Sudbury company makes mark on Dragons’ Den
Alicia Woods would have a hard time selling her wares without some self-confidence.
But the founder of Covergalls, a company specializing in workwear for women, admits taking the stage in front of the high-powered investors from CBC’s Dragons’ Den last month was a nerve-wracking experience.
“In my full-time career, I’m used to speaking to large groups and speaking about products, but I really challenged myself,” Woods said. “I guess some people would skydive to get that, in terms of challenging themselves, and I think this was probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far.”
Woods’ pitch was part of the Dragons’ Den season premiere, which aired on Wednesday.
“I was comfortable and confident, because I believed in the product and I knew my numbers and the details inside and out,” Woods said. “I had studied every night, my numbers and just really understanding the industry, and I answered every possible question I thought I might be asked, because I wanted to make sure I was ready when I faced them. So I was calm, I was good, but then you get into that big stage and they close that big stage door and the camera’s in your face right away and they’re like, ‘How are you feeling right now?’
“Those questions, I wasn’t prepared for. I was prepared for all the hard questions in the Den, that I had practised for a month before. So it kind of threw me off when I got asked, ‘Hey, how are you feeling right now?'”
When she walked down the staircase for her pitch to the Dragons – Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickinson, David Chilton, Michael Wekerle and Vikram Vij – her heart started to race.
“I thought, ‘This is it,'” Woods said. ” ‘This is the point of no return.’
“It’s obviously very intimidating. You walk down the stairs and get to the bottom, but when it’s just you and you’re facing a panel of five Dragons who have done extremely well for themselves, there’s no emotion when you walk down there. It’s business, it’s serious. You have to pitch to them, to sell them your company and sell them your product and sell yourself. Those first few seconds are fairly scary and intimidating, but once you get talking to them and some expressions come on their faces, it really just becomes a natural conversation.”
It helps that when Woods sells Covergalls, she can speak from personal experience. She was working underground for a local mine supply and service company when first got the idea for coveralls and work gear to better fit the female form.
Since developing the original garment, Woods’ company has introduced a line that includes safety gloves that better fit a woman’s hand, as well as a line of workwear for men.
She said the Dragons, including newcomers Wekerle and Vij, who replaced Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Croxon for this season, did a good job challenging her.
“They’re two great new Dragons,” Woods said. “They really bring different things to the Den.”
Woods’ pitch was a success, as three of the Dragons – Treliving, Dickinson and Wekerle – decided to invest in her business together.
Deal or no deal, Woods said, the appearance and chance to expose her company and product to millions of viewers was invaluable.
“It was definitely a great experience,” she said. “I think being on the show has certainly sped up my learning process, in terms of being an entrepreneur, starting a business, launching a new product and building a brand. I have learned a lot through this.
“Now, when I’m asked to speak in front of other groups, I think, ‘Well, if I can face the Dragons, I can face anybody.”