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Lessons from the Dragons: Create a Category of Your Own

This article by Murad Hemmadi originally appeared on Profit Guide on January 6, 2016.

Brian and Corin Mullins

Holy Crap - Certified organic breakfast cereals

Entrepreneurs: Corin & Brian Mullins | From: Sechelt, B.C. | Ask: $2,000,000 for 49%

Manjit Minhas had never tasted Holy Crap cereal. “I had heard of the brand and seen it in my grocery store, but I had never picked it up,” she says. So when the irreverently-named breakfast food made an appearance in the Den, Minhas was excited to try it.

She wasn’t disappointed. “As soon as I ate it I was sold,” say Minhas in an exclusive interview before the episode aired.

Jim Treliving clearly felt the same way half a decade before, when Brian and Colin Mullins first brought their high-fibre, organic cereal to the show in Season 5: he offered them their $120,000 for 20% ask within minutes.

The deal never closed, but Holy Crap didn’t leave the Den empty handed. “The consequence of being on the show was almost $1.5 million worth of business, literally in one night,” recalled Brian Mullins before the couple pitched to the new roster of Dragons in the current season’s Second Chance Special. All told, Holy Crap sold almost $18 million worth of cereal in the years between its appearances on the show.

With numbers like those, it was no surprise that the company sparked a bidding war: Michael Wekerle wanted a partner to split the deal with, but Treliving and Minhas tendered competing offers of $2 million for a 50% stake. During filming, Treliving’s earlier bond with the Mullins won the day. “We made a deal with this man,” Brian Mullins said, pointing to Treliving. “We said we’d come back to him.”

But viewers who turned off their TVs at that point missed the real end to the story. “Call me if it doesn’t work out,” Minhas called out as the Mullins left the set, and they did. Minhas is now the couple’s partner, and per the show, their company’s new co-CEO.

Holy Crap’s success story is impressive, even by the standards of the Den. “They made a product for themselves, and they not only created awareness but created the whole new category of [healthy] cereal in Canada,” marvels Minhas on the phone. “To make it so successful in such a small amount of time, they really knew what they were doing as far as the product goes.” But the couple needed a marketing engine behind them to realize their plans of global expansion, something they readily acknowledged on the show.

That made Minhas a great fit. “Sales, marketing and branding is what I do, and I do it very well,” she says. Since they struck a deal in September, Minhas has helped the company get the word out, and with plans for a line extension that could include smaller products like granola bars. She’s also assisted in the realization of their international ambitions, particularly in the Chinese market.

“It’s an amazing product,” says Minhas. She’s thrilled to have bagged the Holy Crap deal, and for more than one reason—Minhas says it’s the first time in the show’s 10-year history that one Dragon has replaced another as an investor after filming concluded. “It was pretty monumental for me to do that first,” she laughs. “I was pretty excited to scoop it from the veteran Jim!”

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