The phone calls began shortly after 6 p.m. on the night of Oct. 2 as Chip Nary and Alexa Grier were busy preparing for a party at their Warren Street home.
First up came an order for a bottle of Happy Zak’s from a woman in Nova Scotia. She had just watched the East Coast season premiere of Dragons’ Den and couldn’t resist placing an order.
A half-dozen calls followed in rapid succession, prompting Grier and Nary to stop picking up; their guests had arrived and the West Coast premiere of the show was about to air.
Surrounded by 15 of their closest friends, the creators of Happy Zak’s watched as Canada’s leading business moguls fielded one sales pitch after the other as season eight, episode one of Dragons’ Den unfolded on CBC. Keeping true to the confidentiality clause inscribed in their contract with the show’s producers, the fate of their own spiel remained a mystery to everyone other than Grier and Nary until their segment aired shortly after 8:30 p.m.
Following Nary’s on-air request for a $50,000 investment in exchange for a 50-per-cent stake in their company, Grier, Nary and company watched as 35 to 40 minutes’ worth of studio time unfolded in a furiously paced five-minute segment.
Grier prefaced the nationwide debut of Happy Zak’s by explaining to the Dragons that theirs was a “unique product with a green philosophy and an organic, healing and humourous nature.”
Quizzical looks followed as the Dragons listened to Grier’s cryptic explanation of how their product “is targeted, but not exclusively, at an area that has been tucked away in the dark for far too long.”
On cue, Nary and Grier recited the full name of their product — Happy Zak’s Scrotum Bliss — in unison as silence enveloped the set.
Laughter and comedy ensued shortly thereafter, with the Dragons revelling in an opportunity to exchange risqué jokes — sometimes at each other’s expense — while sampling a lotion designed to bring testicular tranquility to the transglobal masses.
The Dragons heaped compliments and encouragement on the Happy Zak’s founders, but their positive endorsements failed to translate into a deal.
“I love the bottle. I love the idea. I think you’re going to actually sell a lot of them. And I think you’ll do very, very well,” said Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications. “As an investment, it’s a one-off, so I’m out.”
David Chilton, Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Croxon expressed similar sentiments regarding Scrotum Bliss’s market potential, making former Mountie and Boston Pizza magnate Jim Treliving their last hope. Treliving held out until the final seconds of their segment, opting out after failing to recognize how he might market Happy Zak’s to the likes of hockey players.
“[Our friends] didn’t know what was going to happen,” Nary explained, “And it was interesting to see their reactions when we didn’t get the deal at the last minute. They got pretty upset, but then it quickly erupted into a grand celebration.”
While they may not have secured the backing they’d hoped for, their trip to Toronto, combined with the exposure they’ve received through their appearance on the show, has translated to a big bump in sales.
Backstage following the April 10 taping of their spiel, the show’s production crew bought out their entire stock of Happy Zak’s, Grier said, and when they woke up Thursday morning, they were greeted by 40-plus orders waiting for them in their e-mail inbox.
They’re still waiting on a “perfect angel venture capitalist” to emerge from the woodwork and deliver the deep-pocketed backing Happy Zak’s needs for future growth.
In the meantime, Nary will continue to handcraft his signature Scrotum Bliss bottles and pottery at their gallery, Crystalline Vortex Pottery, while working part-time at a Home Depot in Duncan. Grier has expanded her daily routine to include the delivery of holistic healing and massage therapy sessions at Esthetics by Vanessa.
Describing their experience as a “beautiful, grand adventure,” Grier flashes back to a conversation she and Nary had three years ago while sitting on the balcony of their home in Florida, laughing at the thought that the creation of Happy Zak’s might one day lead them into the Dragons’ Den.
Humour remains Happy Zak’s biggest selling point, Nary added, summing up their Dragons’ Den appearance by reminding me that “We made Canada laugh [that] night.”
Watch Happy Zak’s Canadian debut online here.