Mantra Pharma is a pharmaceutical and health company. Stéphane Turcotte, the company’s founder, and his partners Jean- François Letarte, Pierre Cadrin, Olivier Paquet, and Maxime Deslauriers, are constantly striving to stand out from the crowd. No matter the department, the five men at the head of Mantra Pharma are always guided by their noble mission: helping to provide better care.
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Learning on the road
During his studies in marketing, Stéphane Turcotte quicky realizes that he has a knack for sales.
He begins his career as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, taking part in the early days of generic drugs in Quebec.
In 1992, fresh from his degree at the Université de Sherbrooke, Stéphane travels the roads of the province as a pharmaceutical sales representative.
From Drummondville to Gaspé and from Trois-Rivières to Sept-Îles, the young professional performs well and achieves great results. In 2001, he is promoted to sales director. Three years later, a surprising restructuring leads to him losing his job.
“I’d been with the company for thirteen years. It was like a sucker punch; I really hadn’t seen it coming.”
Stéphane then finds a job with a small, family-owned generic drugs business. Eleven months later, his position is abolished.
I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen a third time, so I went into business myself!
A crucial first contract
In order to set his project on a solid foundation, Stéphane knows he has to surround himself with skilled people. So, he reaches out to two former colleagues who had just obtained a Canadian distribution contract for Ranbaxy, an Indian generic drugs company.
“I told them: I want to become your broker for Quebec.”
Many people at the time try to dissuade Stéphane from going ahead with his project. Despite this, he remains focused on his goal.
I never had a doubt.
A solid bond of trust exists between Stéphane and his former colleagues, and the business plan that he presented convinces them that they are looking at an optimal solution that would guarantee success. Stéphane thus gets the exclusive Ranbaxy distribution contract for the province.
Consequently, this business opportunity gives birth to Mantra Pharma, in April 2006.
With the Ranbaxy contract in hand, Stéphane has to build the team that will accompany him on this great adventure. To achieve this, he tries to convince people with stable jobs to join him.
That’s when stress kicked in!
Thankfully, everything falls into place rather quickly. Over the summer, Stéphane partners up with his former colleague Normand Cantin. A first representative, Pascale Comeau, also joins the ranks of Mantra Pharma.
“We started doing representation across pharmacies in Quebec!”
Normand and Stéphane want to surround themselves with partners who will be able to bring in revenue for the business. One thing leading to another, Normand recruits his friend Pierre Cadrin, who has a number of contacts. Stéphane then sends feelers out to Jean-François Letarte, a major accounts manager whom he had met on many occasions at conventions.
“Pierre put together the company’s entire administrative structure. Jean-François had a good knowledge of the market and many contacts in head offices of pharmacy banners.”
In September, Stéphane Turcotte, Normand Cantin, Pierre Cadrin and Jean-François Letarte sign an even-split shareholder agreement. A second representative, Olivier Paquet, is also hired in October. Six people now work full-time at Mantra Pharma.
“At the time, we didn’t have a place of business, so we were going out on the road with our suitcases. If we absolutely had to organize a meeting, we would rent a room in a hotel.”
Pierre Cadrin et Jean-François Letarte
Building a brand
The four partners expect to receive an impressive influx of drugs from Ranbaxy and become wealthy in no time. Reality, however, is quite different.
“Just as we were getting ready for some big launches, new drugs were arriving in dribs and drabs. We were really disappointed.”
Undaunted, the partners decide to represent other companies, provided that they do not compete with Ranbaxy. In 2009, they take a decisive step.
We thought: why not develop our own products too? So, we launched mcal®, our own brand of calcium supplements.
Two years later, Osteoporosis Canada issues guidelines for doctors: calcium supplements must now provide more vitamin D. To meet these requirements, Mantra Pharma innovates with the creation of two new products, mcal® d800 and mcal® d1000.
We were ahead of the curve.
Overnight, the representatives have to promote these supplements to doctors – a whole new clientele. The result is the creation of Mantra Medical, a division managed by Olivier Paquet. Its mission is to raise doctor’s awareness of the importance of preventing bone disease.
Myriad, Mantra Pharma’s little brother
In 2011, several partners reach out to Mantra Pharma about representing their over-the- counter products. At the time, the company’s primary mission is to sell generic laboratory drugs to pharmacists, while over-the-counter drugs are targeted to pharmacy chains and managers.
So, we created Myriad Pharma to develop this second sales force.
