A dream or a passion is often behind the launch of a company. The founders of the Fromagerie La Cabriole in Montcerf-Lytton, Émilie Lemay and Raphaël Bédard, fit into this category.
While employed as forestry workers, they often spent their free time producing cheese for their families on the keen advice of a neighbour.
“It quickly became a passion,” said Lemay. “There were no craft cheese factories in the Gatineau Valley, and we were looking at an alternative that would enable Raphaël to spend more time at home. His work in the forest took him away from his children from Monday to Friday. We decided to go into business, even though there’d be bumps along the road.”
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A little naivety and lots of work
Before taking the plunge, they visited a craft cheese factory in Abitibi, which they enjoyed. Lemay then enrolled in a course in St. Hyacinthe, which covered health-related issues, milk chemistry and quality control. Some time afterward, the couple encountered their first obstacles.
“When we sat down with the provincial inspector for the purpose of obtaining our business licence, we realized just how cumbersome the process was. But we got through it. Animal and dairy production began in 2009 and the craft cheese factory opened in 2011,” said Lemay.
It took seven years for the duo to reach profitability. “It took longer than expected,” admitted Lemay. “During the first seven years, my spouse kept his other job on a part-time basis. We worked hard to develop our cheeses and to find a distributor so that our cheeses would end up in the hands of consumers. Our revenues have been climbing steadily since 2018.”
The company’s cheeses are available in all IGAs in Quebec, and the biggest seller, Le Pacte des Brasseurs, is available in all Métros in Quebec. Specialized boutiques have also made room for La Cabriole cheese. “Our production of twelve cheeses is well structured, our revenues are good and we’re happy about it. Yes, we often have to work seven days a week, but we love our working environment.”
Seeing the children grow up at home
Neither Lemay nor Bédard hesitated to set up their production and boutique right on the farm. “That was our vision of the cheese operation, a family business that enabled us to see our children grow up at home, not in daycare. We were able to realize our dreams due to our family values and because everything is available in the Gatineau Valley,” said Lemay.
This craft cheese operation is still one of the smallest in Quebec. It processes 70,000 litres of milk per year, which is enough for current scale of human production and for the development of new cheeses. Their 16-year-old son has already shown interest in working in the business. Their 13-year-old daughter has also given them a big helping hand.
The couple, who have successfully overcome many obstacles along the way, is very proud of the results that La Cabriole has achieved.
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