By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Aug. 11, 2012
If life had not brought him to Squamish, Louis-Philippe Leonard could have been beaming through the TV screen to thousands of viewers across Quebec.
The strapping young man had already hosted a TV show in Quebec, and was close to clinching another talk-show host deal.
But life had Squamish in store for him.
A call from his friend Jonathan Hewitt brought him to Squamish two years ago, where the former had started a high-end furniture store called Leon Lebeniste.
Ask him why he left behind what could have been a lucrative TV career, and Leonard points to the view outside his window.
There are sun-kissed mountains all around, and far in the distance, Shannon Falls are faintly visible.
“I love this,” he says, summing up the move in three words.
The mountain and the ocean, proximity to Vancouver, skiing in Whistler, and a vast network of mountain biking trails brought Jonathan Hewitt and Leonard to Squamish.
It’s what keeps them here.
They have gone from two employees to eight, and contracts for furniture are coming from all over the region and the country.
They are just putting finishing touch to a project that will be shipped to Montreal.
There are new contracts from West Vancouver, and from Whistler, two of their target markets for high-end furniture.
“Our first year in gross sales would be a quarter of what we are doing now, said Hewitt.
Setting up in Squamish had its own set of challenges.
Both of them were relatively new to Squamish, and the biggest hurdle was to form new relationships.
They had both visited Squamish and Whistler as tourists, and getting to know people, suppliers and potential clients was a challenge.
The next big challenge was to design the right product, and pitch it to clients.
It was difficult, Leonard says, to convince clients they had the right product.
It has taken some time, but it become easier and easier to convince them about our product,
Leonard said they said with small contracts; the first one he signed on was for $300.
Now, merely two years later, there are more contracts and a widening group of clients and contractors they work with.
Yet, both call it a mild success.
Their goal, Hewitt says, is to turn Leon Lebeniste into a global brand, to sell their furniture in Paris and Milan.
“We are in infancy, and we want our brand to be known globally,” Hewitt says.
However big the Leon Lebeniste brand gets, they are both committed to stay in Squamish.
“It’s a great community, and we are committed to stay here,” Leonard says.