Business transfer: the story of Bastien Industries
In April, to mark the launch of the First Nations Business Transfer Service (FNBTS), we decided to present a few articles on the theme of the transfer or purchase of businesses. In this article, we present the story of the acquisition of Bastien Industries by Jason Picard-Binet, based on an interview given at the Centre de transfert d’entreprise du Québec (CTEQ).
A look at Bastien Industries
Since 1972, Bastien Industries has been manufacturing and distributing moccasins and other Indigenous arts and crafts. The company, which is in the community of Wendake near Quebec City, is recognized for the excellence of its products that are worthy of their Huron-Wendat heritage. It was Mr. Roland Bastien who first founded the company, drawing inspiration from his grandfather Maurice Sébastien, former Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation. Later, his daughter Ginette Bastien took over the family business.
It is now Jason Picard-Binet’s turn to take over one of the jewels of this Indigenous community. We spoke with him to learn a little more about his career as a business buyer.
Why did you decide to acquire this particular enterprise?
“I’ve been familiar with Bastien Industries since I was young. I was born in Wendake, so I’ve always known about their products. Thanks to my past jobs, I have had the opportunity to work in many places around the world and I have always been amazed to see these moccasins everywhere. This was a source of pride for me as a member of the Wendat Nation.”
Demonstrating authentic Indigenous know-how and promoting it is very important to the new owner of Bastien Industries. “More than ever, First Nations are prey to cultural appropriation. The best way to counter it is to be better than those who appropriate our culture. This is what motivates me every day to get up and develop this company.”
What surprised you most about your business acquisition journey?
“The process of acquiring the company took a year. A year is a long time for someone who has a business project in mind. This is one of the disadvantages of financing a business on a reserve.” The administrative burden and slowness during the financing phase are certainly the biggest challenge the buyer has had to face. Fortunately, there are organizations that can help such as the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Economic Development Commission (FNQLEDC) with its business transfer service, in addition to Indigenous financial institutions.
How is the knowledge transfer process taking place?
“It is going very well. One of my business acquisition criteria consisted of the former owner staying with me for a year to foster the transfer of expertise. I knew the product well, but I knew nothing about making moccasins, so I had a lot to learn.”
Given the family history and the former owner’s attachment to the business, she was happy to share her knowledge.
“Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the floor with the employees cutting leather and learning the whole process. I am truly in a period of learning about my product. To develop new models and develop the enterprise, I believe it is very important to have a good understanding of the product.”
How is the management transfer process taking place?
“Slowly. I have 14 employees, 9 of whom have been there for more than 10 years. They are therefore very close to the previous owner.”
For this reason, but also to have the time to master the company’s processes, Jason wanted to take his time to ensure a smooth transition. The fact that the previous owner remains present one year after the sale is also helping with this gradual transition.
What are your plans for the future of Bastien Industries?
Jason is currently thinking about revamping the company’s brand image and wants to improve the technology. His previous experiences in marketing are very useful to him in this process. Ultimately, this business buyer aims to make moccasins that are more accessible to the general public and not just reserved for arts and crafts shops. They are very comfortable, versatile, and quality footwear that can be worn on a regular basis.
Several challenges also await Jason. The labour shortage is one that worries him. Like with most businesses, acquiring and retaining skilled labour in the coming years will not be easy. “This is particularly true in a field like craftsmanship. I have an extremely skilled workforce. I am very happy to work with such a productive team, who know their trade and are happy to teach it to me.”
With the few upcoming retirements, the business buyer is anticipating difficulties but has already planned recruitment strategies.
Do you have any advice for future Indigenous business buyers?
Many people who want to become entrepreneurs are afraid to take the first step since they are reluctant to step out of their comfort zones. “The first piece of advice I would give is simply to go for it.”
Next, Jason strongly suggests seeking help from organizations and other experts instead of trying to do it all alone. “You can’t be excellent at everything,” he adds.
To learn more about business transfer, we invite you to contact our Business Transfer Advisor, Antoine Grenier, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 418-843-1488, extension 1236.