Dragons’ Den a boon for Yukon businesses

Since last week's episode of CBC's Dragons' Den aired, Karlo Krauzig, owner of Yukon Shine Distillery, has been "overwhelmed" by the volume of responses he's received - both locally and internationally.

It’s time to toast the dragons.

Since last week’s episode of CBC’s Dragons’ Den aired, Karlo Krauzig, owner of Yukon Shine Distillery, has been “overwhelmed” by the volume of responses he’s received – both locally and internationally.

Krauzig asked the show’s business titans for $300,000 in exchange for a one-third stake in his company. He left with an offer from Jim Treliving, the owner of Boston Pizza, who offered that much for half the company.

His feelings about the episode are “mixed,” said Krauzig.

When he went to CBC in April for the taping, he spent about an hour with the dragons. The segment ran for just under seven minutes.

“I guess it was like a whole hour of positivity, which ended up just being one big Yukon Shine infomercial,” said Krauzig. The episode shows the dragons’ favourable reactions to his vodka, but producers cut out a segment where they also enjoy his gin. “I guess it just doesn’t make great TV. They want a little controversy in there.”

“Had I stumbled or goofed up a bit, or my product wasn’t so well received, they probably would have shown a whole lot more.”

But Krauzig still received plenty of exposure.

The day after the show aired, a bottle manufacturer in Asia contacted him. He’s been approached by agents in China, Japan, Mexico and the United States. Most contact has come through email, but one private investor “tracked him down” and left several messages on his home phone.

Most deals that happen on the show do not go through, said Krauzig. That includes the offer that Treliving made him.

Treliving hoped to partner with a major alcohol distributor in North America. This would give Krauzig’s product vast exposure with little money spent on marketing.

But the distributor rejected the deal, said Krauzig. So, about a month ago, Treliving backed out.

This left Krauzig free to pursue a deal with Arlene Dickinson, owner of the marketing company Venture Communications. She contacted him three days after Treliving’s deal fell through. He has counter-offered her original deal, and hopes to have an update on the progress soon.

Krauzig wanted to work with Dickinson from the beginning, he said. Near the segment’s end, Krauzig proposed Treliving and Dickinson join forces, saying it would be a perfect partnership. But Treliving refused, while Dickinson remained mum.

Krauzig accepted Treliving’s offer because Treliving said they would work with Dickinson if needed.

So far, Krauzig is enjoying working with Dickinson – he has the number for her direct line. While other investors have contacted him, he’s prioritizing this relationship because Dickinson can also offer marketing expertise.

Krauzig’s vodka first hit shelves in December. It’s available in the Yukon and in British Columbia. He wants to expand into Ontario and the States.

Krauzig isn’t the first Yukoner to leave the den with an offer. Lewis Hartland, owner of Yukon Smoked Salmon, appeared on the program in December 2010.

Lewis, who is deaf, was accompanied by his son, Samson. When they auditioned for the show, “we really had nothing but the product,” the younger Hartland remembers.

Initially, he strongly discouraged his father from even auditioning. But his dad knew the product was strong, and the producers agreed.

“I think maybe deep down I was hoping they wouldn’t call us back, but when they did, (I thought) you’re not going to pass opportunity when it comes knocking,” he said.

Samson was tasked with preparing a business plan before the taping. In Toronto, they asked the dragons for $20,000 for 15 per cent of the company. They left with an offer from Brett Wilson, who is no longer on the show.

He offered $20,000 in four equal installments for 20 per cent of the company. He ended up buying a smaller stake in the company, and helped provide a $200,000 operating line of credit that was announced last fall – almost a year after the show originally aired.

They’ve gone from smoking salmon in their backyard to selling products in Northern Vision Development’s buildings. Wilson is a shareholder in Northern Vision, said Hartland. Orders came flooding in as soon as the story aired, more each time it was played in different time zones across Canada.

It has been surprising how long the relationship has lasted, said Hartland. Wilson has proven to be a mentor for the business and invites the Hartlands to his garden parties – although they have yet to attend.

Not every Yukoner has been as successful. Ross River’s Elvis Presley appeared on the show the same season as the Hartlands.

Presley, born Gilbert Nelles, believes he’s been possessed by the spirit of the King of Rock and Roll since an encounter with a UFO in 1986. He asked the dragon’s for $58,000 in exchange for “everything that’s connected to me,” including his artwork, merchandise and music.

While Presley endured insults from the judges, one did buy a painting of his.

While the show can create success, it doesn’t happen all at once.

“It’s a long road,” said Hartland. “It takes time. And you build these relationships with people that you want to work with.”

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com