On November 11, 2017, Mathieu Sévigny played a match like the others. It was the 20 th season of the Victoriaville Tigres, against the Olympiques in Gatineau. Except behind the facade, this match was nothing ordinary.
That day, Sevigny missed the funeral of his childhood friend, Dannick Breton. By his own admission, Sevigny is not particularly religious. Yet that day he talked to his friend wherever he was, and he asked for help. That match, he scored two goals, lucky goals. The puck on the stick, kind of almost too good to be true.
“I always said it was because of him. Who knows… ”
A few days earlier, Dannick Breton had ended his life, at only 19 years old. However, from the outside, everything seemed to go well for the young man. He played for Southern Maine University in the third division of the NCAA. He had life in front of him.
Breton and Sevigny were close for a long time. They both came from the Quebec City area. They had gone to primary school together. They had gone to high school together. They had played hockey together. They had even won together, in the Remparts uniform, at the Quebec pee-wee tournament in 2011.
They kept in touch, spoke each week despite the distance. Sevigny never foresaw the irreparable gesture of his friend. ” No sign. It’s not money that makes happiness, it’s not success that makes you happy. He was in an American college, I saw him less often, but I saw him a lot in the summer. The mood does not necessarily appear through a text message. You do not necessarily feel it. ”
Mourning a loved one is never a simple thing. But the mourning of a loved one who has committed suicide often comes with some guilt. There are many ways to react, like the quest for why or the dark ideas. For Sevigny, the answer has never been in doubt.
“I did not want him to take his life, let us mourn and forget about it. ”
Hence the creation of the clothing company Black and White, with his teammate, friend and now business partner Félix Paré.
The birth of the project
Paré and Sévigny had arranged to meet us at the Desjardins Coliseum in Victoriaville, after their end-of-season report. The page was barely turned after the dry elimination in four games against the powerful Huskies of Rouyn-Noranda. They were preparing to return to their lands near Quebec City.
After a few minutes of discussion, we immediately see that the young men of 19 and 21 years respectively are of nature endowed with a good dose of spirit of entrepreneurship. And a lot of resourcefulness.
They had been working for a while to find a common project, any project. They had the ideas, before agreeing on a clothing company. Paré’s mother works in the field, the inheritance was almost logical. It is also the idea that has excited the most enthusiasm among their teammates Tigers, which they emphasize the unwavering support.
“In the beginning, we talked about business ideas that we wanted to start,” said Paré. We arrived with the idea of sweaters. Why not sweaters? Everyone needs jerseys. After, we thought: as long as we do that, we could find a cause. ”
One plus one equals two. Sevigny was in mourning, the two aspiring entrepreneurs had their idea. So they made Black and White a company that would also do something useful.
Visit the Black and White Online Shop
They have teamed up with the Quebec Suicide Prevention Center (CPSQ). For each item sold, $ 2 is donated to the center. They made their first donation at the beginning of the week, a great moment of pride for them.
“I saw that it really touched him,” said Paré. If one of his friends who played hockey, who had a bright future in front of him, committed suicide, there are certainly many others who could come to Quebec. We went to meet the Center. They told us that there were a lot of suicides in Quebec, more than we thought. We just wanted to get the message that it is there and that if someone needs help, we can contribute. We are here for that. ”
It is true that the statistics are alarming. Three Quebeckers commit suicide every day. One in five teenagers have thought about it in the last twelve months, according to the CPSQ. The Prevention Center conducts an average of 22,000 telephone calls per year.
The name of the company also reflects the purpose, and it is so. That’s why brainstorming for the name was one of the hardest steps. With the final product, Black and White, the positive and the negative, the light and the shadow. A name that reminds that it is sometimes easy, too easy even, to switch from one to the other.
PHOTO FROM THE FACEBOOK PAGE OF DANNICK BRETON
Paré started designing the logo and clothing design. A long trial and error exercise for him, who has no training in the field. And to remember that the company exists in memory of Dannick Breton, his last hockey number, the 21st, is embroidered on the sleeve of some models.
“I would not say that it helps me to mourn, but it can help others to mourn. ”
Sevigny recovers after reflection.
