Garrett Nelson may have enrolled in university to study chemical engineering, but he wound up taking a crash course in business along the way.
Nelson, a 21-year-old originally from Falmouth, was one of three University of New Brunswick (UNB) students to appear in an episode of CBC’s Dragons’ Den this spring.
The Avon View High School graduate, along with fellow chemical engineering students Greg Bailey and Stephen Likely, stepped onto the set of Dragons’ Den with the intent of asking the Dragons to invest $200,000 for 15 per cent of their business based on an industrial hand cleaner.
The product, pitched to the Dragons as Prevail Hand Cleaner, was developed by a professor at UNB.
The trio earned the opportunity to pitch Prevail to the no-nonsense Dragons by winning the CBC Viewer’s Choice award, plus $50,000 for their business concept, at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Breakthru competition.
They appeared before the Dragons — Canadian business moguls Kevin O’Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Jim Treliving, Bruce Croxon and David Chilton — in April 2013.
Nelson admits that standing before the Dragons, who have a reputation of being ruthless, was intimidating — especially when one of his colleague’s forgot O’Leary’s name.
However, after 45 minutes of filming, he started to see another side of the Dragons.
“They’re actually really, really nice. You could kind of tell when they were trying to get quotes for the show and when they were just chatting — it was completely different,” he recalls.
To demonstrate how easily Prevail can clean oil-based filth compared to the most popular product on the market now, the UNB students spray-painted the hands of two of the Dragons, asked one to use Prevail to wash up and handed the other the product sold by the leading competitor.
“Kevin couldn’t get the stuff off his hand with the leading competitor and Dave’s came right off,” Nelson says.
Prevail peaked the interest of three Dragons, and Nelson’s team left with an offer of $200,000 for 22 per cent ownership from Treliving.
Nelson, who will move to Calgary to start his career in chemical engineering this summer, says UNB owns the intellectual property for Prevail, and the students did not have a patent for the product when it was presented to the Dragons.
He says the product remains in limbo, and his company has not been involved in negotiations for months, but all was not lost.
“It’s a great product and it was a great time.”