The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Desjardins supports entrepreneurship in Quebec

CCMM - Blog: Desjardins supports entrepreneurship in Quebec

The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal is giving its five pillar sponsors a platform to speak on a variety of issues that contribute to the city’s economic momentum.

This interview was conducted with Guy Nadeau, General Manager at Desjardins Business – Eastern Montréal

CCMM – Where does entrepreneurship stand in Quebec and the metropolitan area?

Guy Nadeau (G.N.): A few years ago, with the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and another financial institution, as well as people in the political and business milieu, we came to the following conclusion: Canada was experiencing a significant lack of entrepreneurship, which was even more pronounced in Quebec. Being less affected by this trend, English-speaking Canada had more business leaders and owners than Quebec did, with a stronger entrepreneurial culture, especially among young people.

For the first time, three financial institutions decided to join forces to address this issue and encourage young people to invest. In 2015, Desjardins took part in the creation of a $6-million fund to support business creation.

A multitude of new funds also appeared at the same time. Now, in addition to traditional funds, there are new funds dedicated to business start-ups. 

Mission accomplished! It’s clear that today, Quebec is experiencing exceptional economic growth, particularly in the Montréal region, which stands out significantly. 

CCMM – What strengths does the metropolitan area have that encourage the creation of new businesses?

G.N.: In Montréal, we are very fortunate to have several public universities renowned for the quality of their teaching. We tend to forget that tuition here is virtually free, whereas in other large cities, studies are more expensive. Our universities not only educate our youth, they are increasingly inspiring them to start businesses. This was less the case just a few years ago.

Nowadays, young people embark on the entrepreneurship adventure fresh out of university. Financial institutions are very receptive to their projects and eager to support them through various funds.

In November 2016, Desjardins created a $100-million fund, spread over three years, to invest in promising projects throughout Quebec. The Montréal region in particular is receiving substantial funding to help new entrepreneurs start businesses. We are very proud of this!

Moreover, the Montréal business ecosystem is becoming better structured to support the new business initiatives that are contributing to the great momentum that the metropolitan area is experiencing. Montréal, for example, has become a key hub for artificial intelligence.

In addition to our financial assistance, there are numerous support programs for start-ups or companies wanting to export or expand. Montréal is home to several chambers of commerce that also have their own entrepreneurship support programs, not to mention the multitude of private funds in existence.

CCMM – Has the nature of entrepreneurship changed in recent years? How has it evolved in Montréal?

G.N.: As I mentioned, young people no longer hesitate to create their projects and come to us with solid business plans. They have extraordinary ideas and are very innovative: it's impressive! Montréal can truly be proud of these past few years’ great successes.

CCMM – How does Desjardins support Montréal businesses in their entrepreneurial endeavours, from creation to expansion to internationalization?

G.N.: Desjardins has invested heavily in the École d'Entrepreneurship de Beauce, which educates future managers. The professors—renowned entrepreneurs who have left their mark on Quebec's economic landscape—support students in their learning, particularly through a mentorship program. Once they graduate, they call on our services and we are very proud to help them make their projects a reality.

Furthermore, we increasingly support businesses during their creation phase with the funds made available by Desjardins, but also by other organizations that we support, such as CRÉAVENIR. Established a few years ago, CRÉAVENIR distributes more than $1 million each year on the Island of Montréal through Desjardins and other financial institutions to help start-ups.

Entrepreneurs need this helping hand to get their projects off the ground. In fact, they work hard to build them, but once they get to the commercialization stage, they sometimes face financing difficulties.

CRÉAVENIR is a complement to all the financial assistance given locally by each branch. Desjardins allocates monumental sums in the Montréal region to encourage and support self-employed workers, businesses that create a handful of jobs and others that want to export their products or services.