On Thursday, March 8, Vancouver-based company Fuud.ca took the stage on CBC television’s popular reality program Dragons’ Den – and it was a UBC Sauder alumni who helped get them there and score a deal.
“It was a Friday afternoon and we heard that auditions for Dragons’ Den were happening the next day, so I pulled together our pitch and various other materials in less than 24 hours,” explains Ryland Haggis, who has been working on Fuud.ca’s business strategy since graduating from UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School in May 2017. “A few months later we received a call that the producers wanted us to fly to Toronto and present to the Dragons in person.”
Dragons’ Den features aspiring entrepreneurs who pitch their concepts and products to a panel of Canadian business moguls who have the cash and business expertise to bring companies to life. According to the show, “pitchers better not enter the Den unprepared,” so Haggis devised a plan to ensure he and Fuud.ca co-founders Thomas Buchan and Riti Chrea were prepared for everything the Dragons threw at them: he called on his former MBA classmates to help with an intensive three-day practice run.
The practice sessions turned out to be invaluable in preparing the team for the real Dragons. “My classmates drew on their education at UBC Sauder and asked all the hard questions to help us refine our pitch, highlight our key messages with absolute clarity and identify blind spots that might hurt us during the Dragons’ Q&A. Our presentation was torn apart more than once but it strengthened our overall approach to being on the show.”
‘Fuud’ that’s sustainable
Fuud.ca is a meal-kit delivery service located in Vancouver, B.C., but what makes the company unique from other similar start-ups is its focus on connecting local farmers and suppliers to consumers. The company serves OceanWise seafood and organic, hormone-free meats, and also works closely with Fraser Valley farmers for fresh and local ingredients. According to Haggis, “charismatic ingredients” – or items not commonly used in cooking by most people – are a staple of Fuud.ca recipes.
“A critical element of our business is our desire to expose customers to new types of ingredients while remaining as sustainable as possible,” says Haggis. “Of all the meal kit companies currently in Vancouver, we’re proud to say Fuud.ca has the lowest environmental footprint – all of our packaging is either recyclable or compostable and biodegradable, and we’re currently nearing our goal of becoming a zero-waste facility.”
Haggis adds that the company is also pursuing B-Corp certification in 2018, which challenges companies to meet rigorous social sustainability and environmental performance standards.
Up next for Fuud.ca
After making their case in front of this season's six Dragons, the company ultimately landed a handshake with show favourite Arlene Dickinson. The deal was for $90,000 for 35 per cent of the company – an aggressive counter-offer compared to the 10 per cent that the Fuud.ca team was offering. As part of the deal, Fuud.ca was offered a place in a food start-up incubator and accelerator program from Dickinson’s District Ventures.
"We're thrilled to have landed a deal on the show and have our business idea validated by a business titan like Arlene. We're looking forward to working with her and her colleagues more closely as we have more in-depth discussions to determine the specifics of the deal," Haggis explains.
He adds, “We saw a lot of passion from the Dragons about our business, and that really reinforced why Thomas and Riti created the company. For everyone at Fuud.ca, it’s not just about the bottom line, but rather, being a values-driven company that makes a positive impact on both the environment and the local community.”
Moving forward, the company has exciting opportunities on the horizon, including conversations with other values-aligned companies in different areas of the food business. For Haggis, “Fuud.ca has shown itself to be a really great platform for meeting people from like-minded organizations looking to shake things up."