Few people can say that they learned their trade before they knew how to ride a bike. But for Geneviève Lorange, this was the case. She is the designer behind Bigarade, an eco-friendly boutique specializing in bedding. Here is a portrait of an entrepreneur who tailors her own future!
Geneviève Lorange’s grandmother inspired her; and at a very young age she developed a passion for textiles thanks to her grandmother’s talents. Geneviève would look for ways to reuse all the scraps of material she could get her hands on. And as an adult, she would always set up a little sewing corner in the apartments she lived in. But it was only a few years later that she decided to transform this passion into a successful business called Bigarade.
Bigarade sells quilt covers, linens, cushions and handmade accessories from recycled fabrics that are guaranteed for life. As opposed to the ephemeral nature of the fashion industry, the company’s mission is to create sustainable products that respect the environment, animals and individuals.
The Challenge of Starting a Company
After receiving a college degree in fashion design and another in social sciences, Geneviève Lorange turns to industrial design. It was then that she tapped into a notion that her grandmother had once taught her about: the life expectancy of goods.
With a Bachelor’s degree in hand, Geneviève Lorange starts working for the City of Montreal as a designer for street furniture. She likes her job and her colleagues, but something was missing. “I never had a longing to be an entrepreneur. I just couldn’t find my place in my jobs. All of my initiative and the projects I proposed did not correspond to what was expected of me. It made me fume and boil inside.”
In 2010, Geneviève Lorange takes an entrepreneurial class at Compagnie F, where she has to present an initial business idea. She instinctively turns to her scissors and sewing machine to make a custom pillow out of recycled materials. “I’ve never made anything uglier in my life!” laughs the entrepreneur, who right then and there got her first real taste of entrepreneurship.
A few days later, she receives a phone call for a design contract. Then another. Needless to say, the contracts keep rolling in and she goes from being a self-employed worker to having her own design company named Lorange. She finally feels like she’s in her element.
Five years later, the entrepreneur comes face to face with the difficult realities of this career path, and she is forced to fire her employees one month before Christmas. Geneviève Lorange does not let this get to her. “The difficult moments are the catalysts for my ambitions!” she explains. Soon after, the designer invests in the development of a mobile application that acts as a virtual interior designer. But her lack of expertise in app development forces her to become dependent on outside resources resulting in additional costs. The entrepreneur faces the reality that she needs to stop the project after a year’s worth of planning. “Letting go is extremely difficult. You want it to work so bad because all the time and money you invested in it is wasted if it doesn’t work!”
What mistakes did she make to get to this point? She tries to find answers by asking herself more questions. “What kind of project can I undertake with limited resources and money? What am I passionate about? Would project will reflect the profound values that inspire me?”
Meanwhile, Geneviève learns that her new neighbour has an impressive amount of fabric rolls that he’s willing to sell to her for a good price. She merges this opportunity with her passion and rediscovers her favourite hobby, which she eventually transforms into a business opportunity. She sets up a website.
The platform launches in August 2015 and almost simultaneously she sells her first cushion. A few months later she rents a huge commercial space on Saint-Catherine St. East. Bigarade takes shape, so turning back is no longer an option. The shop opens in April 2016.
For this entrepreneur it’s all about creating the right product at the right price for the right client. To do so, she asks her customers for their opinions on social media and she creates products based on the feedback she gets. As a result, she ensures the enthusiasm for certain types of products and adds a scarcity factor by producing collections in limited quantities only. She then develops a tailor-made design offer and explores ways to explode her service offerings by giving workshops and a coffee shop open to the public.
Bigarade has not yet been in existence for a year, but its founder certainly does not lack vision. "I'd like to create products that have no environmental impact, and then create a movement to inspire others to do the same. "
Bigarade in Numbers
- 2015: The year Bigarade is founded
- 3: The number of employees
- 6: The length in meters needed to make a duvet cover