In 2013, in the face of fierce competition in the pharmaceutical market, Mantra Pharma actively seeks a new way to stand out. The partners thus decide to exploit the professional services option.
“We developed a range of training courses to maximize the efficiency of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.”
To do so, Mantra Pharma joins forces with the company L’Appui et le beau temps, with whom the partners develop an excellent relationship.
A first place of business
The time has now come for Mantra Pharma to secure its foothold. A first office opens in Brossard in May. Two years later, Normand and Pierre express their wish to also establish the company in the city of Quebec, their home base.
We bought a building in Lévis that housed a small warehouse. That was our first acquisition.
The building is next door to Voltimage, Mantra Pharma’s logistics partner, which warehouses, invoices and delivers products to wholesalers, chains and various banners in Quebec.
2017 : the dawn of a new era
Normand Cantin leaves for a well-deserved retirement as Olivier Paquet and Maxime Deslauriers join the team of shareholders. At the same time, product prices and profits begin to fall considerably, as the partners have no control over the price of generic drugs, which are set by the government.
To increase our commissions, we absolutely had to boost our sales volume. So, we decided to launch our own generic molecules.
The company invests heavily in having its own products manufactured and hiring people with scientific backgrounds. The complementary skills of the new shareholders, Maxime and Olivier, translate into a major contribution to the success of this transition in Mantra Pharma’s business model.
“The offer of professional services would now be our differentiating factor, so it was clear that the acquisition of L’Appui et le beau temps would be another very promising strategy for us.”
This new company would now be called Mantra Solutions.
Maxime Deslauriers et Olivier Paquet
© Stephane Groleau
Clients you can count on
By launching their own products, the Mantra Pharma partners doubt that their customer base will follow them. Big surprise: several people make the switch, and the company even attracts new customers who quickly see all the benefits of Mantra Solutions’ professional services.
They were telling us: you are Quebec entrepreneurs, you have your own brand, we will support you!
Helping to provide better care
The partners implement innovative strategies and recruit a number of employees. To ensure the consistency of their actions and decisions, they take the time to clarify their mission.
“We don’t claim to provide care. Our expertise lies in offering services that will give pharmacists, doctors, nurse practitioners and nutritionists the tools they need to practice their profession more efficiently.”
So, in 2018, the company’s positioning is reviewed, and the slogan “We help provide better care.” is officially created.
One step closer towards expansion
In 2020, an interesting business opportunity appears on the horizon. The associates acquire Voltimage, their warehousing partner.
“We had reached a point in our growth where we wanted to own our own warehouse.”
Mantra Pharma sets up a new building in Lévis, comprising a 7,000-square-foot office space and a 28,000-square-foot warehouse. This project, under Pierre’s masterful leadership, requires a major investment by the company. The official ground-breaking ceremony takes place in July 2020.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Olivier works incredibly hard to overcome the many supply-related challenges. At the same time, the Quebec government is asking pharmacists to get involved in the vast vaccination campaign. However, some of them are reluctant to do so, as they had not been trained for such duties during their university courses.
“We put together a training plan that was accredited by the Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec. It was directly in line with our mission to help provide better care.”
The Mantra Solutions team buys several dummies with fake arms and trains over 1,500 professionals.
Facing global shortage
Over time, Mantra Pharma develops an increasing amount of niche products. In December 2022, after four years of rigorous work by Maxime and his team, the company launches M Amoxi Clav, a suspension antibiotic for children. With the original product in short supply, the timing could not have been better.
We were offering a unique product that was in high demand. We were able to sell it everywhere in Canada, whereas before we were confined to Quebec.
Mantra Pharma never stopped growing. The company now employs 130 people nationwide, and three of their niche products are sold across Canada. Thanks to the partners’ innovation, the company is an industry leader in professional services.
“We’re based in Quebec, but we have suppliers in the U.S., India, Europe… all over the world! We started from very little, which is impressive and makes us very proud.”
Vision and values...
Ready for everything
The five partners at Mantra Pharma are always looking for ways to stand out, and they know that they have to remain agile. To achieve this, they have swapped being on the road for management in the office.
“When you work in the field, you can’t spot every opportunity.”
Business opportunities have been plentiful, and Mantra Pharma has managed to capitalize on them.
In 2015, noticing that people suffering from dysphagia have difficulty swallowing large tablets, the partners innovate by developing a liquid version of calcium citrate that is easy to swallow and digest.
