Ever wonder what would happen if a bunch of rebels got into the hardware industry? The design possibilities would be endless. Such is the story of Hardware Rebels, a 2019 established Design & trading company specializing in furniture components and system design as well as local and international sourcing strategies.
Marie-Claude Desjardins, Owner and COO, an industrial designer by profession and a certified project manager by trade shares with us, “Hardware Rebels is a company that encompasses three strategic poles with the aim of offering to North American businesses working in the commercial and residential furniture markets to import directly from overseas, with, in addition, local support on market knowledge, specialized hardware product design expertise and offshore supply management.”
Among other things, what sets this company apart is the three fearless women doing what some might consider a “man’s job”, and breaking boundaries like never before.
The Building Blocks
Since its inception not too long ago, Hardware Rebels has established itself as a premier product designer, offering organizations support from the smallest level of industrial design all the way to complete turnkey assistance. Their expertise lies in new component development and specific component development for government projects, businesses, as well as other short-term window projects.
On the mission to make a difference in people’s lives through smarter designs, creative solutions, and out-of-the-box thinking, Hardware Rebels self-identifies as the new species of distributor and importer with industrial design capabilities, logistics proficiency, and technical know-how.
“We specialize in the design of adjustable table mechanisms and wall bed mechanisms as well as all the hardware surrounding these two types of products, such as decorative handles and legs, cable management options, specialized power bars, as well as more traditional hardware such as slides and hinges for furniture,” comments Marie.
At the moment the company operates out of its Canadian offices, showroom, and warehouse in Hawkesbury Ontario, and is in the process of finalizing the purchase of a second commercial building in Quebec. Additionally, they have two offices in Asia which allow seamless overseas operations and imports.
Turning Concepts to Reality
Marie’s journey in the hardware and furniture industry began soon after she graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design. “I like how fast-paced and interesting the industry is, and the various types of projects I can work on from designing a new product or component to machinery to prevent injuries or even new programs for major retailers,” she mentions.
Having worked for various reputed manufacturing and distribution companies throughout her life, Marie came to the realization that she wanted to break free from the “usual” offerings and push her limits. She soon decided to launch her own brand of hardware design and procurement services, and has never looked back since. “As a single mom with no safety net, I jumped into a gigantic void of unknowns to start my own business.” “It is by far the hardest job I have ever had, but it’s the most fun, the most rewarding, and the one I am most proud of,” she smiles.
Today, Marie works with a team of some of the most capable designers, builders, and logistics experts in the North America, bringing some of the most unique hardware solutions to the market. She feels proud of what she and her team have achieved in such a short time, surpassing all their initial objectives to thrive economically.
In her free time, Marie regularly participates in webinars and conferences in order to stay current and learn new skills. She enjoys spending as much time as she can with her boys and can be often spotted in one of her muscle cars rumbling along the highway.
Knocking Down Barriers
The industrial design and import business have always been more male-dominated than other industries. This is a fact that Marie got familiar with at an early stage of her career. She notes, “It is a recurring theme in the wood and hardware industry that it is primarily male-dominated, therefore making my place hasn’t always been easy.” With resilience and focus, not only has she created her own path and place in this area but has also empowered other women to do the same.
Creating her Own Path
Oriana Ortega, Strategic Project Manager, and fellow Rebel was born and raised in Venezuela where she studied electronic engineering. She shares, “The gender gap is an unfortunate reality present in many sectors, for example in Latin America less than 40% of women decide to go for a career related to technology; sadly, for those who decide to chase it only about 12% will finish.”
As an immigrant, a woman, and an engineer, Oriana has had to push herself beyond her comfort level and stay motivated in order to find her professional footing. Always open to new challenges, she believes in keeping an open mind and never quitting, a trait she learned from her mother.
Oriana joined Hardware Rebels two years ago where she is currently responsible for managing the projects related to key customers along with those related to the company’s expansion. She has also developed new tools and procedures that enhance internal and external communication that has supported the business’ growth.
“The appeal of Hardware Rebels lies not only in the passion that its founders feel for what they do but also in the constant desire to innovate. As a team, we are always looking for new ideas on how to create new components or revamp the existing ones,” says Ortega.
Oriana hopes to be a role model to her son, teaching him the values of gender equality and equal rights for all. To other women working on creating their own paths, she says, “Be authentic, speak up, and don’t forget to help another woman that is passing through the path you already did.”
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Another such example is that of Carla Berganza, Logistics Coordinator at Hardware Rebels and Chemical Engineer by trade. Having finished her bachelor’s degree just before the pandemic hit, Carla found herself at a pivotal moment in her career. “With the Hardware Rebels’ job offer, I was at a point where I either start the process to become a member of the OIQ (Ordre des Ingénieurs de Québec) or decide to go into hardware, a field I knew almost nothing about.”
When she first met her future bosses, Carla quickly became comfortable with the environment and felt it extremely easy to talk with them. “I also loved the fact that it was a woman as head of the company and after googling her a bit, I realized that she is remarkable,” she shares. She had initially decided to give this new professional role a shot and see where it leads. Today, Carla has happily found her place within the organization overseeing local and international logistical operations for the company. “I have absolutely no regret, I have learned so much in these few months, not only about hardware, but also about logistics, sales, and accounting,” she shares.
Dealing with her share of male-associated prejudice along the way, Carla has overcome major challenges to create her own reputed stand. She finds her motivation in successful women who have broken glass ceilings and created their own paths to success. Their determination, passion, and confidence to be themselves despite society’s pressure have always been admirable to Carla.
Carla’s advice to other young professionals like her is, “Keep pushing through, even if you feel that you are not making much difference, you are.”
A People-first Approach
Looking back, Marie feels proud of what she has achieved. Not only has she created her own professional route map, but has also assisted others along the way as well. To her, the Hardware Rebels team is the biggest strength of her organization. She believes in being transparent and keeping an open channel of communication with all her employees. “At Hardware Rebels, it’s very important for us to share with our team, implicate them, make them feel like they matter and do make a difference and we strongly believe that it’s a key ingredient in our success,” she shares.
As a leader and a mentor, Marie’s current focus is to help her team grow, learn new skills, develop their abilities and create the strongest Rebels possible. She also participates in local school conferences in which she educates kids about project management, industrial design, and what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Her advice to entrepreneurs all over the world is – “Don’t give up and don’t believe those who would tell you that you are crazy. Use it instead as fuel to succeed.”