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Lacombe entrepreneurs entered TV’s Dragons’ Den

David Dionne and Tyler Schafer pitched the Yucca Pac Camper to dragons panel

A pair of Lacombe entrepreneurs entered the Dragons’ Den, leaving without a deal but with the kind of exposure you can’t put a price tag on.

Blindman Overland owner David Dionne and business partner Tyler Schafer made the three-day drive to Toronto last spring to try to convince CBC’s dragons to invest in their innovative pickup-truck mounted Yucca Pac Camper.

The dragons did not bite on their offer to sell 10 per cent of the company for $250,000 but the experience was priceless.

“I tell everybody it was pretty neat. I mean you grow up watching it so when the opportunity came we definitely jumped on it, that’s for sure,” said Dionne on Wednesday. “We were pretty stoked when we got it.”

They filmed their pitch in May and it was aired on CBC on Nov. 23.

Even making it to the show was an achievement. They were told CBC picks through tens of thousands of applicants before choosing the few that make it to the Dragons’ Den stage.

They were actually first offered a chance to showcase their camper the year before but decided they weren’t ready yet so came back this year.

Their 45-minute pitch was edited down to less than eight minutes for the TV broadcast.

Dionne and Schafer did considerable research on the dragons to tailor their pitch most effectively.

“Our primary focus was to bring our product to a broader market and to try to introduce it to the nation. Dragon’s Den has always been sort of that place for Canadian entrepreneurs.

“At the end of the day, they kind of explained it to us is Dragons’ Den is a game show. And how you win the game show is you make a deal.”

Their entertaining sales pitch began with Schafer describing the arduous process of getting your typical family camping trip in motion complete with hungry, grumpy children.

Turning to Dionne, he said, “How do you camp Dave?”

“I’m not going to lie. My camping isa little bit different. I leave work and go camping,” said Dionne.

Cue the Yucca Pac Camper demonstration.

The pair showed off its expandable canopy and unique bracket system that allows users to remove or install it in the bed of their pickup in minutes. The campers cost around $16,000 to $18,000.

Its “tread lightly” lightweight design limits its impact on natural areas when compared with trucks pulling fifth wheels or other heavier camping trailers.

The dragons appeared impressed by their design but bared their teeth when it came to the $250,000 investment request, questioning the entrepreneurs’ company valuation.

“I admire that you’re trying to create a less damaging eco-footprint on the world, but I can’t get there on the numbers. I’m sorry but I’m out,” said Arlene Dickinson, an award-winning business owner, author and investor who has appeared in 16 of Dragons’ Den’s 18 seasons.

As Dionne’s segment ended he vowed to keep going. “It’s going to take a lot more to kill us, that’s for sure,” he told the camera.

Dionne said despite not striking a deal they left the show happy with how it went. The exposure has already paid off with calls coming in from across the country.

“We’ve gotten quite a bit of attention from it so far. We’ve had a massive increase in web traffic and calls from other businesses who are looking to ship or offer something to their customers.

“Either way we’re coming out on top.”

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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