“It helped me, yes. I can say that it helped me to mourn. I think a lot about him. We also want to help all the other families. For example, I know a family that meets every year in memory of one of its members who committed suicide. They all decided to buy a sweater. If it can help other families, that’s fine. ”
Later in the conversation, Sévigny turns to Paré. He tells him that the company, in his opinion, would not exist if his friend was still alive. That the two young men would have another project, but not that one. This project, Black and White, goes well beyond financial considerations.
“I learned that it could happen to everyone,” said Sevigny. It woke me up that those who need help will not necessarily say it. It was a tragic event. For the family too, whom I knew a lot. I could not leave Dan in oblivion a year later … ”
Trial and error
If there is a saturated area, it is that of clothing. So how do you get by when the main resource comes down to two young men, Félix Paré and Mathieu Sévigny, players of the Victoriaville Tigers? Two young men certainly motivated, but still.
“We went by trial and error,” says Paré. We did not know what we were getting into. It was just fun to fail on something banal, like embroidery, or find the name, and learn from that. ”
It was explained in the other text, the name was indeed painful to find, because of the deep meaning that the partners wanted to give it. The logo is the result of more or less conclusive experiments of Paré, who knew nothing about it, by his own admission. Then, you had to create a stock.
Pare and Sevigny themselves have advanced the money to buy blank versions of each of their articles, in all sizes. A good puncture in their portfolios not enough filled with hockey players of the QMJHL.
At first they ordered the items from a Montreal company, which shipped them to an embroidery shop in Quebec. From there, the finished clothes finished their journey in the house of the family which welcomes Sévigny. Either Sévigny would pick them up himself in Quebec, or he would take advantage of the passage of his parents who came to see his matches in Victoriaville. Gradually, in the face of growing demand, entrepreneurs managed to blow up the stage of ordering the items themselves. It is now the task of Quebec embroidery to stock up.
In the evenings, Paré finds himself at Sévigny to take inventory, and the two players of the Victoriaville Tigres pack the parcels themselves. In short, we must want it.
“We looked at our cell phones and we saw: well, tonight we have five orders to send by mail, explained Paré. I went to his house because all the vests and equipment are at his pension. ”
“Our shop is at my pension,” says Sévigny. He goes on to explain that the dozen boxes of clothing are piled up in a corner of the basement at the people who host it during the hockey season.
Pare and Sevigny were surprised to see the interest they managed to arouse in a short time. They receive at least one order each day. Their initial inventory of items ran out very quickly and they had to recommend everything, much faster than they had expected.
“We did not really force, we did not do anything,” said Sevigny. We just let go of orders. No advertising, not a lot of competition. We focused on school and hockey, thinking we were going to focus on jerseys in the summer. ”
One, each Tigers player bought a jersey to encourage the fledgling company, and the cause it represented. In two, they also received the support of a prominent player in the NHL, and eminently friendly, Samuel Girard.
In early April, the Colorado Avalanche defender released a photo of him wearing a Black and White sweatshirt. He added the following words, and suddenly stirred curiosity: “You will like @ blackwhite.company. Go buy clothes for a good cause. Girard even wore these clothes during televised interviews.
“It has been easy,” explained Sevigny. He was attentive to our project. I know him for a while. We have the same agency, we played hockey against each other when we were younger. He loved the idea. I sent him the sweater, he found it super beautiful and comfortable. He decided to thank us in another way. We thank him very much. ”
So Pare and Sévigny now dream bigger. They are in contact with other NHL players who could accept the role of volunteer ambassador. They aim to add to their collection of training clothes (they are, after all, hockey players). They will also gain visibility through the Quebec Suicide Prevention Center, which will invite them to their various events.
“The next step might be to partner with hockey schools,” adds Sevigny, in full boiling. We go from day to day. The season has just finished. We did not really think about anything else. But we have several doors that open. ”
Next season, Pare, 19, will be back at the junior Tigres. Sevigny, 21, hopes to continue playing hockey in Europe. He has been involved in sport all his life since he is the son of former Montreal Canadiens Pierre Sévigny. But the company has awakened in them something.
“There are a lot of clothing companies,” said Pare. It is not an obligation that is related to a cause, but with his deceased friend, it became important to have one. We did not do that for the money, we did it for the cause. The more it goes, the more we say that it works. If it can continue, we will not stop. When I go to his pension to make parcels or inventory, it is not work. It is also done for pleasure. ”