The Abitibi-Temiscamingue Region of southwestern Quebec is home to thousands of lakes and rivers. These waters are the office, playground, and home to the founders and employees of abitibi & co., a canoe and kayak company redefining its industry one expert-crafted paddle stroke at a time.
“Some people paddle to climb, some people paddle to discover, others paddle to just be out there. Others paddle to escape, and some people paddle to connect,” says Co-Founder and marketing director JD Petit. “We are building that lifestyle around the products.”
After buying a quality kayak and learning that its manufacturer, Mid-Canada Fiberglass Ltd. was closing its doors in 2014, Petit and co-founder Guillaume Leblanc rebirthed the company as abitibi & co. in 2015.
To Petit’s knowledge, abitibi & co. is the only company of its kind at the intersection of creativity, outdoor culture, and environmentalism. More than a business, it represents an outdoors lifestyle not replicated by its competitors.
“We are offering a means of expression in the outdoors by offering canoes and kayaks that have both creativity but…[are] also a force for good for the environment and the community.”
The values are epitomized in all aspects of the abitibi & co. brand. Its products are made in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec with locally-sourced materials; the company encourages customers to refurbish their boats instead of buying new ones, furnishes their office with reclaimed furniture, collects windshield washer containers to transform them into reusable containers, and does its part to remove trash from the area’s natural habitats. For the company’s culture, that’s not all. abitibi & co. employees are invited to borrow a canoe or kayak at the President’s dock whenever they please.
“Our core is paddling, but our love is for the outdoor culture,” says Petit.
abitibi & co.’s core values are exhibited with their .CA website
The founders’ devotion to both nature and community is unmistakable during a visit to their website, abitibico.ca. The website isn’t a sales pitch, but an escape to “Live Beyond the Bend“, a series of real-life adventure stories of the company’s own team members paddling across North America’s most beautiful lakes.
“We are not there to force people to buy, and we are not there to advertise. We are there to give them a reason to follow our brand and to create a connection with us,” said Petit.
The company’s .CA site also isn’t intended to make the viewer linger, but to inspire them to get to know Mother Nature’s secrets a bit better.
“With two million lakes just in Canada, there are so many that haven’t been explored,” says Petit. “There’s no reason for us not to spend time in the water. We spend so much time in front of the screen that once in a while it’s good to spend some time paddling and looking further than 30 centimetres in front of you.”
abitibi & co.’s culture isn’t just influencing Canadian boaters, but also those in New Zealand and the United States. With the help of 20 employees, 30 distributors and dealers, and their online brand, the company sells 800 units of custom, hand-painted boats annually.
Despite their international presence, abitibi & co. is grounded in Canadian heritage, culture and this permeates throughout their brand.
“It’s hard to be more Canadian than a canoe,” says Petit.
Petit refers to their website, in a sense, as an employee that receives orders, welcomes customers, and tells them everything they need to know about the company and its products. He wants it to be as Canadian as they canoes and kayaks he sells.
“Our roots are in Canada so there is no need for us to change it to make it a .com,” he says.
“The .CA is our headquarters. We’ll always keep it. That’s the way to grow our business.”