Brian French

Forty under 40 winner 2017: President, Peregrine Retail Design Manufacturing, Age 38 
| Chung Chow

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again. These are words that Brian French, president of Peregrine Retail Design Manufacturing, knows all too well.

For French, his breakthrough moment came after his attempt to start his own company. After experiencing limited success with it in 2010, French had a better idea. Rather than starting from Square 1, why not buy a company and build it from there?

Two years later, French and his business partner, Tim Bell, bought Peregrine. The plastic manufacturing company had been viable and stable enough to survive the onslaught of offshore manufacturing that affected large swaths of the industry at the time. However, French was convinced it was falling far short of its potential. 

“We saw that it had this little niche that we thought we could expand on with some sweat equity,” he said.

That sweat equity came in the form of developing new processes and systems to help turn Peregrine from a small but profitable plastic manufacturer into Western Canada’s largest custom retail fixture manufacturer and design company.

Instead of manufacturing products from designs that French described as “napkin sketches,” he and his partner created and incorporated a custom design service component. It helped to expand the company’s ability to customize jobs and service a wider range of diverse customer demands.

Little did French know that he was developing a talent for restructuring and revitalizing existing businesses. Three years after buying Peregrine, French and his partner bought Stelmark Products Inc., a Burnaby-based millwork and signage company that had recently gone bankrupt.

Peregrine’s revenue and employee base have increased approximately 800% since its purchase. While it seems obvious now that French made the right decision, moving from drawing a stable paycheque as a PwC auditor to running his own venture wasn’t an easy choice.

“When you’re going to something that’s quite unknown and people are looking to you to keep their paycheque going, that was the biggest fear at the time,” he said.

Birthplace: Rossland

Where you live now: North Vancouver

Highest level of education: Bachelor of finance, University of Calgary

Currently reading: Business Adventures by John Brooks

Currently listening to: Kings of Leon

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: National Hockey League player

Profession you would most like to try: Professional water-skier

Toughest business or professional decision: Taking the leap to buy Peregrine and leave a steady job

Advice you would give the younger you: Be a little more patient

What’s left to do: Grow Peregrine and look for more opportunities

Join us to celebrate the 2017 Forty under 40 Awards on January 23, 2018, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit http://www.biv.com/events/40under40 

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