While some may clean pools or work at day camps for their first summer jobs, others discover the working world through time spent at their family’s factory. This was the case for Isabèle and François-Pierre Chevalier, who were in university and high school respectively, when their father Claude Chevalier created Bio-K Plus International.
Established in the City of Biotechnology in Laval, this company has specialized, for 20 years, in probiotic products intended to rebalance the intestinal flora.
Despite their young age, Isabèle and François-Pierre Chevalier did not hesitate to embark on this adventure; their mother, Monique Roy, also joined them.
After CEGEP, rather than jumping into a Bachelor’s degree, François-Pierre Chevalier took off for three years and went to California where he knocked on the door of every natural store to have them distribute Bio-K Plus products. Today, the collection of Bio-K Plus products is available around the world, all the way to China!
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“Our father’s entrepreneurial spirit has been with us from the start, recalls the now 37-year old. We always supported him in the realization of his dream.”
The Chevalier children’s commitment to Bio-K Plus International was driven by the admiration they had towards their father, who was a visionary at the time. He believed in the potential of probiotics long before the benefits of these friendly bacteria were known.
"At 50 he turned down the position of President of the Canadian Dairy Bureau to get started and improve people's health," adds Isabèle Chevalier. It was really wonderful and courageous of him!"
François-Pierre Chevalier and his older sister never felt any family pressure to get involved with Bio-K Plus International. It was the pleasure of building a family business, coupled with their interest in the business world, which inspired them from day one. “I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to witness a company and brand build from the ground up,” says Isabèle, who always had the same entrepreneurial spirit as her father.
Over the years, the team has worn different hats to develop their company. “Organizing production, developing a distribution channel, managing deliveries, setting up an IT infrastructure…everything needed to be redone! I have quite the variety of business cards!” jokes François-Pierre. In parallel, he and his sister take courses in microbiology and management, among others at HEC, to build on their knowledge.
Brother and sister take over the family business
In 2011, while they were vice-president of the company, Isabèle and François-Pierre Chevalier became co-presidents. “At the start, my father was the head of the company, and we were the arms, explains Isabèle Chevalier. Slowly but surely we took the head position.”
This process happened naturally over the course of many years. Although consultants who specialize in the transfer of family businesses supported the siblings, the transfer took place organically. "Rather than defining a set game plan, we have advanced according to the needs of each person," says the co-president. Understanding how we work is fundamental to the success of a succession."
The transition was facilitated by the fact that the brother and sister have always gotten along well, even when they were young. "Nothing can get between us," says Pierre-François, who considers Bio-K Plus International to be like a child to him.
Moreover, they know the company like the back of their hand and have always shared their father’s strategic vision. "Generational differences are more apparent in the way we approach certain things, presenting the brand, or even making the digital shift," explains François-Pierre Chevalier. We had trusted our father; it was now his turn to trust us."
Carrying the family torch came with the necessary task of evolving the company. Probiotics had gained popularity, competition had intensified and Bio-K Plus International had to switch into higher gear. Isabèle Chevalier and her brother worked together to further structure the governance and management of the company.
Twenty years after their first steps as entrepreneurs, the pair feels the same enthusiasm they had in their early days. "Every morning, I rise with the same desire to change the situation for sick people needing probiotics and to do so surrounded by the people I love," says Isabèle Chevalier. Now, in addition to furthering their father’s dream, the duo is also motivated by the desire to leave the family business to the next generation.
Without wanting to force them to follow the same path, they sometimes go with their children to exhibitions where Bio-K Plus International participates. "Above all, we want to pass on our values and our passion!" she says.
The company in numbers:
- 120: The number of employees
- 40: The size of the probiotic market measured in billions of dollars.
- 50: The number (in billions) of bacteria in a capsule of Bio-K
Want to learn more?
Visit the Bio-K Plus website