Two St. F.X. students will be filming a pitch for season six of CBC’s Dragons’ Den later this week.
A.J. MacQuarrie and Christina Wilson successfully auditioned for the show in Halifax and will be pitching their business Urban Vendor in front of the Dragons April 23.
Urban Vendor is a convenient good health company offering healthy yet delicious snacks and beverages in earth-friendly refreshment centres located throughout Halifax. As an alternative to traditional vending, Urban Vendor guarantees personalized business interaction and exceptional customer service.
MacQuarrie is a third-year political science student at St. F.X. and the CEO and co-founder of Urban Vendor. In May of 2010, MacQuarrie was approved for a loan through Northern Opportunities for Business Limited (NOBL) to launch his business venture.
“It’s been such an awesome experience so far,” MacQuarrie said.
MacQuarrie said the idea for Urban Vendor came from a “simple observation.”
“I noticed there were tons of snacks but there weren’t many health options available,” he said. “I started looking into it and realized this is right now an unsaturated market so I saw the opportunity. That was essentially how it all got started.”
Christina Wilson is a fourth-year science student at St. F.X. with an advanced major in mathematics. MacQuarrie and Wilson’s partnership started with her interest in numbers, she said.
“It was mainly to bounce ideas off each other (financially speaking) in regards to his small business Urban Vendor,” Wilson said.
After hearing some of his ideas, Wilson was instantly intrigued in getting involved and exploring how she could participate in such a new and exciting venture.
Soon, her roles and responsibilities became more than just number crunching, but rather, taking care of many of the finer details regarding plans for Urban Vendor.
“Numbers just aren’t my thing, but fortunately Christina’s a math whiz,” MacQuarrie said. “Our partnership is a great balance.”
MacQuarrie said Urban Vendor purchases vending machines and decals them with their own logo and design.
“We hired a designer to do that – she’s been awesome.”
“We’re trying to change the face of vending, I guess. We want to make it more personable. You walk up to a typical vending machine and what do you see – you see a box with junk food. When you walk up to a refreshment centre we want to make it a different experience.”
Urban Vendor machines include nutritional information for all the products available, he said.
“The transparency is there with Urban Vendor.”
MacQuarrie added they will be implementing a loyalty program called Urban Rewards.
“It’s essentially a way to collect points through purchasing our products. We’re trying to connect to the customer in a different way.”
So far MacQuarrie said machines are located at a national hotel chain, a design school and the Stanfield International Airport.
“This is a our pilot year – we haven’t been up and running for a year yet. So we’re testing it, getting our feet wet, seeing what works and what doesn’t work. We’re really trying to make this business bullet-proof.”
Later this week the pair will travel to Toronto to pitch their idea to the Dragons.
“I’m really nervous,” MacQuarrie said. “But I’m looking forward to it because either way it’s going to be an amazing experience. Whether we get the investment or not the experience alone is going to be awesome.”
He added it is a bit nerve-wracking preparing for the pitch, added he has been watching a lot of episodes of the show.
“Just listening to the questions they’re asking, trying to anticipate what they’re going to ask us.”
After pitching MacQuarrie said they won’t be able to talk about the show or whether or not their idea was accepted until after it airs.
“[That’s] going to be very hard. We don’t know if we’re going to be on the show for sure. We’ll film it but it doesn’t guarantee you a spot in season six. But I’m pretty optimistic about it.”
Over the past six months Melissa MacMaster, the entrepreneurship co-ordinator for St. F.X. Enterprise Development Centre (XEDC), has been working with MacQuarrie and Wilson in putting together a business plan and providing them with guidance to successfully run a small business.
“This will be an opportunity of a lifetime for them,” MacMaster said.
“They have both worked really hard in balancing both school, work and running a business. We are very proud of them and regardless of what happens in the Den they will both learn and grow as young entrepreneurs.”