Jarris Neufeld (left) and Todd Weimer of VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools appear on the Oct. 11th airing of Dragons’ Den. (CBC Television photo)

Two Abbotsford businesses make their pitches on Dragons’ Den

VSSL and Burgundy Oak featured on Oct. 11 episode

Two businesses with Abbotsford ties appear on an episode of the hit CBC TV show Dragons’ Den this week.

The show airs on Oct. 11 includes VSSL Outdoor Utility Tools – located on Riverside Road in Abbotsford – and Burgundy Oak, which is now based in Calgary but was started by Joel Jelinski in Abbotsford in 2014.

Dragons’ Den gives aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses to a panel of wealthy Canadian business moguls, known as the Dragons, in hopes of gaining investment dollars.

Todd Weimer, who started VSSL four years ago, said his company was invited to appear on the show as part of its new feature that showcases “Next Level” companies – those that are beyond their initial funding stage.

VSSL produces compact camp/survival kits in weather-resistant cases. The products have been profiled in magazines such as Popular Mechanics, TIME and National Geographic, and have won numerous awards.

Weimer said he’s a private person and, at first, was reluctant to be featured on Dragons’ Den. But Jarris Neufeld, the head of VSSL sales for Canada, convinced him it would be a good marketing opportunity.

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“So I really did it for exposure for the Canadian market, but I’m familiar with some of the Dragons and thought that, if any of them presented a compelling offer, we’d consider that, as we always need funds to continue growing,” Weimer said.

He can’t reveal the outcome, but Weimer said it was a “unique experience.” He and Neufeld appeared in front of the Dragons during filming in Toronto for about 90 minutes, which gets cut to around seven or eight minutes.

“I’m a fairly methodical thinker so having the Dragons fire random, unrelated questions definitely kept me on my toes,” Weimer said.

He said he appreciated the feedback they received from the Dragons.

Jelinksi, 25, who grew up in Abbotsford and graduated from Robert Bateman, ended up on Dragons’ Den after two rounds of auditions in Calgary.

He started Burgundy Oak – which creates furniture and decor pieces from authentic wine barrels – based on an idea he had when he was 12 years old. The business began in the two-car garage of his parents’ home in 2014, when he was completing a degree in civil engineering at the University of B.C.

Jelinski then partnered with entrepreneurs Zac Hartley, Nicholas White and Torin Hoffmann.

He moved to Calgary in 2016, and Burgundy Oak has since grown to a team of 14 full-time employees operating out of an 8,300-square-foot facility. Their products sell in more than 500 stores across North America.

The Burgundy Oak team appeared on Dragons’ Den seeking a capital injection so that they can continue to grow at their current pace and take on larger licensing deals.

Jelinksi said he used to watch Dragons’ Den with his parents every week, and it was a goal of his to appear on the show one day.

“I not only wanted to pitch my business on national television, but eventually turn the tables and become a Dragon myself,” he said.

“It was amazing to pitch in front of Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving, who were two of my childhood idols.”

Dragons’ Den airs Thursdays on CBC at 8 p.m.

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(From left) Zac Hartley, Nick White, Joel Jelinski and Torin Hofmann of Burgundy Oak appear on the Oct. 11th airing of Dragons’ Den. (CBC Television photo)

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