01 December 2021
This week, DESTL met with Mr. Éric Wazana, co-founder of Beauce Jeans, winner of the MercadOr 2021 regional prize in the Market Diversification category, +$5M.
Founded in 2010 by brothers Éric and Jacob Wazana, Beauce Jeans is a Montréal-based denim manufacturing company. The company has two subsidiaries, one in the metropolitan area and another in Saint-Côme-Linière in the Beauce region, which has the know-how, the state-of-the-art equipment and the experienced workforce of 400 employees. Rather than outsource the company’s production, the Wazana brothers were intent on keeping it in Québec, mainly because they firmly believe that innovation stems from local production. Doing so also allows them to maintain control over the company's innovation and its development. Éric Wazana, who is also the President of Vêtement Québec, and Jacob Wazana work together with other companies to create collective wealth for the textile industry in Québec.
Beauce Jeans conducts its marketing and sales under the Second Clothing banner (Vêtement Wazana). Beauce Jeans primarily produces jeans, some of which are dedicated to private retailers (white labels), in addition to its core brands: Yoga Jeans and Boulder Denim. The company has a production capacity of nearly one million pairs of jeans per year. All of its products are ethical and eco-organic.
The company has been developing its brands worldwide for the past 15 years, exporting to Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and the Western United States.
Thanks to its internal team dedicated to sales and market development, Beauce Jeans regularly conducts market studies in an effort to remain successful and offer quality products. Their goal in doing so is to create strong values around its brand by identifying shortcomings (underserved customers or gaps) in certain sectors of its industry. “We are always in development and in a continuous improvement process in order to identify the best practices to help improve the quality and durability of our products,” says Mr. Eric Wazana.
Beauce Jeans generally participates in trade shows, including the Las Vegas show, to promote its production capabilities to private retailers. These events are also opportunities to network with peers and build good business relationships.
The company has recruited internal resources dedicated to market development and export, now has a Vice-President and two people dedicated to sales development in the United States and is also expanding its marketing team.
The company has also opted to go green by using eco-friendly packaging, which is a huge competitive differentiator in many markets.
Beauce Jeans currently sells in over 40 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia. Nearly 80% of its exports are marketed under the Yoga Jeans brand and are sold in major retail chains such as Simons across Canada and De Bijenkorf abroad.
The United States, Netherlands and Belgium remain the most important markets for Beauce Jeans, which also exports its products to Asia, Europe, and Australia, not to mention Canadian provinces and the northeastern United States.
Its goal is to establish itself in the North American market. To achieve this, the company revamped its customer relationship strategy in 2017, which resulted in the launching of two transactional Web sites in 2019 — boulderdenim.com, an outdoor division, and yogajeans.com, which is focused on products that are organic and eco-friendly. Nearly 15% of Beauce Jeans' sales stem from these transactional Web sites and the company plans to increase this number to 30% by 2022. Mr. Éric Wazana also stresses the importance of addressing each market segment the right way. This is precisely why he focuses on adapting his communication and promotion to the aera of his target consumers (geomarketing). The company also works with a digital marketing firm to optimize the user experience of its Web sites.
As Mr. Éric Wazana mentioned, “... when it comes to entrepreneurship, things move very quickly. And, due to lack of time, we always seem to be rushing to get things done. Although it can be quite difficult at times, it is important to take the time to be strategic and think things through before we take the necessary actions.”
Innovation is an important part of the company's development. First and foremost, you need a good product: “If you have a good product, people will come to you. It’s essential to find a responsible way to create products here at home, to have a very high ethical standard. We've worked hard on our positioning, and that's what has kept us in business and profitable for the last 20 years. We are proud to say that we created our first organic cotton jeans in 2003. We were at the forefront of our industry. From the very beginning, we have always focused on local and responsible manufacturing (reducing greenhouse gas emissions). The company has always been involved in innovative ecological projects related to exportation. For instance, the company took part in a pilot project in France that encouraged the transportation of goods using sailboats instead of cargo ships or other traditional means of maritime transport. Creating value and reducing our environmental footprint is part of our DNA. Recycling our products and upcycling (giving added value to a recycled product) is a natural part of what we do,” shares Mr. Wazana.
The businessmen used the services of Investissement Québec to launch their Research and Development Centre, benefiting from the Immigrant Investor Loan Program in 2016 and EDC for their export credit line.
At the dawn of the pandemic in March 2020, Beauce Jeans saw several of its retailers close and, in turn, their sales capacity reduced. To remain competitive, the company was able to fall back on its transactional sites to continue its activities. The company has heavily invested in awareness campaigns. “In fact, our marketing team has done a remarkable job in positioning Beauce Jeans' products in the market. We quickly changed our business model to produce personal protective equipment and thus preserved our working capital.” The company has indeed grown tremendously.
With a view to helping the healthcare industry, the Wazana brothers began producing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Faced with a shortage of fabric across the country, the entrepreneurs approached an Ontario company called Autoliv, which specializes in manufacturing automotive air bags. Together, the companies produced medical scrubs certified by the Public Health Agency of Canada in less than a month. Beauce Jeans reorganized its production line and landed numerous contracts with hospitals and government agencies. “In order to meet demand, we capitalized on our manufacturing strength, focused on developing workers’ skills and opened new manufacturing facilities in Montreal,” explained Mr. Wazana Thanks to the know-how and ingenuity of the Wazana brothers, Beauce Jeans was able to supply level 2 and 3 medical gowns in industrial quantities, right from the first wave of the pandemic. The company also welcomed 300 new employees and expanded its manufacturing capacity by partnering with other manufacturers. The company has patented both its work process and its new product. The entrepreneurs intend to position themselves in this new medical market for the long term.
In 2020, the company invested $4M in the transformation of its plants, in research and development and in certifications for the collaborative medical gown project.
“Winning the MercadOr ExMO Regional Award for Market Diversification +$5M is an incredible opportunity,” confided Mr. Éric Wazana. “It shows all of our teams, who have been working so hard for the past 10 years, that adapting and creating new products contributes to positioning us as a leader in our field, and that working hand in hand and aligning ourselves towards a common goal is always a winning strategy. 2020 showed us that, even without knowledge of a specific field, we are able to position ourselves and create value through innovation. We have also created new good-paying jobs. This recognition also demonstrates that, in Quebec, we are able to create value and we are leaders when it comes to local production, with products of excellent quality at a fair price.
Mr. Éric Wazana reiterated that innovative manufacturing has its place here in Canada. According to the businessman, without manufacturing, the extent of our innovation is limited. In less than 10 years, things will have progressed exponentially and Québec will have ability to carve out a place for itself on the international stage, not least because of its use of green energy. Québec has a lot of knowledge and is hungry for innovation. Of course, we do need to take more initiative, but with the support of contracters, the possibilities for export development are tremendous.
Among the company's many projects, Beauce Jeans plans to open a new factory in the industrial district of Saint-Laurent very soon and gradually increase its presence in the North American market. The Wazana brothers are also planning major investments to position themselves in the healthcare sector for the long term.
The Export Montréal Ouest team invites you to learn more about the other MercadOr-ExMO 2021 award winners by subscribing to the newsletter.
Saint-Laurent, a sustainable municipal territory!
Shariiing: a new partner at the heart of IEC MTL's technological showcase
Isabelle de la Barrière, head of the Centre d’expertise industrielle de Montréal
Please complete this form