A former Detroit Red Wings draft pick, Benoit Larose’s life underwent dramatic change when an injury halted his rise to the NHL. He went from wearing CCM hockey gear, to selling it as a leader of the Reebok-CCM Sports Marketing division. But the qualities that made him special on the ice transferred seamlessly to the world of business, and after 15 years with Reebok-CCM, he developed into a savvy businessman.
So when a new acquaintance from a similarly hockey-rich background, Andrew Hattem, approached him with an offer to jointly purchase a company, Montreal’s bugatti-sedona Inc. (bugatti), Benoit was ready to make the jump, and this time an injury wouldn’t get in his way.
Great products, new owners, new vision
Bugatti had been run since 1940 by the Lis family. They built the company’s reputation as a quality designer and distributor of bags, business accessories and luggage. But after 75 years in the business, no successors in the Lis family showed interest in taking bugatti any further, so they were looking to sell.
In 2013, Larose, Hattem, and a third entrepreneur took ownership, and immediately went to work putting their stamp on the brand.
“With so many years in the industry, the bugatti brand had become synonymous with quality, durability and material richness,” says Larose, now Executive Vice-President of bugatti. “So when the opportunity presented itself to take ownership, we jumped at it, knowing that we had a great brand to begin with, but also that we possessed the energy and drive to propel it to new heights.”
Chemistry came quickly to the new executive team, as all three members shared a strong sense of competitiveness and ambition, making them the perfect forward line. They wanted to grow, and to do that, they knew they had to go global.
“Canada is a great country for so many reasons. It’s big, it’s beautiful and the people are amazing. But when it comes to the business landscape, the horizon is limited. To grow as a company we needed more market space and we needed to reach more consumers. To do that we needed to expand outside our borders,” says Benoit.
Bugatti’s Acquisitions act as anchors in new markets
They decided on acquisitions as the way to go, but as a small company, they needed additional working capital to make this kind of expansion possible. Bugatti’s bank, Desjardins, was willing to provide the capital, but required a guarantor to share the risks of lending to a small business.
This is where Export Development Canada (EDC) was able to help, by providing Desjardins with an export guarantee, a risk-sharing product that gives banks the confidence they need to provide exporters with more access to working capital.
In May 2014, with the first guarantee in place, bugatti acquired Stebco and Bond Street Ltd., a business bag and luggage company based out of Montreal with sales predominantly to the US. Less than three months later, with a second guarantee in place, bugatti expanded into Europe by acquiring the Global License for bugatti The European Brand, which is held by German-based bugatti Holding Brinkmann GmbH & Co. KG.
“To see bugatti go from minimal exports to this kind of international expansion in such a short period is pretty special,” said Pier-Luc Beauchamp, EDC Account Manager for bugatti. “It goes to show that becoming an exporter is not as complex and drawn-out a process as many small businesses make it out to be. It is a very tangible and attainable next step that businesses can take, and the benefits of doing so can be significant.”
Thanks in large part to these acquisitions, bugatti’s new executive group has been able to increase sales by more than 20 per cent in less than two years, and they don’t plan on stopping there. With the current upturn in the American economy, they plan on making a sales push in the US. Beyond that, they are looking to strengthen their positions in the European market, as well as in the Middle-East and South America.