Second Whistler food company pitching Dragons 

Nonna Pia's looking to expand to eastern Canada after conquering the west

click to enlarge VIRAL VINAiGRETTE Members of the Strimm family will travel from Whistler to Toronto later this month to ask the Dragons' Den cast for capital to expand their operations.
  • VIRAL VINAiGRETTE Members of the Strimm family will travel from Whistler to Toronto later this month to ask the Dragons' Den cast for capital to expand their operations.

Dragons are portrayed as scary creatures, but at the same time they can also be a great source of capital for budding entrepreneurs.

Leah and John Garrad-Cole of Whistler can attest to this. When the owners of Love Child Organics pitched their idea on the CBC TV show called Dragons' Den they came out of it with the biggest deal in the history of the show. Dragons Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton teamed up to invest $750,000 into Love Child after the company struck a distribution deal with Wal-Mart in the U.S.

Another Whistler family is hoping for similar success when they tape a pitch for the program on March 24 in Toronto.

Norman, Natasha, Georgia and Oliver Strimm are using part of their spring break from school to introduce Nonna Pia's Gourmet Sauces to Chilton, Dickinson, Jim Treliving, Kevin O'Leary and Bruce Coxon.

All four Strimms went to an initial audition in Vancouver and pitched to a panel made up of three producers.

"We booked a room in the Century Plaza," says Strimm of their audition in January. "It was starting at 10 o'clock so at 6 o'clock we went down to where the audition was and started lining up."

They figured interest would be high but they were the second people in the line. The family presented using lots of props. They came away feeling good about their pitch.

"They really thought it was fun and funny," Strimm says.

One producer suggested O'Leary would focus on the use of child labour as part of the business strategy. The two children are just eight and 10 years of age.

"We're pitching our reductions that we've been making full-time for the last three years," says Strimm. "We're asking for money. Right now 95 per cent of our business is done in western Canada."

They want to expand east. The company dressings are currently available at Overwaitea Food Group stores, Whole Foods, IGA stores and Thrifty Foods. Nonna Pia products are also available in a few Alberta grocery stores. Strimm says getting just one product onto the shelves of a big eastern chain store can cost up to $50,000. She hopes that with help from one or more Dragon the capital needed to do business in eastern Canada will be found.

Nonna Pia's Gourmet sauces has come a long way from the early days of selling products based on raw ingredients from Modena, Italy, at the Farmer's Market in Whistler. Simply getting products onto Overwaitea Foods Group stores made a big difference.

"We increased 270 per cent in our business just in that chain," says Strimm.

In addition to sharpening their pitch the Strimms are chatting with their bank and their accountant to figure out what the company is worth.

"It's like having a baby, there's all these hurdles to get over each few months," Strimm says.

Over the next few weeks the family is going to do the pitch as many times as they can in front of as many friends and strangers as possible.

"We are really hoping we are entertaining enough to be put on air," says Strimm.

A company that got its start by blowing up three stoves in its first few months of being in business has to have a pretty good shot.



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