An Amherstburg resident faced Canada’s most well-known venture capitalists and his conversation with them will be aired Thursday night.
Stuart Smith faced the Dragons on Dragons’ Den to pitch his product in the hopes of getting an investment from them. The teacher of students in Grades 5 and 6 at Anderdon Public School was awestruck by the experience.
“It was surreal, it was terrifying, it was exhilarating,” he said. “At one point when I was talking to them, I felt like I was watching the show, but they were saying my name. At one point, I felt like a passive viewer because I’m a fan of the show and I’ve seen it so many times, and then you hear, ‘Stuart’.”
Smith’s product, the Rod Caddy, was invented with his father, Dave. Dave designed a product to stop rods getting tangled and broken and Stuart suggested a tension strap be added, allowing anglers to carry their rods hands-free.
“My dad was a consummate tinkerer,” Stuart recalls. “He brought over these two cylinder tubes, broke down a two-piece rod, put one tub on one end and the other tube on the other. I said, ‘I think you’re onto something, but what if we put a strap between the two, and it would act as a compressor for the two tubes and you could put it over your shoulder?’ It was that ‘a-ha’ moment.”
“The Rod Caddy was born.”
From there, the two perfected the design and licensed it to Zebco, a fishing manufacturer. After his father passed away from pancreatic cancer and their contract with Zebco expired, Stuart decided to go alone.
“I had some marketing ideas that I would throw their way,” he said. “Our rep from Zebco left the industry. I was trying to promote this and pick up the business, but Zebco wasn’t really sure where the product fit. They were a great company to deal with, but I just felt that there was another way to do it.”
Stuart decided to take the plunge and audition for Dragons’ Den. He made it to the show, with his segment being recorded in mid-July.
Stuart said that putting himself in front of the cameras on national television was out of his comfort zone. However, for him, it was never about trying to secure a deal with one or more of the Dragons.
“If you’ve got a platform and you can show the country, ‘Here’s a great idea’, you have to take that opportunity,” Stuart said. “Whether it’s my own kids or the Grade 5 and 6 students I teach, I want them to know if I’m going to teach grit and resilience, I’d better walk that walk.”
Stuart said the Dragons were intrigued with the Rod Caddy. He said they had never seen anything like it because nothing like it exists. The product is patent-pending and Stuart said he is already working on the next generation of the product.
His pitch airs on this Thursday’s episode of Dragons’ Den at 8 p.m. You can watch it on CBC Television or stream it on CBC Gem.