If you watched the latest episode of the CBC-TV reality series “Dragons’ Den,” you would have seen Goulds native Ed Barrett and his business partners in a bidet attachment company come away with a deal.
Dragon Michael Wekerle, a Canadian merchant banker and financier, offered them $250,000 for 35 per cent equity in Florida-based Superior Bidet, operated by Barrett and his stepbrothers, Mark and Carlos.
“Many of the deals that actually happen on the show involve a considerable period for due diligence,” says Barrett. “After we left the show with the deal in mind we had the opportunity to really go over the numbers and where we were at with the business before we made a decision to move forward or not with the deal.”
Ultimately, the 35 per cent request was too steep — they went in offering 10 per cent for the same investment — and the bidet brothers made the decision to decline Wekerle’s offer.
“Are there things that maybe Wekerle could have added to benefit us and to help us along? Absolutely, but giving up a third of the company to jumpstart something that we really see as the way of the future just wasn’t in the cards right now,” he explains.
“Although it would have provided certain avenues for us to go after a lot of information we don’t have in our repertoire, we really feel that the three of us and the strategy we’ve taken … that’s something we can do without that investment.”
None of the other five dragons seemed willing to bite.
Michelle Romanow said the brothers needed to refine the product channels and marketing; Joe Mimran didn’t like the design or the evaluation; Jim Treliving suggested bidets aren’t popular enough for it to take off; and Manjit Minhas was skeptical of the brothers’ optimistic sales projections.
Arlene Dickinson, meanwhile, was out because Wekerle’s offer was too good to beat.
Where the brothers see opportunity, the dragons saw risk.
“There’s 500 million toilets in North America and to us that screams opportunity, but to an investor in a society that doesn’t realize the concept of what we’re trying to do yet, that’s a concern,” Barrett said.
The bidet brothers, however, remain undaunted and are opting to focus on the positives that can stem from their “Dragons’ Den” appearance.
“We wanted an investment, we wanted a partner, but we went into it knowing that at the very least we had the opportunity to tell millions of people what we do,” says Barrett. “That opportunity is worth far more than $250,000.”
All money matters aside, the appearance was a fun- and pun-filled affair that started with the brothers running beneath an arching stream of water shooting from one toilet to another.
Barrett kicked things off by using a plastic cup to catch some water and offered the dragons a drink before downing a healthy gulp himself.
“In order to show people what our product does, we needed to have fully functional units. That’s difficult to do on TV, especially in a closed set because they don’t allow water on the set, for example.”
Barrett says he spent weeks trying to come up with a product demonstration, even consulting with friends who are plumbers and an engineer to fine-tune the design.
The show’s producers are already planning for the 2018-19 season and have scheduled a suite of live auditions across the country throughout the late winter and early spring. They’re set to be in St. John’s on March 17.
Barrett’s best advice for entrepreneurial hopefuls who plan to attend with hopes of making the show is to prepare and pre-script their pitch, but be ready to improvise on the spot.
“The more questions they have the better it is. It gives you the opportunity to stray away from that scripted pitch and make it original and make it your own.”