands story. By making me the face of Beachclub, my story becomes Beachclub’s story.
In my opinion, every great brand has someone that consumers can relate to. Apple has Steve Jobs, Tesla has Elon Musk, Cirque du Soleil has Guy Laliberté and the list goes on.
4. How do you manage the company financially? Do you have any go-to hacks or tips?
Even if the club has been open for 20 years, we took it over, rebuilt, reprogrammed and restructured it as if it was its first year of operations. Injecting massive amounts of money into aesthetics, furniture, talent, image and everything that catches the client’s eye made the switch successful from past to present. Obviously, it hurts your cash-flow, but it also gives us hope to be able to fund it for another 20 or more years. There was no doubt on our minds that a full transformation was the only way to attack the market. It worked beautifully as we more than doubled our sales on year one, and got another 50 per cent increase this year. All we need to do from now on is to continue being innovative, make sure our lineup of artists is always relevant and fresh as well as tighten our expenses to keep this a profitable business for decades to come.
Our two main enemies financially are the weather and the US exchange rate. Both we can’t control, only hope that it turns into our favour week after week. It will obviously be a game changer if the Canadian dollar gets closer and closer to our neighbour’s dollar, and this is when we’ll make sure we freeze enough funds in USD for future bookings. Sometimes, we book a 200k artist in November that costs us 240k in Canadian funds. The price then goes up to 270k on the day he hits the decks in July or August of the following year, you never know how the price will vary for or against you. It’s literally like gambling, extremely nerve-wracking, unfortunately. But we love it!
5. Your family was a big factor, financially, in getting Beachclub off the ground. Because of this, did you feel like there was more pressure on you to succeed?
A lot. When it comes to family, it is always a little harder to deal money because of the proximity we have, we don’t feel bad to tell each other to think, feel or act in certain ways. Two years ago when everything started, we were all really excited but we soon realized that having its own business implies pressure and stress. On the other hand, when my father decided to help me and my brother in this business, he understood from the beginning that we have been brought up in a different generation and that we also have different expectations. Even though I always considered myself very lucky, I knew I could succeed in my own right.
6. What was the most challenging thing about starting your journey?
The most challenging part for us has been to change the brand perception. To me, the marketing aspect is one of the most important factors of a business and in our case, it really gave us a competitive edge. Today, it still is a challenge for us to deal with the perception even though we have come a long way.
7. What’s one thing you wish you knew right from the start?
Event management is a really tough business and nine out of ten events don’t work the way we would like them to work. I have to be aware that I am starting my own business and that it’s normal to take time to learn and face failure. I want to stay on top of my game all the time, but I realized very quickly that it was normal and important to fail so we get up stronger.
8. What kind of benefits came from having your own reality TV show? Were there any downsides?
There are a lot of benefits that come from having your own reality TV show, but if you don’t cope well with having a spotlight on everything you do or say, you should stay far away from these kinds of shows. For my part, even though I already had a large fanbase following me, the TV show helped me reach out to people who otherwise would have never heard of Beachclub. Because the story of the show is being entirely developed on site, people can really feel the vibe and the magic that operates when the DJs are playing. On the other side, we are totally transparent and we do not try to hide that sometimes, accidents and critical situations can take place during the big days.
9. You’re also pretty well-known as an influencer in your own right. How has your high profile impacted Beachclub?
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything that drives a business more effectively than good word-of-mouth. To be able to get that, you need to stay close to your community and that’s what I’m doing through social media. I’m pretty sure that being an influencer and staying close to my community helped me generate more sales, but more importantly, it helped us leverage a much better retention among our clients. It is not common in Quebec that the owner is the image of the company. In my case, it helped me stay close to the clients, that’s for sure.
10. What’s the next step for your business and how will you achieve it?
For the next few months, it is what we call the “calm period” for us since Beachclub is closed for the winter. I want to use this precious time to grow the brand and adapt it to meet our customers’ expectations so that they get more of what the love from us.
11. When times are tough, every entrepreneur has their own ways of weathering the storm – what are yours?
This is what I like to call the power of failure. I’ve been in the business world for ten years now and I’ve experienced big successes and big failures. As cheesy as it sounds, the only secret is to learn from it and get up stronger. I also learned very quickly that you don’t have to have a full-blown company with a big office, secretary and a luxury car to be considered a successful entrepreneur. Sometimes, it’s best to do only what’s necessary to cover all the operating costs so you can manage to invest more money on things that count for your business.
12. If you weren’t managing Beachclub, what would you be doing?
For a while, I’ve been thinking about starting my own production company. It’s just a dream for the moment and I know I’ll need to do lots of research first. In the last year, I had the chance to collaborate with a production team for my TV show Beachclub (Musique Plus) and my web series Beach Day Every Day (Noovo.ca) and I discovered a growing interest for production.
13. What’s one personality trait you have that you think sets you apart from other entrepreneurs?
My ability to communicate. Interacting with people gives me the motivation to go further. One of the many reasons my business is going so well is that I’m very connected to my community and I listen to their needs. They give me the energy to always innovate and come up with original ideas.
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