Skip to main content

Laurent Champagne, left, Karl Pineault and Vincent Villemure Duchesneau hope to set up their Free Spirit Hostel in Nicaragua in October.

When Karl Pineault and his partners, Laurent Champagne and Vincent Villemure Duchesneau, say their business plan is to catch the next wave, that's literally what they mean.

The three entrepreneurs studied together, they've resided together and now they're living their dream together. In a few weeks, they're setting up The Free Spirit Hostel, a surfing and yoga retreat in Nicaragua aimed at 18 to 35 year olds.

They are, like, totally serious dudes – MBA grads from Laval University in Quebec City, with a business plan and funds. They're taking an unconventional path toward answering that cosmic career question: What do you really want?

"During the last two years, our notion of success drastically changed," Mr. Pineault says. "We decided we didn't want to live the same lives as everybody else. We wanted to achieve our deepest dreams."

Along with dreams, "We have on our team an accountant, a marketing guy and an international trade agent," he adds.

As a marketing tool, the three partners document every step toward establishing their hostel on their blog, which includes videos showing their progress.

The three plan to set up in Nicaragua in October, with about $100,000 that they have put together. They achieved this sum through aggressive saving, a crowdfunding campaign that wraps up Friday and, to top it off, an event they're holding in Quebec City before they leave, where they'll teach surfing techniques, offer yoga classes and have a live band.

"We all had some savings a year ago. When we decided to leave for good, we looked for the amount required to build our dream hostel and split that amount into four," Mr. Pineault says. "The first three parts come from the partners and the last from the crowdfunding campaign [and the Quebec City event]. When our campaign on Indiegogo finishes, we should be where we want."

Indeed, they are. The Free Spirit Indiegogo campaign has exceeded the $15,000 goal the trio set when they launched it on the crowdfunding site Aug. 11.

Through Indiegogo and their Facebook page, the partners enticed donors with perks ranging from "your name on the Free Spirit minibus next to the name of your lover/bro/sista" to tank tops and, for larger donors, a package of free surf-and-yoga nights at the hostel.

Mr. Pineault says they also get a lot of queries from would-be larger investors or potential partners, "but we're not ready to bring in somebody before seeing what we can really do." If they need extra capital later to expand or start a second hostel, "We will think about them," he says.

"People are interested in our project because they know that Nicaragua is the next Costa Rica [a popular tourist destination for winter-stricken Canadians and others]. We know there is competition in this area, but we are going to Nicaragua because the country is only starting to get touristy."

For all their dreams, the three are risk averse when it comes to borrowing. "We think that the ideal mix of lenders and borrowers is none of them," Mr. Pineault says. "We believe that all the stress in life comes from owing somebody."

Gearing toward youth, they want to stay on the inexpensive side for travellers. "We are not looking to build a resort-style hostel. We want to create a friendly and entertaining place, where people can enjoy the two arts [surfing and yoga] in a different way. We don't want to take all the customers' money but to make a change in their world."

Mr. Pineault admits that, "The biggest problem we have encountered so far has been friends and family doubting our project." The three are going to give the venture at least five years – the length of time that the Nicaraguan government grants visas to investors.

The three are aware that it's easy for partnerships based on friendship and good times to go sour when the mundane pressures of business intervene. "We believe in communication," Mr. Pineault says. "We know there will be some tensions. When we first started, we all wanted to do every task, but after a couple of months we only took on the tasks that each of us was better at doing, and then everything fell into place."

To make sure that things stay in place, they have established a governance that, while not particularly formal, at least has some structure.

"Every week we do a meeting. The important thing is to have those meetings to see where we are and then plan for the following week. By being three, we find it easy to make decisions because it can always end up being two versus one. The great thing about our partnership is that we always listen to the lone one, too, to find a place where every partner is happy."

Follow us @GlobeSmallBiz, on Pinterest and Instagram
Join our Small Business LinkedIn group
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter