You know the saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression”? When Jeff Phillips walked into the Dragons' Den tonight, I was thinking exacty same thing the Dragons were: What a joke. Phillips was sporting his product, the Beardo, a toque with a detachable beard meant to keep skiers and snowboarders cozy on the slopes. Eyeballs rolled. He looked like Charles Manson.
Then Phillips, an English teacher, took off the hat and got down to business. In the five months since launching his company he sold almost $100,000 worth of Beardos. His margins are great: The product costs $6.50 to manufacture and he sells them for about $40. He operates the business online.
Phillips has promoted the Beardo entirely on his own. He’s advertised on Facebook, appeared in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Marilyn Denis Show, Breakfast Television and more.
At $180,000 for 25% of his company, the Dragons didn’t see investment opportunity in Beardo Wear, but it wasn’t all bad news. Kevin O’Leary and Jim Treliving both loved the idea. Robert Herjavec said his snowboarding son and his friends would wear them.
But it was Arlene Dickinson who summed up this pitch the best. She said, “When you came out I thought this was just a joke. And you completely turned me around in terms of the great business idea. Awesome entreprepreneur. I think you’re going to do well. You don’t need our money. The business will take off on its own.”
You can’t judge a book by its cover, can you? Tonight’s episode of Dragons’ Den was a good reminder that lesson. Entrepreneurs are interesting folks, so it might just take a minute to see what’s really hiding under that beard.