If you have ever been on vacation, you will notice that most souvenirs available are all the exact same generic product. Not something you would want to bring home to your friends and family. A PME funded business, Main and Local put a stop to these awful souvenirs and created souvenirs that do not suck. Literally, their tagline is “souvenirs that don’t suck”. These souvenirs are made from a local perspective and offer a good laugh by incorporating the culture of the city into their products. Now the company has expanded outside of Montreal and has started selling in popular cities across the country. Co-founder David Prince shares with us some advice on what he has learnt along the way. He also shares with us how he and his co-founders pivoted their company into Main and local.
What inspired you and your co-founder to start main and local? Why souvenirs?
The idea came when we worked on cruise ships and wanted to bring back souvenirs for friends and family. We realized there really was not much option and we did not want to bring back souvenirs that sucked for our loved ones.
How does main and local differentiate from any other souvenirs?
We like to make fun, clever and unexpected products. Our tagline is “souvenirs that don’t suck” and we stand by that. We try to come up with creative ideas for each product we make. Its not only for tourists, it is actually mainly for locals. We make souvenirs but from a local perspective. For example, for Montreal we make things about construction, poutine, smoke meat etc. Tourists understand as well.
Did your company go through any major changes/Pivot?
We went through so many major changes and pivots. It actually took us about a year of brainstorming until we came up with the perfect business idea. We came up with so many different things and finally we settled on licensing for local businesses. Basically the idea was we would make a product for a local business, they would sell it in their restaurants, and we would sell it in our stores. We pursued that for about 6-9months until finally we realized there were too many issues around it. It did not seem like a real scalable model. Once we realized that, we decided to pivot. So, instead of creating a product about la banquise why not just do poutine and sell it around Canada. Pivoting was a hard decision to make but we were surrounded by the right people who pointed us in the right direction.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a founder and how did you overcome them?
At first, I was very hesitant to quit my steady job and I had many responsibilities at the time. The biggest challenge was leaving that comfort zone and jumping into something completely new. From a financial perspective its hard to just make that kind of jump so make sure you have some sort of savings before you do take the risk because it will drain your bank account. It is definitely a risk worth taking. Being a founder is the coolest thing in the world. You’re not on the sidelines, your future is in your hands and it’s an unreal experience. It is an experience I would never be able to get working for somebody else. You call the shots and the risk is worth it.
What is the number one advice you would give to other entrepreneurs like yourself?
Everyday is a roller coaster. It is filled with many highs and a lot of lows. What is important is that you don’t get overly excited when your business does hit a high point because things can quickly change and hit a low point. It’s also important to not let the low points get to you either. Be ready for anything. Its mentally exhausting but you need to adapt and expect it to come. Not a lot of people are able to handle this kind of uncertainty, its really tough. However, as long as you stay focused and persevere, you will be able to make through anything.
What do you think is the most important thing every founder should be aware of?
Expect that it’s going to be really hard. I think most founders might underestimate how much work and dedication that goes into creating a business but it’s really tough. You wont get very far if you expect being your own boss means you can be doing 10 hour weeks and relaxing at home. By being a founder, I’ve learnt so much its insane. I learn more in a week than I would have normally in a steady job. Not only that but you learn so much about yourself and your capabilities. It allows you to push yourself to limits you did not even know you had. Stop procrastinating taking the leap because the longer you wait the more responsibilities pile up. You just need to go for it.
How has PME had an impact on your business?
PME is the best thing we have done in the business easily. I do not say this lightly, we really mean it they have been a tremendous help. From a financial perspective but they also gave us the validation that we were on the right path. I can’t say this enough, the mentors who have been helping us the past 4-5 years have been incredible. They would meet with us every week and help us make really big business decisions. These are entrepreneurs that have built multi million dollar companies and getting their feedback was crucial to our business.
Nothing ever goes as planned when starting your own business. There will be bumps in the road and you need to be ready for them. Your ability to deal with the high and the lows is what will allow you to make it to the finish line. The founders of Main and Local never gave up on starting their own business even if it meant they had to pivot. They had the right determination which lead them to creating the successful business they run today.