In honour of the Champlain Saint-Lambert’s 50th anniversary, the college has followed up with 50 of its alumni to see where their paths have led after their time in Cegep. These 50 former students have gone on to accomplish amazing things and their paths show just how much is possible for a Champlain grad.
Pino Di Ioia
This Champlain grad found sweet success with Beavertails.
Pino Di Ioia had an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age.
He started his first business when he was 11 years old, selling soft drinks next to a golf course by his house.
Now the CEO of Beavertails, Di Ioia (Social Science, 1988) worked his way up to become the head of the quintessentially Canadian brand.
It was a happy coincidence that Di Ioia got involved with Beavertails in the 1980s when the company began to expand its stores outside of Ottawa.
Di Ioia, who was the student council president at Champlain, was in the right place at the right time when a Beavertails manager knocked and asked to place an ad in the student paper, The Bugle.
“Low and behold, it was so enticing I applied,” said Di Ioia. He started working mopping floors at a Beavertails shop located at La Ronde amusement park.
He said at that time, “nobody in Quebec knew what a beavertail was.”
So how did Di Ioia go from selling Beavertails to running the company?
“Funny things happen when they don’t fire you,” he joked. “I’ve done every job at this company from employee to CEO.”
Di Ioia became the first Beavertails franchisee when he bought the two locations which had been set up in Montreal in 1993. He was 24 years old.
Di Ioia said he took the train up to Ottawa and offered to buy the stores “on a lark.”
He said the owners must have thought he was a crazy kid, but they agreed.
Di Ioia continued to open franchises in Quebec and was approached in 2001 to take over leadership of the chain along with his business partners.
He moved the company’s headquarters to Montreal and started to make changes.
The Beavertails brand got a big bump in 2010 after then U.S. President Barack Obama paid a visit to a store in Ottawa during a visit.
“We understood in that moment what ‘an Oprah moment’ was,” said Di Ioia. “The chain jumped about 20 per cent and it never went down.”
Di Ioia said by 2019, Beavertails had hit an all-time record for sales and new franchises opening. Despite a lot of businesses taking a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said luckily his stores had been spared.
“COVID really made people ditch the diet,” he joked. “People realized they needed their happiness more than ever.”
Di Ioia’s advice for current students and recent grads: “Be bold. Young people have so little to lose and they are so overwhelmed and fearful and they don’t realize that they are still young, they can make mistakes, this is their one chance to do that.”