"I'm out." Those are the two dreaded words you don't want to hear if you're a budding business owner standing in the den before five fire-breathing dragons - otherwise known as Canada's business elite. With marketing guru Arlene Dickinson, pizza baron Jim Treliving and The Wealthy Barber's David Chilton staring entrepreneurs down, it's no wonder 1.2 million Canadians tune in every week to see who'll make a deal and who will shuffle out the warehouse doors with their eyes on the floor.
But of course this is TV, and often even deals that seem locked down on air can fall apart in the follow-up "due diligence" process - or, deals that don't go down on-air can get a sudden change of heart from a dragon, after the fact. There's plenty more that goes on after the cameras stop rolling. But that doesn't keep pitches from being hilarious, painfully awkward or endearingly memorable. Of the entertaining mishmash of ideas and inventions that have been presented to the panel of potential investors or 'dragons', these are 10 of the most successful post-show from this Canadian series' eight season run.
10 Dr. Mist
If this list went by grit and determination rather than annual sales, Claudette Leduc would likely be higher on the list. As a mature entrepreneur she first had to overcome her fear of leaping into the great unknown and starting a company from scratch. However, her desire and drive to create an effective aluminum-free deodorant was the fuel that fired her into the marketplace with her body spray solution.
Dr. Mist comes from Dead Sea minerals and salt that creates an odorless bacteria shield on the skin (the invention has earned its Malaysian inventor a medical award from the International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva). Leduc secured a deal to be the North American master distributor and by the time she arrived in the den she had already secured $250,000 in sales, with distribution in London Drugs and Loblaws' Superstore across Canada. This hard-working spirit and result-driven business model was enough for dragon Brett Wilson, who invested in the company with $100,000 in return for a 5% royalty on net sales. Immediately after the show aired, Leduc was contacted by Costco, which wanted to supply the product in ten locations. More distribution followed and as of 2014 Leduc is still going strong, with sales of Dr. Mist at $450,000 in 2014.
9 Dr. Joey's Skinny Chews
Dr. Joey Shulman set forth into the den in 2013 armed with her 11+ years experience as a nutritionist and one very efficient solution to weight loss cravings. The all natural, gluten-free, low-calorie chewy snack contains 4 grams of prebiotic inulin fibre which helps suppress appetite, balance blood sugars and optimize digestion. All while allowing the snacker to keep their mouth distracted!
8 Nūd Fūd
Pronounced Nude Food, this is what it sounds like: bare naked and proud. The snacks are raw, organic, vegan and gluten-free and unlike some of the other treats on this list, this one is all about the organic whole foods market.
7 Mistura Beauty
Makeup made easy is the idea behind this beauty product created by Andi Marcus. The six-in-one solution that purports to work on almost any skin tone acts as foundation, eyeshadow or lip shade. In the year following its Dragon's Den premiere in 2009, the product brought in $850,000 and has been featured in retailers throughout Canada including Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall's.
6 Shoelery by Erica Giuliani (formerly Erica Giuliani Shoe Accessories)
The shoe world got a bit flashier with this glam-footed pitch by sisters Patricia and Nadia Macri in 2010. Erica Giuliani's shoe accessory line was a hit with dragon Arlene Dickinson, especially after a seal of approval by guest dragon Jeanne Baker, a Canadian Fashion Icon who saw Giuliani's products as an upward trend in the footwear industry. The company is one of the few that has since bought out a Dragon's Den partner, according to investor Tony Reis who has become hands-on in key operational areas, after also injecting capital funding into the business.
5 AWAKE Chocolate
This pitch was no snoozefest, as chocolate-with-a-kick peaked dragon interest during a 2013 sampling in the den. The product was a brainchild of business partners Matt Schnarr, Adam Deremo and Dan Tzotzis who have a cumulated 35 years experience in the packaged goods industry with employment histories that include Kraft Canada and Pepsico.
After perfecting their chocolate bar that packs a 140 milligram punch of caffeine, roughly equivalent to one cup of coffee - a recipe that was developed in Tzotzis' Stoney Creek Ontario kitchen - the three moved on to woo the dragons. In 2013, they secured a $200,000 investment with dragon David Chilton for a 7.5% return of capital royalty. During due diligence a lower royalty return was struck.
4 Dig It Handwear
There's something oddly heartwarming about watching dragon Kevin O'Leary sell ladies' gardening gloves on the home shopping network. Perhaps it comes from catching a glimpse at the inner character of his usually tough exterior. O'Leary has been trotting out the benefits of gardening gloves, with pillow-topped protectors to protect manicures, as part of his investment deal with Dig It Handwear.
The company, based in Etobicoke, Ontario and Vancouver, BC, and run by Wendy Johannson and Claudia Harvey, received $50,000 from the notorious tight wad after their Season four pitch in the den. While O'Leary initially wanted a 3% royalty on sales in perpetuity, he eventually let it go after meeting with the ladies during due diligence and getting a sense of the full range of Dig It products, which include safety sunglasses. Since the 2010 deal, sales have grown into the millions according to Johannson, with big box partners like Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Lowes. The company is in the process of expanding in the US and have grown from 30 accounts when they'd reached the den to hundreds and counting.
3 Steeped Tea
Who knew tea parties could be so lucrative? Tonia and Hatem Jahshan, from Hamilton, Ontario, had some idea. The pair made their pitch to the dragon's in 2012, with dragons Jim Treliving and David Chilton closing a deal of $250,000 investment in return for 20% of the company. Steeped Tea began when the business owners had an "aha!" moment in Nova Scotia several years ago over a cup of loose-leaf Earl Grey. Tonia, who is also a mother of three, started selling the tea from home before moving into hosting tea parties, similar in style to the "tupperware party".
OMGs are arguably one of the greatest success stories to come out of the den, due in part to their already-proven track record in business, as well as the fact that everywhere you shop these days in Canada, brown paper bags of chocolate-wafer goodness are dangling out from a retail display.
To Kevin O'Leary's perennial plea of "Where's the money?" during their season six pitch, business owners Chris Emery and Larry Finnson responded with their previous Clodhoppers business; a chocolate and graham cracker business inspired by Emery's grandma. After selling the company and waiting out a five year non-competition agreement, the two candy connoisseurs came up with a new one: OMGs, also a graham cracker and chocolate treat that includes toffee and almonds.
1 Holy Crap
This is the biggest deal that never was! The Sunshine Coast mom-and-pop-shop with a twisted sense of humour has grown to become a multimillion dollar business since its owners Brian and Corin Mullins pitched to the dragons in 2010.
The vegan cereal, which was born out of an experiment to help Brian with his sensitivity to wheat and gluten, sold $65,000 worth of product in less than two months. After tasting the product on the show Jim Treliving said simply, "I love it. I want to buy it." However, a deal with the dragon's did not come to fruition behind the scenes, due to the fact that the deal would have meant leaving their Sechelt home base, which was ultimately a deal breaker for the couple.
This decision didn't hurt them any. After the show aired, the company sales spiked higher than the Mullins' probably dreamed possible, and sales of their product went from 100 units a month online to 2,000 plus a day, making the company owners millionaires in a few short but productive months. Corin Mullins is now one of two Canadian winners of 12 Ernst and Young Women Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2013, honouring her sales and management accomplishments. Since the launch of the company's new single serve cups and oatmeal cereals - which was based on the company's NASA experience, creating Holy Crap for Mission 35 on the International Space Station - the company could do a cool $15 -$20 million this year alone. Looks like Commander Hadfield isn't the only Canadian conquering space these days!
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