When the founders of Hamilton-based Steeped Tea headed into the Dragon's Den, they had no idea what to expect.
“It was pretty nerve wracking,” said CEO and co-founder Hatem Jahshan. “And they seem a lot closer in person than on television.”
“You can see what shade of lipstick Arlene is wearing.”
Jahshan's loose-leaf tea company is being featured on Wednesday night's premiere for the seventh season of the hit show.
“And it actually went very well,” Jahshan said about the pre-taped episode. “They were all fighting for us — which is unusual.”
Steeped Tea is a direct sales loose-leaf tea business run by Jahshan and his wife, Tonia. They're asking the Dragons for $250,000 for 20 per cent of their company, and for help launching the business into the U.S.
So how is Steeped Tea any different from your average bag of orange pekoe? Jahshan says it's all about the purity of what's in your cup.
“You can actually see the full leaf,” he said. “When it comes to bag tea, you really don't know what's in it. It could be stems, it could be colouring.”
Not the case with loose-leaf tea — when you can see everything that goes into it, he says.
“It's like the difference between having a hot dog or having a steak.”
The couple started the company six years ago after a vacation in Nova Scotia. “We were served loose-leaf tea and we were just blown away,” Jahshan said.
Tonia started out selling tea in their home, and then moved on to hosting “tea parties,” in which she'd bring the tea out to other people's homes — much like a “Tupperware party.”
“A few months later I barely saw her because she was gone all the time,” he said.
Since then, the company has brought in close to 800 “steeped tea consultants” who act as direct sellers for the brand nation-wide.
Now they want a piece of the lucrative U.S. market. “The market there is always bigger,” he said. “There are more rural communities in the U.S. that don't have shops like this.”
Steeped Tea carries over 150 different types of tea that are produced around the world, as they can't easily be grown in Canada.
Their warehouse is located in Ancaster — something Jahshan calls a “godsend.”
“Running out of cash is always a concern,” he said. But thanks to Hamilton, they have abundant space for storage and a low cost of living that keeps costs down across the board, he says.
“We owe a lot to this city."
You can catch Steeped Tea on Dragon's Den Wednesday at 8 p.m., and visit their website here.