Meet Luc and Pierre

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Meet Luc and Pierre

Entrepreneurs Luc and Pierre discuss their adventure into coffee roasting. They explain the unique challenges they face operating a new business and the successes they've experienced and look back at how their introduction into personal finance shaped their future.

Up in the Gatineau hills in the picturesque village of Wakefield, Quebec, stands a big beautiful blue barn cocooned by a lush green forest and aromatic plants and flowers. With nary a backhoe in sight, the inside smells of freshly sawn wood, summer air and morning coffee. Yet the only thing remotely farm-like here are the two hard-working brothers who run the place from sun up to sun down, putting their financial savvy to work to make incredibly good coffee.

Success brews success

Pierre and Luc Alary are the owners of Bluebarn Coffee Roasters, a farm-to-barn coffee roastery about 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa, that prides itself on doing direct (and fair) trade with “superstar coffee growers” around the world. Not content to buy their beans from just any farmer, they are like sommeliers of sustainable sourcing, travelling to plantations globally to source the finest, sustainably harvested beans while building a future for the farmers, their families and their communities.

According to them, “it pays to know where we get our coffee from, if only to ensure we do the most good with our consumption choices.”

The brothers are perfectly suited as business partners. As a tax lawyer, Pierre assists with the business side of things whereas Luc, who works for the Red Cross as a cinematographer travelling to global humanitarian and international development hotspots, is the coffee connoisseur.

First introduction to money

To make a company like Bluebarn work, Pierre and Luc drew on some early financial lessons they learned while growing up. Pierre remembers collecting hockey cards, comics and rare coins as a small child. Like many kids, he earned his spending money by doing chores in exchange for an allowance. For Luc, he acknowledges that he was “spoiled” as a kid, not having to think about money until he was older. As a teenager, he took up rock climbing and spent his money on climbing equipment and outings.

Defining financial wellness

Now as adults, the brothers, whose financial responsibilities are unique to say the least, define personal financial wellness as living your life without worrying over day-to-day expenses.

“It’s having the freedom to travel when and where you want, to be able to live well and not have to worry about money,” Pierre says. As for the business, Pierre believes financial wellness means being able to take on the projects that they want. “It’s being able to manage the day-to-day expenses as well as being able to finance longer term projects that excite you.”

It’s about setting priorities. One way Pierre makes his own finances work is to cut back on commuting costs for work. “I don’t own a car and I live two minutes from where I work.” He then puts the cost savings towards investing in Bluebarn.

Surmounting challenges

Maintaining financial wellness while owning a business is fraught with challenges. The coffee roasting business is capital-intensive, requiring a lot of expensive equipment. “You need the best equipment in order to make the best coffee,” says Pierre. Along with investing their own savings into Bluebarn, they’ve had to rely on investments from friends and family.

Solid financial ground

Three years on and the company is established and on solid ground. The brothers credit this to careful forecasting and budgeting. “Our business is cyclical,” explains Luc. “There are peaks and valleys and you need to ensure that you won’t hit bottom."

“I don’t want to miss my shot,” admits Luc. “We plan ahead carefully for the next three to six months.” Because of this, Luc is confident in the future of his company. “We could be hit by lightning tomorrow and we would come out of it OK.”

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