Quebec’s indoor smoking ban a boon for Richelieu entrepreneur
The aluminum tower ashtrays the Richelieu entrepreneur introduced on the market in the summer of 2006 are now collecting cigarette butts in nine countries, with growing interest being expressed from others.
“There are people in 46 countries who want to be distributors (of the I Kkwit Ashtray Tower, patent pending),” Bourdeau said from the
Jer-B-Syl Inc. factory in Chambly, where the increasingly popular item he developed is manufactured.
Bourdeau and his father, Jérôme, started the family business in 1986 to make polyethylene baskets and trays for fruits and vegetables.
Twenty years later, Quebec’s indoor smoking ban went into effect and that inspired Bourdeau to invent an outdoor receptacle for unsightly cigarette butts.
His creation took off and soon pushed the plastic trays and baskets to sideline status.
Now the ashtrays take precedence along with new garbage/recycle bins, park benches and bicycle racks Bourdeau designed – also made with aluminum – that have been added to the product selection through Jer-B-Syl’s I Kkwit division.
(The word “kwit” was already taken for another product, so a second K was added for the private Quebec company’s line.)
“Besides, the letter K has strong business association to companies like Kodak and Kellogg’s,” reasoned Bourdeau, an École des hautes études commerciales marketing graduate.
He is now company president and his 20-year-old son, Mickael Desjardins-Bourdeau, is vice-president and in charge of the ashtray installations.
With “zero help from anyone, government or banks,” Bourdeau mortgaged his house to launch the ashtrays and has logged thousands of kilometres “driving all over selling the product.”
The two full-time assistants now handling the daily calls for information and to take orders are among the 65 people directly employed by Bourdeau through the factory and 11 area subcontractors.
Bourdeau calculates he is indirectly responsible for thousands of other jobs, like the approximately 1,400 workers at Alcoa Inc.’s smelter in Baie Comeau, since his company buys tonnes of aluminum.
Domestic production is insisted upon – Bourdeau rebuffed a potential partner who wanted to have the ashtrays made for much less in China.
He likes the idea of a Quebec-made product being exported worldwide, a feat partially achieved with sales to the United States, Bermuda and Europe so far.
From the start, revenue was reinvested into the company, and last year he broke even.
None of the more than 4,000 of what Bourdeau calls indestructible urban ashtrays sold to date have been broken, and the new products promise to be as sturdy.
Although they carry a 10-year warranty, Bourdeau said they will easily last 25 years without rusting.
The tubular ashtrays can be seen all over Montreal either mounted to walls or to the ground in front of government offices, hospitals, financial institutions, bars and restaurants.
They also are found outside métro subway stations, the Bell Centre, university campuses, supermarkets, department stores and other businesses.
Bourdeau, who at 48 is an age that matches the number of hours he says are needed in a day, is hoping the new product line will prove to be as popular as the ashtrays.
Already, 150 of the garbage/recycle bins have been sold.
The early success of his ashtray business, sparked by Quebec’s smoking ban, has Bourdeau looking for the follow-up products to spread like wildfire.
On the Web: www.ikkwit.com