It’s now one of our flagship products!
Even though Mantra Pharma has grown from six to 130 employees, people still feel at home there.
We’ve managed to maintain a family atmosphere despite our growth.
Every year, Jean-François leads the popular Synergie day. This event is an opportunity to share the company’s vision with all employees and offer them a team-building activity.
“We publish the “Mantrayen” three times a year. It’s our in-house newsletter, packed with anecdotes. We just love having fun at work!”
In December, the management also organizes a big “family celebration”, which is always eagerly anticipated and very festive.
Since 2015, Mantra Pharma supports the Procure organisation, helping men battling prostate cancer and their families. The company puts its sales force to work for the cause to promote prevention.
We’re very proud to support Procure, we play a very important role for them.
A story built on respect
Since the launch of Mantra Pharma, the partners have always shown great respect for one another.
When the company began reevaluating its positioning in 2017, some of the partners were not as convinced as than others over the definite option to choose.
When the decision was made, everyone pulled in the same direction.
To achieve such success, the key is to surround yourself with competent people you can trust.
“Mantra Pharma is already 17 years old. It’s a great story. We would never have been able to get the company to where it is today if we’d been on our own.”
Behind the scenes...
Intuitive and ambitious
Founder and Vice-President, Marketing
Stéphane has always been drawn to the world of business. As a teenager, he cuts his teeth working for his grandfather’s building material company in Gaspésie. He quickly discovers that living in the country is not an option for him! His dream of a successful university education leads him to Sherbrooke, where, unbeknownst to him, his path to entrepreneurship begins tontake shape.
Driven by challenges, creativity and innovation, Stéphane has rallied talented people around him to make Mantra Pharma a success!
The born entrepreneur
Jean-François has always hoped to have his own company. At just 21 years of age, he becomes an entrepreneur alongside his uncle in the sun lotion industry. After that, he works as a representative for a generic drugs company, expanding his knowledge of this industry.
At the age of 40, he desire to go into business is rekindled. Meeting Stéphane was a defining moment for him, much to his delight.
Today, Jean-François feels firmly at the right place and is proud to be working with his four brothers-in-arms in such a successful business.
An ace in the hole
It is during a fishing trip with his friend Normand Cantin, now retired, that Pierre expresses his interest in joining Mantra Pharma. Even though he is his brother’s right-hand man, who owns around forty community pharmacies, Pierre feels a strong desire to buy shares in a company.
With a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in small business management under his belt, he is responsible for Mantra Pharma’s entire administrative and financial structure, as well as handling human resources. Talk about versatility!
The one who climbed the ladder
Olivier has been a part of Mantra Pharma’s history from the outset, having worked for several years as a representative.
In 2013, his knowledge and skills in working with doctors lead him to become director of the company’s medical division, before signing a shareholder agreement in 2017. Versatile and extremely skilled in the field of IT, Olivier now has a role akin to that of a managing director.
Among other things, he manages everything that has to do with supply, a department of vital importance for Mantra Pharma.
And last but not least!
Vice-President, Scientific Affairs & Business Development
From his beginnings as a representative in 2008 to director of business development in 2013, Maxime became a partner at Mantra Pharma in 2017. He manages the scientific aspects as well as business development. Thanks to his instincts, creativity and vision, niche products are making their way into the company’s portfolio, contributing to Mantra Pharma’s expansion outside Quebec.
It goes without saying that Maxime is largely responsible for the company’s exponential growth. We can bet that he will propel it even further!
An outline of the future...
What tomorrow holds
Over the coming years, the Mantra Pharma partners will be working harder than ever to honour their mission: helping to provide better care.
To achieve this, they will bring other niche products to the market, as well as several first-wave products following patent expiry. They will also launch a biosimilar, a living, non-identical product that is very different from what they have marketed so far. The five executives also want to increase their market share in Quebec and further their expansion across Canada.
Considering the speed at which the company is growing, there is no doubt they will succeed!
Mantra pharma – English
1000, rue Du Lux, bureau 201
Brossard (Québec) J4Y 0E3
4865, rue De la Pascaline
Lévis (Québec) G6W 0L9
Publishing Director: Audrey Dallaire
Author: Anne-Sophie Brunelle
Translator: Frédérick Poulin
Graphic design: Liliane Racine
Graphic designer: Marie-Hélène Taillon
Proofreading: Céline Chabot