July 1, 2022

Mourning your business

It’s relatively new in Quebec to hear entrepreneurs talk about their troughs. And as the taboo breaks down, we welcome setbacks with more serenity. For many, the difficult times are part of the road, as much if not more than the successes. After all, almost two-thirds of businesses don’t survive more than 5 years.

Last week, we learned that the co-founders of Frank and Oak, through their investment fund Noble, joined the shareholders of Rose Buddha, a Quebec company renowned for its pretty leggings made from recycled fibers. It is with pride that we announced it, even if in 2020, Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani, precursors of online commerce in the country, came close to bankruptcy. We are finally in an area where we can recognize the value of entrepreneurs beyond a hiccup.

“All entrepreneurs go through ups and downs,” says Hicham Ratnani. We chose the roller coaster. And if you want to be there, you have to enjoy every moment, in the descents and the ascents. You have to appreciate the race more than the result. »

Difficult choices

Of course, entrepreneurship will always be a race for success and investors will want returns. But falling doesn’t mean you can’t get up. After a round of financing of $20 million in 2018, in which the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec was very involved, Frank and Oak experienced difficulties with some of its stores; accentuated by the pandemic.

“Every day from March 13, 2020, we had to make difficult choices and work on survival by restructuring before being able to sell to the right partner,” recalls the 37-year-old entrepreneur.

The sale to a US investment fund was not a decision unique to the co-founders. With the other shareholders, it was necessary to find the outcome most favorable to the survival of the company. At the end of 2021, the new owners, with whom Hicham Ratnani has close ties, opened their first store in China.

The rebound is taking shape.

Identity

The entrepreneur has no regrets except not having been able to close the chapter by celebrating in person the contribution of the teams, who have built a strong brand. Hicham Ratnani always knew that he would not spend his entire life in the company born in 2012, after two and a half years at stake to find the right vein. Nevertheless, parting with it called into question his personal identity.

“We worked for years putting heart, soul, sweat and blood into it. The company becomes another dimension of myself and I will always have a deep emotional connection with it. Grieving is in the search for the new identity and I’m not sure what it is yet,” he says.

To see clearly, Hicham Ratnani does a lot of sport and surrounds himself with those he loves. He moved temporarily to Berlin with his wife. He meditates, writes a lot and does not hesitate to call on professionals to take care of his body and his head.

Also, he is delighted to see former employees become entrepreneurs, a sign for him of a strong culture.

By creating the Noble Pace fund with his childhood friend Ethan Song, he wants to use the learnings of the last decade to help other social and environmental impact brands in their growth. Rose Buddha is the first. The wish is to help him continue to surprise and charm.

Noble

  • Founders: Ethan Song et Hicham Ratnani
  • Location of head office: Montréal
  • Activity area : Investment
  • Year of foundation: 2021

Profile de Hicham Ratnani

  • Job : Investor, co-founder of Frank and Oak
  • Age : 37 years
  • Education: Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, McGill University and MIT Sloan School of Management