Top 5 most successful businesses who pitched on Dragons’ Den

Dragons’ Den has been helping Canadian entrepreneurs grow their businesses for 13 years, and for some of them, it’s been a launching point for massive success. We talked with the Den’s most successful alumni to find out how the Den changed their business, and we get their advice for aspiring pitchers.

5. FixMeStick ($20 million in sales)

When FixMeStick co-founders Marty Algire and Corey Velan pitched in Season 8, their business was still pretty small.

“If we sold 10 units in a day — so that’s $600 in sales — we’d be high fiving across the desk,” says Algire.

In the five and a half years since then, their business has grown massively. Their computer virus repair stick is now in every major retailer in North America, and selling in the U.K. and France via shopping channel QVC. The pair say their appearance on Dragons’ Den has been instrumental in that growth.

But it also helped in other, unexpected ways.

“When we started out, we couldn’t get the USB manufacturers to take us seriously, so we wound up buying really low quality USB sticks off [the internet,]” says Algire. “At one point we were throwing a quarter of them out.”

Having a Dragon in their corner allowed them to get meetings with big manufacturers, who agreed to give them a better price on superior sticks.

Dragons’ Den fans (aka Den Heads) have become some of the brand’s most loyal customers.

“We operate on a subscription business, and every January, we get a wave of renewals, because that’s when the episode aired,” says Velan.

4. Essentia ($25 million in sales)

Essentia founder Jack Dell’Accio initially saw the show as a publicity opportunity.

“I was in the office, and our marketing guy popped his head in the door and said, ‘I’m gonna pitch you to be on Dragons’ Den,’” says Dell’Accio. “And I said, ‘Sure.’ Any opportunity to talk about the brand was valuable to me.”

He says that being on the show paid immediate dividends for the business.

“For years, I got people coming in and saying, ‘I saw you on Dragons’ Den,’” he says. “We can still tell when the episode airs as a rerun based on the spike in website traffic.”

Dell’Accio is still friends with W. Brett Wilson, who gives him advice from time to time. Wilson is also a customer.

“He keeps buying mattresses from us,” says Dell’Accio. In turn, he has donated to Wilson’s charitable fund.

Dell’Accio advises future pitchers to think about more than just money when they walk into the Den.

“Think about what else your business needs, and what the different Dragons bring as a value add,” he says. “If you get an offer from a Dragon who brings the right experience, be willing to accept a lower valuation.”

3. Knixwear ($35 million in sales)

Knixwear founder and CEO Joanna Griffiths admits she went on Dragons’ Den “really early in my entrepreneurship journey.” But she handled the Dragons like a pro, becoming one of the few pitchers to leave with more money and a higher valuation than she initially asked for.

“I counter-offered and successfully negotiated to get a larger sum,” she says. “A lot of people told me they thought that was pretty badass.”

She says that, in addition to money and exposure, going into the Den made her more confident in her skills as an entrepreneur.

“As a business owner, you second guess yourself a lot,” she says. “You wonder, ‘Do I really have what it takes to do this?’ Getting an offer from four of five Dragons and being able to answer every question they asked… it was really positive and empowering.”

Since going on the show in Season 9, she’s coached several other entrepreneurs who were looking to pitch to the Dragons. Her advice? Know your numbers.

“They’re always worried about what their presentation is gonna look like, what their opening monologue is gonna be, and I say, ‘You can wing that, but you need to know your sales, your gross revenue [and] your margins.’ They’re called Dragons for a reason.”

2. Saxx Apparel (sold for $50 million)

Even though he initially left the Den without a deal, Saxx Apparel founder Trent Kitsch says that taking his men’s underwear company on Season 2 of Dragons’ Den was one of the best decisions he ever made. For one thing, he received $50,000 as the winner of that season’s Concrete Equity’s Armchair Dragon Contest, meaning that Den Heads thought he had the best unfunded pitch of the season. For another, just being on the show gave him a massive boost in sales.

“The day after it aired, we did $30,000 or $40,000 in sales,” he says. “At that time we were usually doing $1,000 or $2,000 a day.”

Kitsch sold his majority stake in the underwear company in 2016, and has since invested in a winery and a cannabis startup, Doja. In 2018, he sold Doja to Canopy Growth. Between his various endeavours, Kitsch says he has been able to parlay his Armchair Dragon Contest winnings into close to a billion dollars in value. Not surprisingly, he encourages every entrepreneur to try their luck in the Den.

“Absolutely, everyone should try to take their company, their product or service, on the show,” he says. “If nothing else, you get to put it in front of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people.”

1. Endy (Company sold for $89 million)

When Mike Gettis and his business partner Aasish Nathwani brought their mattress company, Endy, to the Den in Season 12, they did it because it seemed so on-brand.

“Our identity was a Canadian brand, and we liked the show,” says Gettis. “We liked that Dragons’ Den had been an institution of Canadian entrepreneurship for some time now.”

He says that being on the show allowed him to connect with customers in a new way. 

“We still get people coming up to us and talking about how they saw us on the show,” he says. “I think the way the show’s set up, the audience is kind of on your side and rooting for you.”

Gettis has one major piece of advice for would-be pitchers: practice.

“Practice your pitch,” he says. “We went over ours about 10 times before we went on. That way, when you’re walking in the Den and the nerves hit you, you’re ready to fire.”


Watch the Next Level Special on March 7, 2019 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC-TV.