At first glance, writing reports for TV news doesn’t seem to prepare anyone for a career in entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, 10 years ago, Nancie Ferron and her husband Daniel Joannette made the switch from the newsroom to tending fields of lavender. It was a successful change of career that in part grew out of the skills the pair had acquired in their old lives as journalists.
Admiring a field of lavender in flower while on vacation in France in 2006, Daniel Joannette first thought of planting his own plot of lavender on farmland he owned in Saint-Eustache. Upon enquiry, it turned out the purple flowering plant would adapt well to climates that are not as mild as that of Provence.
After doing a few tests, his wife Nancie Ferron decided to embark on the adventure. “As a student, I worked as a perfumer in a perfumery that made custom fragrances,” recalls the 50-something. “I had always said to myself that I would return to the perfume business one day.” So she collaborated with some chemists to create 30 cosmetic and home products for the business.
Reaching the public
From the beginning, the lavender farm and the creation of lavender-based cosmetics was paired with an agritourism aspect. The couple opened their doors to the public on May 21, 2009, turning the 30,000-odd plants in their lavender fields into an attraction in its own right.
Similarities with journalism
Journalists tell stories, and in their new venture, that remained an element of Ferron and Joannette’s work. Immediately after Maison Lavande’s opening, they were approached by a myriad stores who wanted to distribute their products. It reached a point where their room sprays and soaps were available at around a hundred different points of sale. “We decided to reduce the number of points of sale in order to have more personal contact with people,” Ferron explains. “I wanted to be able to tell buyers the story behind every product and share our philosophy and passion with them without too many middlemen.”
The couple’s experience as journalists was a big help in creating Maison Lavande. “Since we were used to delivering a story every day in subject areas we often knew little about, we weren’t afraid to call upon people with more expertise so we could learn from them,” says Ferron. “People love sharing their experiences and being mentors.”
Their fearlessness also led them to approach Patrice Champigny, a well-known designer. The specialist in commercial kiosk design created an open mini-boutique for them that could be placed in the walkways of shopping malls. Usually perfumeries are placed in closed boutiques. By choosing the open spaces of shopping centres, Maison Lavande was able to easily change the location of their boutiques depending on their customers’ expectations.
With time, the number of plants in cultivation reached 100,000. The product range grew to include gourmet treats and the agritourism site has seen the addition of a relaxation area where visitors can receive a massage while suspended almost 20 feet in the air amongst the treetops. Every year, during the six weeks the lavender is in bloom, 50,000 people throng the Maison Lavande estate.
The couple’s two daughters have decided to put their talents in marketing and communication to use at the company, once their studies are complete. Ferron and Joannette are very proud to see Maison Lavande become a family business
Online sales are going strong, and Maison Lavande is focusing on developing new products rather than adding additional boutiques. For the first time since its launch, the company has added a new collection of products scented with a combination of lavender and peony. “Our customer base has diversified, we attract more women between the ages of 18 and 35 who tend to make smaller purchases more frequently,” says Ferron. “They’re always looking for the latest thing
Maison Lavande also aims to export its lavender products to the U.S. and strengthen its presence in the rest of Canada through its online store. But above all, Ferron and her husband intend to keep growing their business while continuing to trust in their intuition. “When you start a new profession at the age of 40, it has to be something you enjoy,” she states.
Maison Lavande in Numbers
50: Number of employees throughout the year (65 in summer)
18%: Portion of its revenue from online sales in 2017
110: Number of different cosmetic products
5: Number of boutiques, of which 4 are kiosks
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