Come on, how cool is it that rising young businessman Darius Campeau got to watch the Redblacks play on their home field from the large balcony belonging to Jeff Hunt, one of the most influential sports entrepreneurs in Canada?
Campeau was invited last fall through a mutual friend to the luxury condo overlooking TD Place stadium. During the game, he got to talking to Hunt. The topic wasn’t football. It was meat.
Campeau is the president of Ottawa Valley Meats (OVM), an e-commerce company he founded in 2018 to deliver locally produced and naturally raised premium meats to customers’ doors. It’s like an online butcher.
Said Hunt of their conversation: “The more I spoke to him that night, the more intrigued I was with the business. It’s a great local success story, in my opinion.”
After touring the company’s abattoir in Chesterville, Hunt expressed an interest in getting involved in OVM. He’d been looking for another business opportunity after leaving the sports ownership world of junior hockey and professional football in 2020. He remains connected to the industry as strategic partner and president of Ottawa’s professional soccer club, Atlético Ottawa.
“One of the challenges I thought I’d be facing is, when you’re a sports guy with 20-odd years in sports, can you just get back into a normal, regular business again when it doesn’t have, at least perception-wise, the cachet or profile – whatever you want to call it – that a sports enterprise has?” said Hunt.
It turned out that one of Campeau’s two other partners wanted to sell, allowing for Hunt to become a partner earlier this year.
"I think I was looking for one last real entrepreneurial adventure and, obviously, I found it, and I’m very excited about it."
“I think I was looking for one last real entrepreneurial adventure and, obviously, I found it, and I’m very excited about it,” said Hunt.
He believes the sky’s the limit for OVM.
“I think it’s a company that has a lot of opportunities for growth,” added Hunt, who’s already got the ball rolling on franchising (stay tuned for some company rebranding).
OVM allows customers to place custom orders online for fresh beef, pork, chicken, lamb, seafood, dairy and eggs, as well as spices and sauces. The pandemic has made online shopping the new norm, to the point where consumers don’t think twice anymore about getting their food delivered to them; it’s just so convenient, said Hunt.
As well, the business model appeals to people’s growing interest in buying and supporting local.
“It’s nice to know that you can drive by the farm where your family gets its meat from and feel a connection to it,” said Hunt, who likes that OVM deals directly with the farmers and that it buys livestock that’s grass-fed and free-range.
Hunt also believes OVM sells a product that distinguishes itself from the competition. “It’s not your grocery store meat.”
Another reason why Hunt bought into the company was because of how well he got along with Campeau, a fellow self-made businessman whom he saw as having tremendous energy, passion and business savvy. “I think he’s done an amazing job.”
'He just gets it'
Hunt, 57, grew up in Newfoundland and got his start in Ottawa in the 1980s building his own carpet-cleaning empire. He sold his thriving franchise business and went on to buy and manage the Ottawa 67’s, turning the club into one of Canada’s most successful junior hockey franchises. He also helped to bring the CFL back to town as a former partner of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the 67’s and Redblacks. In 2018, he was inducted into the Order of Ottawa.
Campeau, 33, who grew up in rural Vankleek Hill, put himself through school at the University of Ottawa by working for farmers. He was earning extra money going door-to-door selling meat products when he came up with the idea to start his own e-commerce venture. OVM is now one of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies.
“I told Darius that I was investing in his business because of him more than anything,” said Hunt, who believes Campeau’s knowledge of the business has been key to its success. “He just gets it.
“I love an entrepreneur that bootstraps their company and just builds it with enormous effort and creativity.”
Likewise, Campeau said he’s never met anyone with Hunt’s level of business acumen.
“I always say it’s like a chess game,” he explains. “Sometimes, I feel like I’m four or five pieces ahead of who I’m talking to when talking about my business. But with Jeff, he’s already there with me and sometimes even ahead of me.
“I have a vision, but what he does is, he pushes my vision to the next level.”