Dragon’s Den victory for Taynton Bay Spirits

Invermere-based company nets partnership deal with marketing expert Arlene Dickinson

Justin Atterbury was nervous as he and Steve Kuffler passed out samples of ginger matcha vodka for a panel of six big-name and big-wallet investors on Dragons’ Den, a nationally-broadcast CBC show where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas with hope of securing a deal.

“The fact that nobody spit it out, that was the biggest fear, right? You were worried someone would make a face, and I think that was a turning point for me when they were filming. It was super stressful up until the time they took their first drink,” he said. “You don’t really go unscathed when it goes sideways.”

His next thought after the dragons imbibed was: “It doesn’t matter what happens now because they all said it was good.”

But what happened in their nearly eight minutes of national airtime on Thursday, November 14th matters a great deal for the local company. In addition to seeking national exposure for Taynton Bay Spirits, the pair were also asking the dragons for $125,000 in exchange for a seven per cent share of their company.

Immediately Manjit Minhas, a dragon who co-owns the ninth-largest brewery in the world, expressed skepticism, noting that their valuation was close to $1.8 million. She went on to offer $125,000 for 12 per cent of the company.

After some consideration, Arlene Dickinson made a higher offer than her fellow dragon and higher than Taynton Bay Spirits was seeking.

“I’m a marketer at the end of the day, and I have a fund that helps people take their consumer goods to market. It’s what I do. So I’ll give you $185,000 for 10 per cent,” she said. “They need capital and help.”

Mr. Atterbury and Mr. Kuffler accepted Ms. Dickinson’s offer on behalf of their team of five partners and have been in contact with their very own dragon a few times since the show was taped in May.

While their segment ended in hugs and laughter, their deal wasn’t finalized until last week after a forensic audit. And Ms. Dickinson tossed in an extra $40,000 for entrepreneurship training and a marketing campaign, bringing her contribution up to $225,000 for 10 per cent ownership.

“When we left the show, we were on cloud nine,” Mr. Atterbury said, adding that he was shocked to walk away with more than he had wanted and such a wholehearted endorsement from the dragons.

Mr. Kuffler agreed, saying: “We killed it.”

With up to 4 million people watching the show, he said: “There’s no other marketing out there that could compare. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

What’s next for Taynton Bay Spirits? Mr. Atterbury is keen on expanding through British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan and then getting into Ontario.

Mr. Kuffler has his sights set even higher. After slaying the dragons, he’s ready for world domination and maybe a friendly local competition.

“We’ll see if we can catch Kicking Horse,” he said with a laugh.

Anyone who missed the show can watch it online at www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/taynton-bay-spirits.

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