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Woman-run Quebec company making home renovations easy for DIYers

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It's been 25 years since Élaine Paquin and her partner, Ginette Pouliot, came up with the idea for Smart Tiles, an easy-to-do, peel-and-stick decorative tile company.

It all started when Paquin, now the president of Quinco & Cie Inc., which makes Smart Tiles, was making big decisions while building her own dream home.

"The contractor asked us to choose tiling to put on the kitchen backsplash," she recalls. "We're people that really like change, so we thought, 'Oh my God, if we put tiles there, we're going to be stuck with them for a long time.'"

She says that's when the idea behind Smart Tiles came about.

"We were having dinner one time and just thought, 'Why isn't there anything that's so easy to install and easy to take off?'" she said.

Paquin notes she already had a professional background working in plastics and moulding, so the jump to stick-on tiles was an effortless one.

"We came out with the fact that we had a soft, tile-looking product that could be simply stuck on and had the grout all incorporated," she said. "It really became a one-step tiling system, and on the wall, it looks just like tile. You would swear it's tile."

To this day, the products are manufactured locally in Magog, Que.

"It was really a control issue at the start because you really don't know what you're doing," Paquin explains. "Plus, that type of production is not something that's very conventional; not many people know about the process that we use, so to find that overseas 24 years ago would have been, I mean, we didn't even think of it back then."

With do-it-yourself home renovations gaining popularity on social media in recent years, Paquin says she's noticed a lot of online competition from cheaper, overseas companies imitating her product.

She admits she was sure "it was the end of our production here."

"We're happy we never went down that road [of manufacturing overseas], and that's why we're still here," Paquin said. "The product that we make here is quality-driven."

She notes Smart Tiles are trendy, but they're also timeless -- and replaceable.

"Every time I work on a new collection, I always work it for myself first," Paquin said. "I think that's probably the reason for our success because we've always done what we wanted, not what others wanted."

What is she most impressed by 25 years after starting the company?

The number of women doing their own home renovations -- and using her product.

"It's as simple as as peeling the backing and sticking it on your wall," Paquin explains. "A cutter and a ruler, that's all the tooling you need... You have an electricity outlet, you just cut out the electricity outlet with the cutter, and it's as simple as that."

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