In this edition of the Laker Log, we interviewed Benjamin Charbonneau ’13 on what got him into property development management, why he started his first passion project Hotel Rivel, and how his education from LSSU prepared him for all of this.
What originally brought you to LSSU?
To be honest, during my senior year of high school I got really lucky and threw the javelin (spear) far enough to qualify for OFSAA. During that competition, I got lucky again as my final throw was significantly farther than the others.
1st throw: 52.03m
2nd throw: FOUL
3rd throw: 54.61m
4th throw: 54.35m
5th throw: 49.76m
6th throw: 58.08m
That final throw is what put me on the radar and Lake State tendered an offer to jump the border and come study in the United States – naturally, I jumped at the opportunity and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What were your favorite parts about attending LSSU?
The staff, the lifestyle, the facilities, the flexibility, the great lake, the quarterdeck and of course representing Lake State at the national level during the NCAA championships in Colorado in 2013. Obviously, competing was a big part of my life at Lake State and it was the first time in my life I got to experience international travel. Most people think Canada and the US are very similar and while that’s true to a certain extent, it can feel like a completely different world in some regions of the states – I loved having the ability to experience that and I owe that to Lake State.
How has your education from Lake State helped you advance in career?
One thing that’s probably not discussed as often as it should be is the completeness of education in the United States. In 2007, I attended Laurentian University in Canada for my first year of post-secondary education and I was enrolled in the Commerce program. As you’d expect, all courses had something to do with commerce and business which made sense to me at the time. I transferred to Lake State for my 2nd year and to my huge surprise, Cultural Diversity and Humanities were some of the many mandatory courses that were part of the Finance & Economics degree program. As someone who’s worked on 5 different continents, I can assure you that those courses contained the most important lessons and they laid the foundation of a professional and empathetic leader.
What are your responsibilities as Head of Singapore and Southeast Asia?
To advise, govern, oversee policy and direction for the Singapore operations. Assist with the leadership and general promotion of CMC Markets so as to support the organization’s mission and needs. Responsible for defining & implementing the CMC Markets business strategies for Singapore & SE Asia region.
What was it like to start and sell a business (Trade Doctors) during a post-COVID world?
Interesting is one word to describe it! I actually started the business at the end of 2018 before COVID was making daily headlines. The business was all about teaching people how to invest and trade from someone who was from that world and not just a great marketer. I started an academy for the education piece and I also offered subscription services for people who simply wanted access to high probability trading signals. Eventually, I created an algorithm that identified those opportunities automatically and that’s when the business really took off. In the trading world, volatility is what drives overall interest and incremental trading opportunities which in turn should result in higher returns for an active systematic trader. A global pandemic is certainly one of those things that drives a great deal of pricing volatility, from toilet paper wars to global supply chain delays to swift changes in monetary policies.
Why did you get into property development management?
After selling Trade Doctors and realizing gains from some well-timed crypto investments, I wanted to branch out and learn a different business. My brother Larry is one of those people who can do everything. From mechanical, to electrical, to plumbing, to welding, to all facets of construction including drywall, flooring, roofing and everything in between – the guy is a legend and the true definition of a handyman.
After a few conversations, it was obvious he’d be open to something new. At the time, he was working deep underground as a miner and it was clear he wasn’t being challenged or having fun. Within a couple weeks, I acquired an old hotel and told him the lead contractor role was his if he wanted it for this beast of a project. As expected, he rose to the challenge and he’s been killing it from day 1.
What was supposed to be one big project has turned into 4 commercial buildings. Recently, we’ve partnered with two other investors and are currently putting together a proposal for a large subdivision project in the same community.
Can you tell us about Hotel Rivel?
Hotel Rivel – Nature & Adventure Retreat is my first passion project. In 2021, I visited Costa Rica and fell in love with the people and their way of life. I thought to myself, “this is it, this is the place I want to live and retire”. During that same initial trip and only a few weeks into my vacation, I purchased land in the coffee mountains of Costa Rica with the intention of building a simple home – eventually. The idea of a simple house morphed into a desire to share the experience and culture with more people. Anyone who visits the property will attest that there’s just something different about the place, those looking for a “reset” are sure to find it after spending a week at Hotel Rivel – https://facebook.com/hotel.rivel
During my time at Lake State, I took several elective Spanish courses including Advanced Spanish Composition and Grammar. Beyond the basics, those classes are directly responsible for my being able to effectively communicate and manage a team of 12 Costa Ricans who don’t speak any English from remote locations around the world.
If a prospective college student asked you why they should attend LSSU, what would you tell them?
If you’re someone who needs creative freedom and lots of space to turn your ideas into reality – Lake State is the place for you. Like a smaller community, Lake State students and professors generally look out for each other, the friendships you make at the school will last a lifetime and the memories you’ll make will get you through the worst of times should you eventually need the guidance.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world for fun and also for work and I am proud to say that most of my closest friends are from my time at Lake State.