Collaborators focused on their clients.
In the early 2000s, the time was ripe for Janick St-Georges to launch his own creative and marketing agency in the Outaouais region. Recognizing that the offer wasn’t in line with his values or perspectives when it came to client service, he dove headfirst into entrepreneurship. Two decades years later, his determination and dedication have helped him ride out financial crises and a pandemic. Today, Vacarm is known for its strong client ties, perseverance and drive to keep reinventing itself.
As the agency’s owner and managing director, he looks back on the eventful journey and success that have led him and his teams to forge sustainable trust relationships their clients.
Rogers Business: Tell us about your business (history, number of employees, years in business, etc.).
Janick St-Georges: It all started in 2002, when Vacarm was Alter Ego. In 2013, we were a small group of about 10 employees when we teamed up with another agency, called Cube. Then, in 2017, Vacarm pursued its expansion by partnering with Prosomo, which was led by Alan Horick. Since then, we’ve grown to about 50 people. We share resources, and our projects and agency are booming.
Rogers Business: How did the idea of starting your own business come about?
Janick St-Georges: I spent a lot of years working as a graphic designer and art director at different agencies. Very quickly, I realized I had the experience and temperament to start my own business. I wanted to create an initiative within my business: we’re not employees, we’re collaborators. I’ve always wanted to emphasize the human aspect in my relationships with my clients—a key factor that can make or break a reputation and something we really believe in at Vacarm.
Rogers Business: Did someone or something inspire you to start your business?
Janick St-Georges: In the early 2000s, there were only two agencies in Outaouais, so we had a clear track ahead of us to make our mark. I saw the lack of humanity in certain organizations and in client relationships. I was determined to work differently. I wanted to create a new vision of business relationships, and that’s what drives all our decisions at Vacarm.
Rogers Business: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
Janick St-Georges: I’ve learned a lot of lessons since starting my business. The one that’s influenced me the most is to trust people, while keeping a watchful eye and some control. There’s always something that could jeopardize your business financially or personally. You can’t know everything, so you need to surround yourself with the right people and be aware of what’s going on in every area of your business. There are so many training options and experts out there, and it’s important to consider them.
Rogers Business: Who or what was your biggest source of support when you first started out in business?
Janick St-Georges: To be honest, I didn’t really have much support when I decided to become an entrepreneur. In many ways, I created my own support system with the collaborators I chose. I truly value them, and their work is what has enabled us to grow. I can count on their support because we’re close and I listen to what they have to say. We’re there for each other. Their needs are at the core of my concerns, and their retention is proof of that. I feel their support every day.
Rogers Business: What’s your vision for the future of your business?
Janick St-Georges: Vacarm has been in business for more than 20 years. We’ve navigated financial crises and have always recovered, but I have to say the recent pandemic was a really intense time. It pushed us to reinvent ourselves and broaden our services. My plan for the future is to secure funding to export what we do. I’d like us to lead training abroad, like SEO courses in Chicago, or help guide other businesses. We’re currently creating a group dedicated solely to that. We must forge increasingly close ties with our clients, especially after this long period of virtual connection. It’s time to get back to basic human relationships.
Rogers Business: Any advice for people who are thinking about starting their own business?
Janick St-Georges: Above all, be very resilient. You have to believe in yourself and in your project but also know how to adapt. Some obstacles may seem insurmountable, but there are always alternate paths. Entrepreneurship is full of challenges, but more than anything it’s full of solutions. It isn’t always smooth sailing, but you can make it with a lot of will and determination. There are always twists and turns. The past two years of the pandemic could have discouraged everyone, but so many people have gone into business. You have to know how to adapt, take a step back, assess the situation and seek help when you need it, because it’s so important to surround yourself with the right people.
Rogers Business: What’s your secret ingredient?
Janick St-Georges: People are at the heart of the agency and our projects. At Vacarm, our secret ingredient can be summed up in one word: humanity.
Rogers Business: Where can we find your business?
Janick St-Georges: Our clients are our priority, so we’re present on social media but aren’t very active. Honestly, my phone rings off the hook. We’re so busy, and demand is exponential. But that’s definitely not something we’re going to complain about.