When investors from CBC's Dragon's Den turned down an offer to John Dempsey and Rocky Hodge, the Hamilton business partners immediately went for a drink.
Leaving empty handed, the co-owners of Bomb Energy Drink discussed their next move over a pint of beer.
Instead of feeling defeated, Hodge and Dempsey turned rejection into opportunity.
"It's never a good experience when someone turns you down but Rocky and I have always been positive," said Dempsey.
“Dragon’s Den gave us national exposure which is what we were really going for.”
'Dragon's Den gave us national exposure which is what we were really going for' - John Dempsey
The Hamilton business partners co-founded Bomb Energy Drink in 2009 as a 'bag-in-the-box' product. It was launched for the hospitality industry, sold in bulk to bars, restaurants and stadiums to serve on tap, rather than can by can.
Then in 2013, Bomb Energy Drink received government approval to sell the drinks in cans, a highly requested format allowing the company to expand into grocery and convenience stores.
The business turned to the Dragon’s Den for help with marketing and inventory, seeking $300,000 for 20 per cent of their company.
While Bomb scored high points from the Dragons for its sweet flavor and the fact that it’s only a third of the price of Red Bull – their biggest competitor – the Dragon’s feared too much competition would force Bomb to fizzle out.
The company had $900,000 in gross annual sales when they made the pitch.
"When we first started everyone said we wouldn’t last," said Dempsey.
Back then, the Hamilton company was selling their product out of the back of a van.
'When we first started everyone said we wouldn't last' - John Dempsey
Now Bomb has exploded in the marketplace, erupting into an impressive success story of the Hamilton business that was able to charge ahead without the Dragon’s investment.
Last week, Hodge and Dempsey made a second appearance on Dragon’s Den unveiling an update on their business, and letting the Dragon’s know exactly what they missed out on.
At $3 million in sales, they say Bomb Energy Drinks is the fastest growing energy drink company in North America.
And it’s all made in Hamilton.
Everything from production, packaging and shipping happens at their new factory on the Mountain. The company now employs 30 people in the Hamilton area and another 15 to 20 across the country.
The business partners have also landed a major sponsorship deal with three CFL teams, including the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“John and I are big fans of the Ticats, as fans for years and now being part of the corporate scenario, it’s surreal that we could get to that level at such a quick stage," said Hodge.
'It's surreal that we could get to that level at such a quick stage' - Rocky Hodge
Their product is now sold in over 4,000 stores across Canada and the United States.
"It's still a shock we're in so many stores. Walking in and not knowing it's in there then seeing it is still a fine experience," said Dempsey.
Still, both man say they owe some of their success to the Dragon’s.
“We say things happen for a reason. Us not getting the deal made us work harder and be more creative entrepreneurs," said Hodge.
"It’s been a long fun ride and it’s starting to become a lot more fun," he said.