Carleton alumni Jeff Davis and Jonah Brotman made their pitch on Dragon’s Den on Feb. 3, walking away with $50,000 and the support of Canada’s wealthiest barber.
Davis and Brotman met at Carleton during their undergraduate studies and have since co-founded the StashBelt, a belt with a built in zipper that travellers can use to safely carry money or documents.
The products are handmade in Kenya, and were inspired by Davis’s experience working as a journalist in Nairobi. While reporting on post-election violence in 2007, Davis was arrested and accused of being an American spy.
“He didn’t have his passport on him,” Brotman said. “But he did have a little money belt that his dad had actually hand sewn for him, and so he popped it off, opened the zipper, and pulled out photocopy of his passport, which is what got him out of jail.”
Davis came back from Kenya, enlisted the help of friends Brotman and Seth Rozee, and in late 2011 StashBelt was born.
A successful Indiegogo campaign in 2013 raised $10,000 for the project, and on Season nine of CBC’s Dragon’s Den, the team asked for $50,000 for a 33 per cent stake in the company.
To prepare for the show, the team practiced their 90-second pitch for weeks. “As much as I hate to admit it, since childhood my father has always said practice, practice, practice,” Brotman said. “He was right.”
But being comfortable in front of Canada’s richest and most influential business people was by no means a small task for Davis, Rozee and Brotman, but their passion goes beyond business. “I think that comfort comes when you know your product, you really believe in the mission,” Brotman said. “It’s about supporting a trade not aid mentality, and about empowering Kenyans.”
Pitching $50,000 for a third of their business, the trio walked away with $50,000 from ‘The Wealthy Barber’ Dave Chilton. Chilton also offered to be a mentor to the trio.
“That’s something that is really exciting for us,” Brotman said. “He’s sort of supporting us not just as a monetary investor, but he’s really giving his time and his support to help grow our business.”
Looking now to expanding into big retailers and across North America, the threesome behind Stashbelt is looking to share the experience.
“We just started it because we had a passion for it,” Brotman said. “A lot of students often feel like unless they study business they can’t do some of these things.”
But that’s not the case.
“You should try,” he said. “People can do a lot more than they think they can.”