Boulangerie St-Donat: Preserving the recipe for family success

Marie-Ève St-Amour’s Story

Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Marie-Ève St-Amour was 11 when her father bought the Boulangerie St-Donat. Her teenage and student years were punctuated by stints helping out in the family SME. But once she earned her degree, taking over the family business seemed the natural next step for St-Amour, who today is CEO of the company.

Before acquiring Boulangerie St-Donat in 1989, Marie-Ève St-Amour’s father, Guillaume, was co-owner of a golf club in Saint-Donat, Lanaudière. Even then, he hoped his only daughter would one day take over the business. 

Unintended market testing

As an extra, Guillaume St-Amour sold slices of pie to his golfers, but they were so impressed they began asking whether they could purchase entire pies. So he started selling his pies in dépanneurs, then decided to buy the Boulangerie St-Donat, which had been in business since 1924.

On weekends, Marie-Ève helped her parents serve the bakery’s customers. At the end of the 1990s, once she had completed her studies in communications, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. “I realized that I wanted to live in Saint-Donat and that I really liked the team, as well as working in the food sector and our products,” she explains. “Our company makes traditional desserts based on family recipes and using simple ingredients.”

See also: Michel Jodoin: Family Tradition with Local Flavour

From village bakery to supermarket shelves

Marie-Ève started off in production planning before becoming CEO. Once the bakery was taken over by the St-Amour family, the Boulangerie St-Donat grew quite a lot, and in particular its distribution territory was considerably extended. The bakery’s sugar pies, brown sugar rolls and apple pastries started to be sold in large supermarkets across Quebec.

To cope with the gradual increase in production, the Boulangerie St-Donat left its premises in the heart of the village and relocated to a new building constructed on land owned by Marie-Ève’s grandmother.

To improve her management skills, Marie-Ève enroled in a program at HEC Montréal and in the École d'Entrepreneurship de Beauce’s first session in 2010.

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Marie-Ève St-Amour

A smooth transition

Over the years, the father-daughter collaboration grew harmoniously, the pair keeping in mind that Marie-Ève would one day be taking over completely.

To this end, Boulangerie St-Donat, which had closed its bakery business in 2013 to focus on pastry production, decided to set up an advisory committee composed of members of the business community. Its members were selected for having skills that complemented those of Marie-Ève and her father. “We were very involved in day-to-day operations, so taking advantage of an outside point of view would help us step back and position ourselves strategically,” explains Marie-Ève.

The advisory committee recommended a business coach in order to prepare for the transfer from Guillaume to Marie-Ève. So the latter worked with the coach for two years, learning how to create a yearly plan and follow it from month to month, as well as how to distance herself should she encounter problematic situations.

Last summer, the father and daughter team felt the time had arrived to hand over the reins. “One day he said, ‘I feel ready, and I think you are too, so let’s make it official for your 40th birthday,’” she recounts. “The transfer was done with a lot of love, respect and consideration.” 

No big revolution

From then on, Guillaume St-Amour took on the role of mentor to his daughter. Just as passionate about the business as he ever was, he ensures they remain up to date on new trends in the food business.

As for the new CEO, she is following her father’s example and has kept on the same loyal team. For the past few years, Boulangerie St-Donat has had a presence in Ontario. “We would like to strengthen our distribution network in that province and enter new markets in the western provinces of Canada.”

Enjoying 10 to 15 percent growth each year, the company is now working on developing gourmet desserts made with less sugar, which will allow increasingly health-conscious customers to enjoy indulging in sweets with less guilt. 

Boulangerie St-Donat in Numbers 

12,500: Number of pastries produced every day by Boulangerie St-Donat

1,000: Number of distribution points in Quebec and Ontario

30: Number of different products sold by the company

65: Number of employees working for Boulangerie St-Donat

Want to learn more?

Visit Boulangerie St-Donat’s website