Telework has no secrets for Nicolas Duvernois

If the pandemic has not been easy, the entrepreneur has been able to take advantage of the opportunities that have arisen. (Photo: courtesy)

GUEST BLOG. After struggling to pay the rent, working as a janitor at a Montreal hospital for 12 years, then launching one of the best vodkas in the world, Nicolas Duvernois’ entrepreneurial journey is one of the most inspiring Canadian stories. of business success.

His spirits empire, which today includes Pur Vodka, gin romeo and Choco Crème brands, began in 2010, when his vodka won awards even before the first bottle was sold. With more than 80 prestigious medals, it is one of the most awarded premium vodkas and has been named the best vodka in the world six times.

The founder set foot on the entrepreneurial adventure after earning his degree in political science from the University of Montreal. In 2006, he opened a restaurant that closed almost a month later. Although his first entrepreneurial experience ended in failure, the fact is that it was then that he fell in love with entrepreneurship and discovered the popularity of vodka.

“I knew nothing about vodka, except that the better the water, the better the vodka,” admits the founding CEO of Duvernois Esprits Créatifs.

Considering that fresh water covers a tenth of the province’s territory, he was surprised to learn that no Quebec company was ever producing this most popular drink in the world. “That’s exactly when I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be the first,'” he recalls.

After four years working every day at Ste-Justine Hospital, then spending long nights learning about the alcohol industry, Nicolas Duvernois came up with the idea of ​​redefining the way Americans consume alcohol.

seize the opportunities

“I managed to occupy a place in the industry because I quickly realized that all vodkas were used in cocktails”, he emphasizes. It’s a great spirit that shouldn’t be made just for mixing. That’s how I came up with the name, and that was my approach for the first two years.”

The Montrealer’s thirst for creativity and its desire to diversify its products led to the launch of gin romeo in 2015. To “democratize art”, each edition of its bottles is embellished with creations by urban artists. It is now the top-selling gin brand in the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ), with sales exceeding $21 million last year.

Earlier this year, romeo’s gin launched a line of ready-to-drink alcohol-free cocktails to meet growing consumer demand for low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks, as well as entering the supermarket market. This expansion follows Nicolas Duvernois’ recent investment in microbrewery BockAle, which specializes in non-alcoholic beer.

“Providing an accessible and inclusive experience, anytime, in any choice, is a source of great pride to me,” he said in a press release. Not only will we be able to offer our delicious products to a new clientele, but now we will also be able to offer our loyal customers an alcohol-free version of their favorite ready-to-drink cocktails! »

The various Duvernois Esprits Créatifs products, which are already sold in Quebec, Japan, France, Belgium and Great Britain, could hit the US market in 2022.

“Our products are causes before they are products”, he says. Pure Vodka is about water quality [locale], but also the quality of the product. Romeo’s Gin is urban art and it’s international.”

The pandemic test

While the company managed to avoid serious consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entrepreneur says he found it difficult to maintain a healthy routine while working remotely.

“We lost in some products, but gained in others”, he said. “On the mental side, it was almost as if nothing had changed. On the leadership side, it was quite difficult because working from home is not for me. »

The company launched MAINFORTE, a line of certified cleaning and disinfection products, and sold more than $5 million worth of hand sanitizers, he says.

“You’re always under pressure when you’re a businessman, but there was a call at the hospital and they needed to [de produits] for yesterday, adds Nicolas Duvernois. It was a lot of work under pressure, but I’m super proud of what we did.

After conducting some serious research, he collected the tips and tricks he learned from the experts to publish. Success in teleworking!a practical guide for anyone who wants to successfully adapt to working from home.

Your main challenge? Learn to manage yourself.

“Leaders put a lot of emphasis and pressure on themselves to be kind to their team, but they often forget to be kind to themselves as well,” he recalls. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have a human approach. It’s not that we don’t expect everyone to work hard, but it’s about giving the tools, direction and example of how we want to grow our business.”

Karl Moore and Stephanie Ricci. Karl is an Associate Professor at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. Stephanie is a journalism student at Concordia University.

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