“What really blows me away is how we start from scratch with a tree. We cut the wood, laminate it, and fine-tune the product until we get the result we’re looking for.”
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” said the great Helen Keller. Sébastien Moquin is not one to argue the point. Co-owner of Cycles Régis in Outremont and a former bicycle racer, Moquin and three partners (including comedian Martin Matte), started a new adventure four years ago when they developed a line of 100% maple skis, handmade in Bromont, Quebec.
It all started with a phone call from his childhood pal, Jonathan Bourgeois, Vice-President of Groupe Fabritec, who had just come up with the highly unusual idea of designing skis in Quebec. It snowballed from there. Moquin talked to one of his shareholders in the bike store, and together they asked the advice of a good contact from prestige marketing agency DentsuBos, (whose client list included Martin Matte). Let’s hear it for the power of networking! More networking got Raccoon some Astral Media billboards along the Champlain Bridge and the Laurentian Autoroute, and the company was off and running.
“We are currently enjoying great visibility on TV, thanks to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which cites us as an example in their campaign to promote entrepreneurship. La Presse and other media have also given us fabulous exposure.” Having a celebrity among your shareholders doesn’t hurt, either. “I found him to be totally charming and a big fan of the sport,” says Moquin. “Martin is not only a good skier, he is a veteran who is technically strong, and very critical. We saw that right from the very first tests on snow.” For his part, Matte recognized that his three partners had not rushed into this venture on a whim. “I was a competitive athlete. I’m determined and ambitious,” notes Moquin. “I was certainly not going to leave a job in mechanical engineering to simply be an extra on this project.” Moquin was similarly motivated by the fact that most of his friends told him it was a crazy idea bound to fail. “We had to prove them wrong!” he says.
“People who buy our skis are really drawn to the graphic design,” he adds. “I have to admit that, in the beginning, our branding was stronger than our product. We had to make some noise, and it worked. But now that we’re a few years in, I can assure you that we are making quality skis. This is not my first business experience, and what really blows me away is how we start from scratch with a tree. We cut the wood, laminate it, and fine-tune the product until we get the result we’re looking for. It’s nothing like receiving a box from China and opening it up.”
And the name Raccoon? “When we were kids, we’d wear our ski goggles all the time, even on the lifts, and we’d throw snow on our faces to help us tan faster. The goal was to go back to school looking like a raccoon!”