To Start a Business : Michael Briand (O’Dwyer Distillery , Gaspé)
On July 8, 2020, we met with Michael Briand, co-owner of the first distillery in Gaspésie. In 2016, Michael along with his business partner, Frédéric Jacques, opened O’Dwyer Distillery. Michael grew up in Sudbury, Ontario and occasionally visited his father’s relatives in Douglastown as a child. He used to tell his grandmother that one day he would live in Douglastown. At 19 years old, Michael decided to study at the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Iles, in Gaspé. Michael now lives with his wife and children in Gaspé and is co-owner of a successful business in the region. We met with Michael to discuss his entrepreneurial journey. What is entrepreneurship to him? How did he become an entrepreneur?
AMCG : For you, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Michael Briand (M.B.) : For me, it means, basically, taking risks, doing something you are very passionate about and surrounding yourself with the right people that will challenge you but also push you in the right direction. When I started the business, it just meant doing something that is different and that had never been done before. When I realized that there were no distilleries in the Gaspésie, and it was something that I was already passionate about, it was very easy for me to decide what I wanted to do; so I dove right in!
AMCG : How did you become an entrepreneur?
M.B. : I don’t know if I consider myself an entrepreneur, I just knew that it was something that I was passionate about and that I was realizing a dream and my passion at the same time. It was a combination of many things that got me to dive in, but above all, I basically saw an opportunity to make a business here in the Gaspésie, and took it. Seeing my kids grow up and having a wife who is supportive, I wanted to show them a good example of doing something you are passionate about and following your own dreams.
AMCG : According to you, what are some advantages to being an entrepreneur?
M.B. : According to me, the main advantage of being an entrepreneur is the absolute freedom that you have; to do what you want, when you want and to have the freedom to explore avenues that you could not, if working for somebody else. For sure, the hours that you work are sometimes two times more than what you expect but to have the freedom to make the kind of product you want to see on the market, this to me is the main advantage as an entrepreneur.
AMCG : When in your life, did you learn the most about entrepreneurship?
M.B. : The time that I realized that I wanted to be an inventor or an entrepreneur was when I was going into middle school. The summer between sixth grade and seventh grade, my aunt, who is an entrepreneur, a very smart woman, would bring me to these trade shows. There I saw these entrepreneurs, these inventors, showing off what they had. I always wanted to be an inventor when I was a kid. When I saw that it was possible, that is when I knew it was what I wanted to do. I just realized that I wanted to do something different than everybody else. It did not interest me, whatsoever, to punch a clock and work a certain amount of hours just to work for the weekend. I wanted to be passionate about something, and I wanted that to be my life.
AMCG : What was your biggest apprehension about becoming an entrepreneur?
M.B. : My biggest apprehension of becoming an entrepreneur and starting this business was the risk factor of not knowing whether it would work. There are people that rely on you to provide, and so if it doesn’t work, what do you do? Also, when you are the first to do something in a region, you don’t know how the reception is going to be. Surrounding myself with the right people at the right time was key for the success of this company. I have five mentors, and some of them do not even now that I am their apprentice. I think it was very important having mentors that experienced what I was going through. With the right push, we became successful and I am happy about that.
AMCG : Looking back, would you have done something differently?
M.B. : The one thing that I would have done differently with the distillery is change the location. We were not expecting to sell our gin or our products from the distillery itself. The law changed after we bought the building, so if there is one thing I would have changed going back is to put the distillery along the 132 highway and be more focused in the tourism industry.
AMCG : What would you like future entrepreneurs to know about entrepreneurship?
M.B. : I would like future entrepreneurs to know that there is always going to be risk involved, you can loose but also you can win. Surrounding yourself with the right people at the right time is very important and can definitely increase your chance of winning. Taking a chance is a part of entrepreneurship but planning, having a business plan, knowing what you are going to do, knowing your market, providing a good product to the local economy is what’s going to win in the end