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Bon Débarras: The Garage Sale Spokesperson

Entrepreneur’s corner | Jul 24, 2019

Why just put up posters for your garage sale around your neighbourhood when the Bon Débarras platform can increase the scope of your event tenfold?

As the daughter of an antique dealer, Julie Magnien always had an interest in second-hand shops and garage sales. When she arrived in Québec in March 2016, she was surprised to find that people here were mostly limited to putting up posters around the neighbourhood to advertise their sales.

That gave her the idea of designing a platform for people wanting to get the word out on their sales, as well as for bargain hunters looking for deals and great finds. “Putting posters on lamp posts restricts your audience to the immediate area,” explained Ms. Magnien. “Displaying your information in advance on the Web attracts the attention of people who travel from farther away to browse the sales every weekend.”

“Bon Débarras has a much broader mission than to be just a distribution platform,” says the entrepreneur. “Its objective is twofold: to encourage the circular economy by supporting the reuse of used goods, and to promote mutual assistance among neighbours.”

Choose your team

Advertising your sale on Bon Débarras is free, so the site is financed by premium-type enhancements, such as those on classified ad sites. Another source of revenue is advertising, which Julie Magnien manages herself rather than using an agency. Thus, when a user clicks on a sale for more information, a banner appears on the right side of the screen with an advertisement.

The entrepreneur continued to remain technologically independent by enlisting the help of her spouse in carrying out several of the steps leading to the deployment of Bon Débarras. The company also uses a number of young Montreal computer programmers to handle more complex programming tasks since the website is “dynamic”: its content changes with user input.

Know your current and future markets

Since geolocation and a national focus are at central to her strategy, the founder of Bon Débarras had to take an accelerated course in Québec’s geography, as she had only moved here a year before launching her project. “I quickly had to learn where cities like Beloeil and Rivière-du-Loup are located. Moreover, I'm not yet sure if I can tell the difference between Lanaudière and Mauricie,” she says with a laugh.

Encourage the circular economy, support the reuse of used goods and promote mutual assistance among neighbours.

Another learning experience for Julie Magnien: the need to fill off-peak periods outside of peak garage sale periods. “The first winter was difficult because nothing was happening. To address this issue, we expanded our platform to include bazaars, thrift stores and charity sales.”

Figures and projects

In an effort to attract Internet users, Julie Magnien also regularly adds a variety of other related content to Bon Débarras: advice on organizing a sale, municipal regulations, history of various objects, storage tips, furniture and jewelry maintenance, etc.

Two years after its launch, approximately 5,000 sales have been announced on the site, which attracts 200 to 2,000 unique visitors daily, depending on the period. Visitors browse an average of six pages per visit. For the future, the deployment of an app is part of the entrepreneur’s business plan, as is a possible collaboration with a newspaper that would post on its own website or in a paper version the detailed map of the day's garage sales and yard sales.

How PME MTL made the difference for Bon Débarras

“The PME MTL team contacted me after my participation in the OSEntreprendre Challenge, as they liked the innovative aspect of Bon Débarras. I took the opportunity to point out my networking and publicity issues. PME MTL advised me on how to write my business plan and how to use certain tools to increase my presence. For example, being too narrowly focused on my project, I didn't use LinkedIn's capabilities to the maximum. From a personal point of view, it really helped my self-esteem to see how much PME MTL believed in me.”

Julie Magnien's advice for start-up entrepreneurs:

“Perseverance is required. Don't give everything up at the first hurdle, because that’s a part of the learning process. Also, be realistic and don’t imagine yourself going public six months after the launch of your project. An idea evolves and gets refined over time; the important thing is to believe in it!”

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Bon Débarras is supported by PME MTL Centre-Ouest

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