SAINT JOHN – Rory and Tracy Bell of Millennia Tea successfully pitched the judges on the Dragons’ Den Thursday night, securing a $100,000 investment for 20 percent of the company from Jim Treliving, who beat out fellow judge Arlene Dickinson in their respective bids to partner with the Bells.
Pioneers of a flash-frozen tea line that best preserves its antioxidant qualities, the entrepreneurs from Saint John (via Dieppe) impressed renowned tea experts and writers from around the world at an international tea expo in Las Vegas in the spring.
They also impressed the two Dragons’ Den judges with deep experience in the tea industry.
Treliving is best known as the owner of the Boston Pizza chain, but he is also an investor in Steeped Tea which was ranked number 20 on PROFIT 500’s list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies in 2015.
“I’m in the tea business as you know from this show, and it’s done extremely well,” he told the Bells after they made their pitch. “I think that you’ve got something here, and I’m going to make you an offer because I think I can do something with you with the distribution we have. I’m going to bump you up a point. I’m going to go $100,000 for 20 percent, instead of 19.”
Dickinson followed up with her own pitch, which emphasized her own experience in the industry. She is the founder of District Ventures, an accelerator for entrepreneurs in the food, beverage and health sectors. She also has her own venture capital fund, District Ventures Capital, which invests in innovative Canadian consumer packaged goods companies.
“My offer is quite different,” she said as she began presenting her offer. “I want 30 percent of the company. I’ve marketed the world’s largest tea brands. I have the only health and food accelerator in the country and I have the only health and food-based fund in this country. I think I’m going to bring a ton of value to it. But it needs a lot of work. So that would be my offer. But I feel like I am absolutely worth what I’m asking for, and I know that I can help you.”
Rory and Tracy quietly and quickly conferred with each other and then offered a counter-proposal. “We’d like you guys to consider partnering up for 25 percent,” said Rory.
Treliving quickly rejected that proposal. “The problem is I know where I’m going with it and I’ve already got partners,” he said.
The Bells again quickly conferred with each other and then gave an answer. “We’ve made a decision Jim, we’d absolutely love to take your offer.”
“Great, thank you,” said Treliving. “I’d love to do that.”
As they walked off stage holding hands, the judges provided on running commentary on the couple.
“Well done,” said one judge.
“They love each other too. It’s so nice.”
“He’s a pro…” said a judge before another finished the sentence.
“…and he was smart enough to let her talk.”