How does a Montreal startup stand out at C2? By harkening back to the 19th century

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How does a Montreal startup stand out at C2? By harkening back to the 19th century

The C2 Montreal commerce and creativity conference now underway at the Arsenal prides itself on innovation, but one Montreal startup is encouraging attendees to have an old-fashioned, hands-on experience while there.

Baltic Club co-founder Brice Salmon brought his bookbinding press to C2 and is getting conference-goers to create their own notebooks.

"We wanted to be a little bit disruptive and bring something tangible to people who use technology all day long," Salmon said.

The sold-out event has brought together 6,500 participants from 50 countries to network and attend workshops and seminars under the banner of innovation and revolutionizing business practices.

Baltic Club, however, offers something completely different. 

For $20, people assemble papers for their personalized notebooks and then crunch holes in them to make a spiral binding.

The bookbinder's sunny stall, located outdoors near the food trucks, was packed all day Wednesday.

Along with providing a bit of a break to the international business types who may be a little overloaded by all the innovation at C2, Salmon said his booth also helps instill his brand in their minds.

Runaway success story

Salmon's stationery business has only been open for three and a half years, but in that time, he and his partner have opened two locations in Montreal and linked up with more than 150 vendors in Canada and the U.S., primarily through connections made at trade shows and through Instagram.

Salmon attributes the success of his business to the designs his partner, co-founder Mélanie Ouellette, creates — and to having found a gap in the market.

Large printers exist, along with artisans who make individual notebooks, but Salmon said there aren't printers creating small batches of stationery goods.

"Frisou," the name Salmon gave the bookbinder he bought for about $4,000 US, takes a fair amount of effort and know-how to use.

Bookbinding machines are making a comeback, but they still aren't being mass produced, he said.

He said that even if he bought another one from the same manufacturer, he would have to learn how to use it all over again since no two machines are exactly alike.

A small, local stationery business stands in sharp contrast to most of what else goes on at C2, but "the response is amazing," Salmon said enthusiastically.

On the first day of the conference, he barely had a chance to catch his breath from the moment the doors opened.

"Satisfaction is 100 per cent, so far," he said.

In addition to two shops in Montreal, Salmon said that Baltic Club expects to expand to the U.S. in the near future, and they're looking as far off as Japan for new opportunities. 

The C2 conference continues until Friday at the Arsenal, in Montreal's Southwest borough. Celebrity speakers at this year's edition include Chelsea Manning and Snoop Dogg.