Make The Best Of A COVID Situation

Small Business Canada

Every year’s end I take the time to write down my goals and objectives for the upcoming year. In retrospect, my 2020 plan was a pretty ambitious plan… start a new job, complete a law degree and get an internship in a top law firm, buy a property, and get married!

As I have learned in the last few years, things rarely unfold exactly as you expect it. But it seems to me that things always happen for a reason. The Covid19 pandemic is a case in point. I was laid off as an engineer/project manager in construction on March 15th, 2020. A week later I successfully completed my law degree after three and half years of part-time studies. At the time, my wife to be, a medical doctor, was working night and day to help slow the spread of Covid19. Meanwhile, I was educated and jobless. How could I help? I began analyzing how the virus was affecting various countries around the world.

The data (cases, hospitalizations, and deaths) revealed that Canada was approximately three weeks behind Asia in terms of the Covid propagation. Moreover, the Asian media also pointed towards a major social change that was going to appear in Canada in the upcoming weeks… wearing face masks.

On April 9th, 2020, one week after pitching the idea to my partners Jordan Owen, Mark Owen, and Benoit Thibault, we founded Bien Aller, a Montreal-based company dedicated to procuring stylish and reusable protective face masks and accessories to the general population. Our e-commerce business was an overnight success which sold over 250,000 masks in the first three months. Our sales team grew quickly to respond to the high demand. Today, Bien Aller is not only a thriving business but also a beacon of hope for the local community through donations in masks and funds totaling more than $70,000. Our team and our timing contributed tremendously to our success.

By the end of June 2020, the mask company was streamlined, and the founding members were already brainstorming on how to reinvest the capital generated by Bien Aller. We needed to find a way to focus our expertise (data science, multiunit condominium construction, and residential real estate) on a new project. At the beginning of July 2020, we incorporated SquareFeet.ai, a Montreal based tech company specialized in residential real estate pricing. Since its creation, SquareFeet.ai has analyzed millions of properties to create a platform capable of pricing residential rental and/or condo properties in real-time, based on market demand. With the help of MIT sandbox, PME Montreal, and other partners, SquareFeet.ai will send a shock wave in the real estate industry. Our initial clients are onboard for early 2021.

Obviously, Bien Aller and SquareFeet.ai were not part of my 2020 objectives. However, I still managed to stick to the original plan. I purchased and renovated property, had a quaint and cozy Covid friendly wedding, and received an offer from Denton’s law firm for an internship in 2022. Starting a business (or two) was the icing on the cake provided by Covid19. A bunch of people got to use their skills and contributed positively to the world while learning a thing or two about business. A good way to summarize 2020 for me is to quote Sir Richard Branson “…opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming”.

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