Natasha and Elysia Vandenhurk went to Toronto, and came back to Saskatchewan with a pending investment from a Dragon.
The sisters, who were raised in the Midale area, and who work for the Three Farmers camelina cooking oil company, appeared on the October 10 edition of the popular CBC reality TV series “Dragons' Den.” The five venture capitalists who are on “Dragons' Den” raved about the product, and leading Canadian marketer Arlene Dickinson offered the Vandenhurks $150,000 for 20 per cent of the company.
Dickinson told the Elysia and Natasha that she loved the branding, and that the food the Vandenhurks offered the Dragons was as good as any Dickinson had tasted on the show.
“We always received positive feedback around the product,” said Elysia.
The segment that ran on October 10 was actually filmed in May, and they spent about 25 minutes pitching Three Farmers to the Dragons. The Three Farmers' segment that aired on "Dragons' Den" lasted about seven minutes.
The Dragons asked a lot of questions that didn't air, as they wanted more information about Three Farmers' numbers, their benchmarks for growth and how they set the valuation for their company. And the Dragons wanted to know about traceability and the benefits of the product.
While in the den, the Vandenhurks had to stand in a specific area for the sake of the broadcast. It was a much more intimidating than how it appears on television, they said.
The deal with Dickinson hasn’t been finalized yet, but the Vandenhurks are confident it will be completed.
To celebrate their appearance on "Dragons' Den," and the offer from Dickinson, the Vandenhurks held a reception at the Three Farmers' office in Saskatoon.
“Arlene was kind enough to call in and greet all of our guests, and say a few nice words about us,” said Elysia. “She made the comment that we have a kick-ass product, and she’s very excited to take this brand global. She seems pretty excited, and her staff seems pretty excited, so we’re pretty excited about closing this deal.”
They expect that Dickinson will bring a lot of knowledge about marketing, which is one of their biggest expenses, along with building awareness about the product.
“Being a woman in business, and with her marketing experience, I think she was the best dragon to come on board with us,” Elysia said.
Other people who have been impressed with the Three Farmers product thought that the business would be a natural for a "Dragons' Den" appearance.
“Whenever we’re out doing demos, which is all the time, whether we’re in Toronto or Vancouver or here in Saskatchewan, people are always approaching us and saying ‘You should be on the Dragon’s Den with this product. It’s such a novel idea, and you’re the first doing it,’” said Natasha.
Three Farmers is owned by three Midale-area producers: Natasha and Elysia's father, Dan Vandenhurk, along with Colin Rosengren and Ron Emde. Natasha is in charge of sales and marketing, and Elysia is the director of product development. John Ondrusak is the company’s new general manager.
It was Rosengren who found out that camelina oil had been used as a cooking oil in northern Europe and other parts of the world, and who felt that it would work in Saskatchewan.
“They brought us on board, after they had the initial idea, about a year-and-a-half later that we came on board,” said Natasha. “They gave us some direction for branding, marketing and sales and such.”
They're the first company in Canada to be marketing camelina oil.
Camelina oil carries a number of benefits, Elysia said. It grows really well in the Saskatchewan climate. It also carries strong nutritional values, since it is rich in Omega 3s. The Omega 3 factor was one that drew the attention of the "Dragons' Den" members.
“Human beings, especially in mainland areas, are very deficient in Omega 3s, because typically you can only source that through fresh fish or flax, and now you can get it through camelina oil,” said Elysia.
Camelina oil is also rich in Vitamin E, Elysia said, which adds to its health benefits.
Health Canada has granted the Three Farmers novel food status, since the company is the only one to market camelina oil.