Interview Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Laurent Laferriere, Oatbox & Natalie Voland, President of Gestion immobilière Quo Vadis meeting Barack Obama at his Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley


AARON: She’s doing something completely different, it’s not a product, but a service. Natalie just explain exactly what it is you do with historical buildings.

NATALIE: We take buildings that were originally created for a single purpose, as in, for example, a manufacturing company, like Dominion textiles and we repurpose the building for entrepreneurs.

Ideally, the idea is to create social missions around helping entrepreneurs create the attention to continue to get higher jobs. Jobs are the thing that make people change their social situations, so can we actually use real estate which is usually a very profit driven only, short term kind of investment and look at them as these buildings that were historically places to connect people and create a huge amount of jobs, so can we create that new vocation around entrepreneurship and for us we are social entrepreneurs, we help to reinvest in our communities and our environments as well.

AARON: One of the things you’ve done recently is you’ve actually took a church and converted it right?

NATALIE: Exactly. It was I guess a very challenging project because these are so many social stigmas associated to real estate and developers in general and there’s emotionally charged around churches. We have a lot of churches in Montreal. These are civic assets. They worked to connect people before around religion. So is there a way that we can create a new opportunity to continue connecting people and can we do it round entrepreneurship? We now work with the Quartier Innovation which is created through McGill and ETS University, which now has Concordia University and two universities joining us soon about how we can use students in our entrepreneurship opportunities. We have large companies like Richter, McMillan, Videotron and BBC, who are working directly with small businesses, nonprofits and local citizens of Little Burgundy .

AARON: Now is this for profit what you’re doing?

NATALIE: Yes. So we are a B Corporation. We are actually one of the first Quebec B-Corps. We are a certified business that believes in profit obviously, but we also have equal bottom line around being environmental stewards and community developers at the same time. The certification is quite rigorous. We have to do it every two years but it actually creates the opportunity of how we run our business around local employment, around job creation, around procure policies and environment stewardship.

AARON: I’m just going to ask you one thing, I know you’re meeting the president tomorrow, so what are you going to tell the president when you meet him?

NATALIE: I’m not sure. I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m going to be star struck. I think a lot of the things he is doing is just completely and utterly mind blowing. Changing world dynamics!

Actually, I spoke this morning about how entrepreneurship is the grand leveller. How we can create a tie through many different countries around the world and create peace and prosperity around the understanding that we are all human. We can all work together. If we can stop focusing on our differences and focused on our similarities, life could be a little bit different… So I think I might be star struck!

AARON: You can be star struck for a second, then you can shake his hand and something will come into your mind. You sound like an incredibly intelligent young lady, so congratulations to you for just being there. Don’t leave Montreal okay?

NATALIE: I plan not to. Montreal needs to have opportunities to have people stay there. To give amazing ideas and to start building the world.

AARON:  Way to go Natalie. Thanks so much!

Link of the interview