A POSTER CHILD FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP, HE IS AN ACCOMPLISHED SPORTSMAN, A LITTLE-KNOWN ARTIST, AND A WELL-INFORMED BUSINESSMAN.
Louis Garneau represented Canada in cycling at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. A year earlier, he started manufacturing his own cycling clothes in his father’s garage. Today, Louis Garneau Sports Inc. has 450 employees and their sales figures keep on climbing, with products sold in over 40 countries. He was even inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends in the spring of 2011.
The 53-year-old president and founder is still in top shape and remains one of the elite athletes when he competes in cycling events. Garneau and some of his employees ride around the factory practically every day at lunchtime, their top speeds can reach 50 km/h.
A lesser-known fact about Garneau is his passion for art – an integral part of his ongoing innovations and success. This entrepreneur has a special relationship with art. A mural that he painted, dedicated to cycling champion Lance Armstrong, is on display in his Texas store. He also donated twelve of his paintings to Quebec City’s Musée des beaux-arts for a fundraising campaign. “The money raised from my artistic efforts goes to charity,” he explains.
Art and innovation complement each other every day where Garneau is concerned. At the factory, he can often be found with his hands full of modeling clay or plunged into some gelatin, creating the model for a helmet perhaps. His bachelor’s degree in visual arts, although not recent, affords him additional expertise when he is slaving away developing clothing or other products. “I studied the impressionists, the psychology of colours, all sorts of concepts that are now a part of me. I never thought it would serve me so well throughout my career. I must admit that during the creation process – my favourite part – I even wake up thinking about it. I become completely absorbed by it all.
His commitment to innovation led him to create clothes and accessories for cross-country skiing and other cardio activities. They even produce ski helmets, poles, gaiters, and bags, not to mention snowshoes at his factory in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. “As a matter of principle, we would never abandon our loyal cycling clients,” he says. Summer cyclists usually cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter. I didn’t want to leave that business for the competition.”
Photos: Courtesy of Louis Garneau sports