Voyageur Houseboats, The winner of the 2023 Fosse aux Lions

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Jérémy Faure and his houseboat company, Voyageur Houseboats, won the 11th edition of La Fosse aux Lions, on April 12, 2023, at the Théâtre Cercle Molière. With the $15,000 reward, Voyageur Houseboats plans to expand its marketing strategy and participate in more trade shows across Canada and the United States.

A piece of paradise only an hour from Winnipeg

Based in Pinawa and created by Jérémy Faure, Voyageur Houseboats offers a very original concept: houseboat stays in the beautiful Whiteshell Provincial Park. Since his arrival in Canada in 1999, Jérémy Faure has, as he puts it, “fallen in love” with the landscapes of the Canadian Shield.

“The pink granite, the forests as far as the eye can see, the bodies of water, the lakes that dot the landscape like gruyère… My deepest desire was to share these landscapes and this pleasant lifestyle, if only for a weekend, with the general public.” You don’t have to go to Kenora for that. For Jérémy Faure, this corner of paradise is also popular due to its proximity to Winnipeg: only an hour by car.

Voyageur Houseboats

But why houseboats? It was a bit of fate. Jérémy Faure has always been inspired by his father’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“My dad was his own boss and I always wanted to do the same. I was waiting for the right idea, the right place. It came to fruition because of the pandemic.” Like many people, the effects of the pandemic turned Jérémy Faure’s life upside down, and his career at Via Rail ended almost overnight. “It was very painful, but maybe it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was a turning point, what I needed to get started. I then discovered the boats and created our concept.”

 The Fosse aux lions, an emotional event

Facing three other local finalists (Frères Jacques Inc., J’em Nature and Navi Pickups), Jérémy Faure won the 2023 Fosse aux lions. “It’s been an incredible opportunity. I feel truly honoured to have been chosen and I have only one thing in mind: to make the judges and the CDEM proud by using this money wisely. I am very excited about the future of our project.”

This victory at the Fosse aux Lions will allow Jérémy Faure to propel initiatives that he did not think he could put in place right away. Especially when it comes to marketing. “All our photo and video production were done in-house. When you go through our website and our social media, we realize that the boats are empty. It lacks that human side. We want to show different situations, different people on board.”

Without further ado, precisely two days after his victory at the Fosse aux Lions, Jérémy Faure hired a marketing company specializing in social media. “We will create photo and video content with actors and influencers and reach a wider audience.”

Attracting US customers

Another important aspect that Jérémy Faure presented during the finale of the Fosse aux Lions is the trade shows. These are key events that businesses such as Voyageur Houseboats want to attend to expand their customer base, but participation in these trade shows is expensive, explains Jérémy Faure.

“There are the registration costs, but also the development costs of the kiosk elements: stationery, flyers, business cards, banner, screen… Last year, we could not participate in this kind of fair. But thanks to the Fosse aux lions, we will be able to prepare during the summer and autumn and participate in the 2024 shows.”

The founder of Voyageur Houseboats plans to participate in trade shows in the United States, with the goal of bringing an American clientele to Manitoba. “We realized that more than 80% of houseboat reservations in Kenora were made by Americans. They are very fond of our landscapes and our autumn colours.”

While, for the moment, the clientele of Voyageur Houseboats is essentially English-speaking, Jérémy Faure hopes to host more Francophones aboard his houseboats.

CDEM’s support

For Jérémy Faure, the Fosse aux Lions was also the perfect opportunity to revisit his business plan after a year of operation, and thus to take stock. “This experience allowed me to analyze my business,” he says. “What are the specific goals that will have the greatest positive impact?  I was also inspired by the most poignant presentations of previous editions. The key is to know exactly what you’re going to do, in detail, with the grand prize money.”

“It was really a pleasure to meet all the other finalists. We were all a little stressed, we talked just before the competition and their enthusiasm made me feel more comfortable. I wish them every success in the future.

“Also, without CDEM, we couldn’t have made it this far.  From the very beginning, they really took us under their wing. They helped us in many aspects, whether with our business plan or to obtain certain permits from the Municipality.  I am very grateful to them.”