Passion for business wins over dragons
The winner of the 2018 Meaford Dragons’ Den is a young couple who managed to impress all of the dragons with their enthusiasm for their business.
Charlie and Jennifer Aitken operate Outback Woodshack, where they dreate handmade crafts and functional goods such as personalized signs, charcuterie boards, and custom furniture from natural and reclaimed materials. They also do home installations such as countertops and wall highlights.
Wood is their specialty but they dabble in other materials.
Charlie is an experienced carpenter, welder and fabricator and home builder while Jennifer brings her experience in retail sales.
“I don’t even have words to describe what it means tonight to win,” said Jennifer.
“It’s exciting and nerve wracking. I never thought that our hobby would become so much more than just that.”
The couple is considering establishing a retail storefront, which would allow them to display their work. They are also exploring online sales.
“We’re going to use some of the money to actually trademark and copyright our logo and name,” said Charlie.
The couple began their business in Meaford and has since found their way into Toronto and surrounding areas.
“Wherever we can go we’ll go,” said Charlie who acknowledged the importance of their relationship and partnership.
“In any business having someone is always better, there’s pros and cons to it. We think we can use all of those parts to make for a successful business,” he said.
The Aitkens took home $13,460. A total of $26,170 was handed out in prize money and sponsorships to the contestants.
“I like their passion and their hard working attitude; they are just terrific people,” said dragon Alec Hector.
“I really was impressed by the partnership between the two of them that they demonstrated; they were really in it together. You could tell they were each other’s support obviously outside the business but clearly in the business, that’s really important,” said Hector, who put in $850.
Hector is a retired business executive who spent much of his career in senior banking positions with the Bank of Montreal.
Kim Wingrove, chief administrative officer of Grey County, also donated to the Aitken’s venture.
“They are two people with a wonderful talent; there is a true artistic eye there in the some of the product they showed us tonight ... if you have the kind of talent the world is a better place if you have the opportunity to show it to us,” said Wingrove, who gave them $500.
Joanne Keenan came second receiving $2,590. Her business, Mojo’s, makes plant-based prepared food for a range of diets.
She is currently expanding her business to include a cooking school that will specialize in the skills needed to create plantbased foods.
Other contestants included Antonia (Nia) Bracken of Fresh Express, an online ready to make meal kit delivery service that will provide plant-based ingredients; Love of Brian, an animal sanctuary operated by Jamie Sirna and Beth Sallwesky, and Devin Hannam, who operates Grey Noise Entertainment, a professional recording facility.
He was the winner of the audience choice award $325.
The other dragons included Darryl Hindle, chief hydration officer of Quench Buggy, Steve Bosman, owner of MSW Plastics and Marie Catherine Marsot, founder and CEO of The Frauxmagerie Ltd. Each dragon came to the table with $1,200 but were encouraged to donate more if so inclined.
Wingrove was especially taken by the animal sanctuary operation. Sirna and Sallwesky are planning to expand their operation by hiring staff and holding open barn days during which the public can visit and learn more about animals.
“I’m afraid I will always have such a soft spot for anyone who is interested in animals. I could not say no to these two young ladies who are really trying to start that sanctuary for the animals,” said Wingrove.
“It’s a different business than the ones we saw this evening but I do think in that area because of the potential for tourists and the strong agricultural history that we have in Grey County I think they do have some potential.” She donated $500.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Meaford Dragon’s Den Norm Smith of the Georgian College business program and Joel Loughead, the cider maker at Coffin Ridge Winery, were asked to speak about the future of business in the area.
Smith focused on the changes coming to education while Loughead gave a history of cider making in the area and his forecast for the future of the industry in Grey County.
Jennifer and Charlie Aitken of Outback Woodshack, top winners at this year’s Meaford Dragon’s Den event.