Four Dragons wanted to hop aboard Seaward Kayaks

Then-sales manager Doug Godkin pitches an investment opportunity with the Chemainus-based Seaward Kayaks manufacturing company to CBC’s Dragons’ Den, during a Wednesday broadcast. - courtesy CBC
Then-sales manager Doug Godkin pitches an investment opportunity with the Chemainus-based Seaward Kayaks manufacturing company to CBC’s Dragons’ Den, during a Wednesday broadcast.
— image credit: courtesy CBC

The Wealthy Barber has tentatively taken a cut of Canada’s swelling paddling market by sinking $300,000 into Chemainus’ Seaward Kayaks.

As shown Wednesday on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, Dragon and Wealthy Barber author David Chilton grabbed Seaward’s ask for cash and 15% of the company — plus a five per cent royalty until his stake is paid off — so Seaward can tap the lower-price, plastic kayak market.

Owners Jacquie and Steve Ree are mulling details of Chilton’s offer on the pitch from then-sales manager Doug Godkin.

“The due diligence is in place, and we look forward to a follow-up,” Jacquie told the News Leader Pictorial Thursday. “The pitch was to expand our product line of lower-end kayaks.”

Those unnamed, rotomolded models — measuring eight to 16 feet — could fetch $300 to $1,200 from rental businesses, and sell through department stores, she noted.

“The low-end line gets you opportunities in big-box stores,” she said of the affordable “bomb-proof” boats.

Seaward’s Den debut also floated her firm’s name nationwide, a gleeful Ree added. Besides, the night marked pitches by proudly Canadian firms.

Seaward is Canada’s largest manufacturer of Fiberglas kayaks, hand-made in Mural Town, noted Godkin.

And with Seaward’s 25 years in the biz, posting $1.57 million in annual sales, the pitch proved a perfect fit for all Dragons — except black sheep Kevin O’Leary.

“You have (three) very viable offers; I’m out,” he stated.

Chilton’s offer was among three made by Dragons impressed by Seaward’s factually simple presentation by Godkin during March taping of the wildly popular Den.

Godkin and the Rees retired to the Den’s Rat Room to debate the three offers.

Dragons Jim Treliving (Boston Pizza, Mr. Lube magnate), and internet tycoon Bruce Croxon partnered to offer $300,000 for 45% of Seaward.

Venture capitalist Arlene Dickinson made the third offer: $300,000 for a 10% royalty forever.

Those potential deals surfaced after the Dragons checked Seaward’s shiny line of recreational boats — Dickinson even sat in the Cowichan firm’s glass-bottom, 10-foot Intrigue model.

While O’Leary noted “$1.5 million isn’t a lot of sales,” Godkin explained Den dollars can launch lower-priced crafts carrying “attention to detail” galore, such as comfortable seating.

“There’s just no style to them,” he said of competitors’ kayaks. “The nickel-and-dime stuff makes all the difference.”

Croxon was sold.

“This fits my lifestyle perfectly,” he said, noting his offer was unusual for a non-digital business.

The low-end models would join Seaward’s premier line of glass and Kevlar crafts (costing up to $5,000), and its mid-range thermoform fleet.

“This is a fantastic Canadian story,” Dickinson said.

Godkin agreed.

“This (investment) is great for our economy, our work force — and our paddlers.”

Seaward’s final decision about Chilton’s offer was expected in a few weeks, Ree said Thursday.

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