Nicolette Richer and her family almost didn't make it on Dragons' Den, the hit CBC series that sees entrepreneurs pitch their business concept to a room full of potential investors.
First, the owners of vegetarian restaurant franchise The Green Moustache missed their initial flight to Toronto for the April taping of the show. Then, Richer's husband and three daughters came down with the Norwalk virus.
"Being in the Den was positive in so many senses, and then crazy outside of it," Richer recalled. "Literally an hour after we got out of the Den, my whole entire family started throwing up on me. They had the flu... I thought we had poisoned the Dragons."
Fortunately, the Richers persevered, and managed to impress the Dragons with their pitch, asking for $250,000 for a 15-per-cent stake in the company. The episode airs Feb. 15.
"We kicked ass in the Den. That's the most I can say," Richer added. "The whole experience was great, just preparing for the pitch, learning how to value your company and getting prepared to deliver live in front of these people you don't know. It was a really positive experience."
Richer, a certified nutritionist, launched The Green Moustache out of its original village location in 2012 as a healthy, nourishing alternative to the pubs and fast-food joints lining the stroll. Since then, it's added locations in Function Junction, Squamish and Vancouver.
That strong growth has only ramped up Richer's ambitions for the company. Her grand vision is to open 50 stores in five years and 500 stores over the next decade, primarily on university campuses and in hospitals.
"We've been told it's doable in looking at other companies that sell similar food to us that are on the same trajectory," she noted. "The organic food industry is one of Canada's strongest markets. It's about a $3.7-billion market, so I think we have an ability to definitely take some of that, for sure."
The Green Moustache joins a line of Whistler entrepreneurs who have braved the Dragons' Den, with a local company securing a deal in each of the reality show's past three seasons: organic baby-food brand Love Child Organics, Nonna Pia's Gourmet Sauces and Snowboard Addiction, an online snowboard tutorial program.
Richer believes Whistler is the ideal breeding ground for entrepreneurs looking to get their business concept off the ground.
"It's the kind of place where you can reinvent yourself. You get up here and don't have access to everything you might have access to in the city. So if it's not up here, as an entrepreneur you decide to create it for yourself," she said. "Then you have access to an unbelievable market of two million people coming through Whistler every year, so you can expose your product or service to that many more people. If you nail it and get it right — word of mouth is everything — the tourists and the locals can really make it or break it for you and help you grow your business."