An offer of $100,000 for a 20 percent share of Canada-based Millennia Tea was withdrawn before Thursday’s airing of Dragons’ Den on Canada’s CBC TV.
During the program, which was taped in April and aired Nov. 16, Jim Treliving (net worth $640 million) offered to invest $100,000 in Tracy and Rory Bell’s pioneering flash-frozen tea company. The couple valued the company at $526,000 and asked $100,000 for a 19 percent share. Arlene Dickinson (net worth $125 million) matched the offer but wanted 30 percent of the company in exchange. The couple said no.
Canadians can watch the Dragons’ Den episode here.
It was later, during the due diligence phase that followed the taping, that Bell discovered “Mr. Treliving has a non-compete with Toronto-based Steeped Tea that prevented him from also supporting Millennia Tea.”
Tracy Bell made the announcement after the program aired because she was prohibited from disclosing the outcome before the season 12, episode 8 show.
See: Beyond the Deal for a business analysis by the Business Development Bank of Canada BDC.
Over the weekend Tracy Bell said, “there was a moment of heartbreak” but “it all worked out” in the end. “We have access to the capital we need to grow the business through personal financing and we get to keep 100 percent of our company, which is terrific,” she said.
“We continue to have a good relationship with Steeped Tea,” she said.
Steeped Tea Deal
In season 7 Hatem and Sonia Jahshan convinced Treliving and David Chilton (net worth $20 million) to invest a combined $250,000 for a 20 percent share (10 percent each) in the multi-level tea marketing venture which was then earning $1.3 million per year and nearing profitability. Treliving was one of four Dragons competing for the opportunity. In the year following their appearance on the show, annual sales grew five times, according to Sonia Jahshan. The company built a large warehouse, expanded operations into the United States and shipped 65 tons of tea that year. Steeped Tea made a return Dragons’ Den appearance in season 11. By then Steeped Tea had become the most successful company funded on Dragons’ Den, with a network of 9,000 consultants and 2017 revenue of $16 million ($20 million CAD).
Millennia Tea Plans
Tracy Bell said “we spent the summer finding the right partners to take us past the concept stage and into full production. Also, we really honed the logistics and public education piece that comes with bringing a new kind of product to market.”
“This fall, we received our first large batch of fresh-leaf tea from Kenya and set up our first retailers in Atlantic Canada. And we went live with our online shop just last week to complete direct to consumer sales,” she said.
“The early response has been incredible. We sold out of product within 48 hours of our Dragons’ Den episode, and we have a waiting list of retailers interested in carrying the product when our next big batch arrives mid-December,” said Tracy said.
“We’re still a young company and we have lots to learn. But we have big dreams for Millennia Tea, and the right partners on board, to help us become an organization that does a lot of good in the world,” she said.
Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) favorably critiqued their appearance: “they have not only launched a new venture with the potential for global reach but have also created an entirely new category of tea. Contributing to the couple’s successful pitch was the strength of their relationship. He (Rory) is a career medevac pilot and she is a former public-relations specialist, and the couples’ mutual respect and support were clear to the Dragons from the start.”
“Rory and Tracy presented together as a well-balanced and driven team,” says Robert Duffy, Managing Director of Growth & Transition Capital at BDC.
Asked if she would consider approaching other investors from the popular TV program she said, “we have not approached any of the other dragons.”
She and Rory are grateful for the publicity but “in the end, it’s a television show, and we have the capital and network we need to grow our business,” she said.