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Spotlight on JP Desjardins: Two Businesses in Five Years

Guest Blogger | August 27, 2015

Two businesses in five years! The accomplishments of JP Desjardins, a young entrepreneur from Québec and the co-founder of Orangerine and The Wallrus, are impressive. But behind all of this lies his creative energy, his passion for the projects he undertakes and his engagement in the entrepreneurial community. JP describes himself as an extremely curious and active person. He is passionate about film (his first short film was shown at Cannes Festival through the National Film Board of Canada) and music (he worked as a DJ in night clubs), but also for youth entrepreneurship (he holds conferences in some high schools and in Cégep on starting a business). Recently he was selected as part of the Canadian delegation to the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance summit in Istanbul, and we had the chance to talk with him and learn more about how he advanced his career as an entrepreneur.

You’re a co-founder of Orangerine and The Wallrus. Can you tell us a bit more about these two businesses?

Orangerine started as a video production house that I founded with two friends in 2007. We opened our office in 2010, and we have since become an interactive advertising agency specializing in custom websites and applications. Following the success of the agency, we decided to launch a second business in 2013. This led to the birth of The Wallrus, a marketing service for events that aggregates content from Instagram and Twitter and displays them across one or multiple screens in real time. We were at that time frustrated to not have viable services available that could perform that function, so we created it ourselves. We also wanted to have the experience of developing a product in Québec and making it a global commercial success! Since launching the platform in January of 2015, Wallrus has been deployed in 54 countries with such clients as AT&T, Telus, L’Oréal and many others. We also launched Wallrus in the eSports realm. We were at the 2014 Loto Québec World Games video gaming event, at the Just for Laughs festival, and we are in discussions with Blizzard Entertainment to integrate our solution at their tournaments.

Where did your desire to become and entrepreneur come from?

From 2003 to 2005 I worked at the student radio station at the St-Laurent Cégep, and I learned a lot through the system set up in 1970 where elders teach new students!  I had organized numerous events during this period at Cégep and the process of working collaboratively gave me the entrepreneurial virus.

What do you like about being an entrepreneur today?

It’s having the freedom to choose your clients and your projects; being able to work with the clients you like and learn new things every day. Once you have launched a business and you have the core of your team, it’s relatively easy to launch others as your interests evolve.

You make it sound easy, but I imagine that starting two businesses in a row with various partners must still involve many challenges…

Growth is never easy. Just as cash management and managing your new hires are not easy. My partner Jasmine always manages our financial resources with a lot of rigour and discipline. At the beginning, we held the Bootstrap philosophy close to our hearts, maybe a bit too close. Over time we found a balance. Finally, communication proved to be the key to welding the partners together through hardships that the business encountered over the five first years.

Did your mentor help you face these difficulties that you encountered?

I had the chance to have many mentors and counselors. Christian Whopperer from CIEM coached me on how to market Wallrus internationally. He challenged me on many elements that I have now taken in and helped me reflect in enriching ways. Mentoring is not like coaching. With Rita, I worked to better understand my process of reflection and decision-making. I work on the more intangible things, like soft skills .  Understanding how I think allows me to do what’s right and replicate them on a larger scale, while helping me to grow as a person.

You are very involved in the entrepreneurial community, such as your recent selection as part of the Canadian delegation for the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit. What motivates you to be so engaged?

I had the chance to meet very generous people who have helped me a lot on my path. I believe that the most important thing is to give back and I try to do as much as possible for young entrepreneurs, through my involvement with school dropouts, and by transferring knowledge that I have received over the last five years.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

The most important thing in my opinion is to be conscious of the personal gaps and to surround yourself with people who have complementary skills to help compensate for these gaps. After that, it’s really important to work on a project that excites you, personally, otherwise it will be very difficult to inspire others to work on this project alongside you.

Written By: Claire Gendron, Bilingual Marketing Content Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada