The Whistler couple who uncovered a surging demand for organic baby food products, establishing a nation-wide brand almost overnight, have pushed their success up to the next level — or in this case, down the next step into the Dragon's Den.
Regardless of the outcome, their scheduled appearance later this month on CBC's popular entrepreneurial investment show — where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business concepts to a panel of five Canadian business moguls — will undoubtedly add an exciting new chapter to this local success story.They're bound by contract not to disclose any details of the show until it airs Nov. 20.
Since their February launch this year, Leah and John Garrad-Cole of Love Child Organics — a line of organic fruit and vegetable purees in squeezable plastic pouches — have expanded their product line from six flavours to 15. Distribution has reached the shelves of 2,000 retailers across Canada, including powerhouse chains like Save On Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart (next month), Wal-Mart, IGA and Rexall, plus homegrown grocers like Nesters Market and Olive's Community Market.
Leah's and John's next big push will be into the U.S. next year.
Instead, they simply draw attention to the exploding demand of a product they say was long overdue.
"The brand has really resonated with families and moms," Leah said. "People were ready for a children's food company that really focused on nutrition. The fact that John and I are parents who run the company is something that's really positive—parents believe us in terms of what's in the product and what we're trying to do. We're not a big corporation."
Because of their relatively small stature on the Canadian business scene, their appearance on Dragon's Den can only elevate their brand exposure, regardless of any deals that were or were not made.
"That is quite a big motivation to go on the show," John said. "We're up against some big companies and we have a very limited marketing budget, so we have to use every tool at our disposal."
Leah and John auditioned for the show "on a whim" last spring in Abbottsford. Two weeks later CBC producers invited them to the Toronto studio to make their pitch. As they waited in the green room from 6:30 a.m., alongside eight other businesses, they watched rerun after rerun of the show — reminder after reminder of why the "Dragons are so named."
"It was really nerve-wracking," Leah said. "I was ready to run out the door. But when it is your turn, it's just like you see on TV, only much more terrifying," she adds with a laugh.
To the panel of five the couple made their pitch and held talks for 45 minutes. Leah adds with confidence that regardless of the outcome, the Dragons appreciated the concept.
"Let's just say, we wouldn't be talking to anyone about it if it went terribly badly," she said. "We're feeling really positive about the experience and we're hoping people will watch."
Leah, a former teacher, and John, a former banker, have left their old careers to run Love Child Organics. They say they're extremely grateful for the local support that helped foster their success. It's allowed them to stay rooted in the community they love, no longer having to travel for work.
"That's been the best part of it, really," Leah said.
Whistlerites are invited to a fundraising viewing party for a chance to win lots of Love Child products, with proceeds going to the Playground Builders — a Whistler-based charity that constructs play structures for kids in war-torn parts of the world. Since the company's inception, one cent from every item sold has been donated to the project. T
he viewing party will run from 7 to 10 p.m., Nov. 20, at the FireRock Lounge at the Westin Resort and Spa.
The episode airs at 8 p.m. on CBC Television.