Sarah Bingham, a red seal chef from Nanaimo, was on a mission to win over even meat eaters with her vegetarian Buddha Bowls.
She was one of about 20 people pitching their products in hopes of getting on a Dragons’ Den episode and a funding partnership to bring their products to market. An audition event was held at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Thursday.
Bingham’s packaged meals are intended as hearty and healthy alternatives to meat-based grab lunches or from those mostly lettuce salads. Quinoa, curry, chick peas, tomatoes and tofu show through the plastic covers of Bingham’s Buddha Bowls that she was about to show Dragons’ Den producers at the auditions.
“I’m a red seal chef by trade and I’m just really passionate about nutrition and trying to educate people about some healthier options,” Bingham said.
Most of the products pitched at the conference centre Thursday were well-developed. There were prototypes, such as Steve Lessard’s Dry Mate, a small personal drier that can be quickly adapted to dry almost any combination of wet shoes, gloves, hats, helmets and even stuffed toys. The Nanaimo inventor has already gone through the arduous process of having the device CSA approved. His prototype’s design is patented and looks like a product one would find on big box store shelves.
“So I’m here to see if some dragons or somebody can take this to the next step and put it on the market because I am great in the workshop, but I am not a businessman,” Lessard said.
Kezia Balhman, of Nanaimo, was among those presenting wearable products with her Screef Hoodie, a design heavily influenced by snowboarding attire and named for a word used by tree planters to describe clearing debris from the ground where they’re about to plant seedlings, Balhman said.
Brian Saunders, of Ladysmith, a former full-time forester who now works as a forestry consultant, was ready to pitch Tablet Gear, essentially a vest that multiple pouches and other accessories and equipment can be easily attached to, but its main feature is a chest-mounted, zippered pouch designed to allow the wearer to easily work with, store and carry a tablet.
“Foresters, geologists, biologists, engineers, municipal government, anyone who has to walk more than 20 minutes and carry a tablet or a computer is one of our customers,” Saunders said.
Mechelle White pitched Bug Out, a simple piece of reusable plastic, that can be slipped over the open mouth of beer and soda cans.
“When you’re not attending your can, you close it and there’s no bugs, drugs or sand in your open can,” White said.
Bug Outs come in different colours and shapes, such as bat, cars, motorcycles and even adult-oriented shapes and sell $3 each or $5 with metal charms for those who want to personalize their Bug Out with a little bling.
Jane Chupick, Dragons’ Den producer, said the quality of the seven products she’d seen pitched throughout the morning were good quality and products presented in areas such as Nanaimo are different from products are presented in major cities such as Toronto, but the show’s producers are also looking for engaging personal stories with the product.
“We’re definitely experts in making good television, so … that’s the side of it that we’re really evaluating, is whether or not they’re going to be able to present a compelling pitch on television,” Chupick said.
Robert Chaney, of Lake Cowichan, was one of the seven who auditioned Thursday morning. He did not want to reveal his product publicly prior to it possibly airing on Dragons’ Den, especially without first consulting with his business partner. His product is also patented and Chaney said he believes there is good chance his pitch will be chosen for a Dragons’ Den episode.
“I was pretty prepared, so, no, today I wasn’t nervous, honestly, but I might be a little nervous on the show. There might be a little nerves, for sure … I think we hold a strong chance to make the show.”