After her own personal battles with an eating disorder, Marilou Bourdon created the food blog Trois fois par jour (“Three Times a Day”) in order to transform people’s relationship with food. This is a story about how big business ideas can come out of everyday problems.
Marilou Bourdon was already well known in Quebec as a singer since she was a child, discovered at the age of 11 by the TV show Stars à domicile (“Stars at Home”). In 2005, she put out her first album, La Fille qui chante (“The Girl Who Sings”), the first single of which (a duet with Garou) sold more than 130,000 copies. But the world of entertainment required her to eat in a way that ended up making her sick. “It was when I was starting to overcome my eating disorder that I felt like I wanted to do something positive for myself,” she explains. “I wanted to regain my love of eating and to share it with others in an uninhibited way, to encourage people to develop a relationship with food that was free of guilt, because that was the kind of relationship that I would’ve liked to have had during my eating disorder period.”
So in 2013 she launched Trois fois par jour, a food blog she created with her boyfriend at the time, Alexandre Champagne. Her objective was to transform people’s relationship with food through recipes that celebrated the pleasure of eating well. While as a singer Marilou had few opportunities to manage her own career, entrepreneurship gave her ambitions wings. She found inspiration in her family, particularly in her mother, who had returned to school later in life in order to start a new career.
Marilou and Alex both believed there was untapped potential in digital platforms, especially social networks. Only one year after the launch of the blog, Trois fois par jour had over 245,000 followers on Facebook without having invested a single cent in advertising. Today, the page has over 473,000 followers and several offshoots: In addition to creating content for the site, Marilou, who now is the sole owner of the business, has written two books of recipes and launched her own magazine, which is published six times a year. She also manages an online boutique featuring products made entirely in Quebec. Although she collaborates with big companies like grocery chain IGA, she devotes only a small portion of the budget to promotion—Trois fois par jour still relies mainly on word of mouth.
“I’ve always been a bit naive in my business decisions, but I think it’s served me well,” she states. Taking risks is inevitable in business. She particularly recalls how fearful she was the day she signed a cheque to pay for 50,000 copies of her magazine to be printed.
“For me, the idea of success isn’t a question of numbers. It’s about believing deeply in your mission, staying true to your principles and never compromising on your values.”
While expecting her first child, she decided to found Petite Lou & Co., an online boutique of Quebec-made products for mothers and kids. All of the boutique’s offerings are made in-house, the goal being to offer accessible products that support the local economy and its artisans. “I think it’s important to remember that people need simple things and our ideas need to respond to those needs in a concrete way. I try to stay humble because that’s how you grow as a person and as a professional.”
But in the end, the impact of Trois fois par jour can’t be seen in the numbers. “I get a lot of messages from people who appreciate our work, including from places like the Douglas Institute in Montreal. They thanked me for speaking openly about my experiences in the past, and for giving a voice to someone who emerged from her difficulties and regained the pleasure of eating. I think that’s what’s most important: Trois fois par jour really succeeds in making a difference amongst people who have gone through the same experiences,” concludes the entrepreneur. As for what’s next, the future remains an open question. For the moment, Marilou intends to consolidate the efforts of her two companies in order to continue to grow, while leaving room for the future to bring a few surprises.
Trois fois par jour in Numbers:
15: Number of full-time employees, plus numerous collaborators
22: Marilou’s age when she launched Trois fois par jour
90%: Percentage of sales made online
635: Number of recipes published over five years
Photo credit: Sarah Babineau