Researching and finding solutions to real world environmental and social problems has always been a motivation for Nicolette Richer as long as she can remember. After 15 years of working in the government as an environmental policy developer, project manager and environmental educator, being the founding board member of three NGOs and being part of several other societies and charities, her passion clearly shines through.
Through her research and policy work, Nicolette noticed the link between the food we eat, soil quality, cancer and overall planetary health and that’s what motivated her to start her own business, The Green Moustache. Entrepreneurship wasn’t something new for Nicolette as she had a health consulting company, Richer Health, for almost ten years prior to starting the Green Moustache. However, she feels that it wasn’t until she opened her first restaurant that she really felt like an entrepreneur.
The Green Moustache is a chain of restaurants that have been said to be Canada’s fastest growing collection of fast-casual cafes that provide communities with affordable, organic, nutritious, detoxifying, plant-based, and whole food meals and beverages. There are currently four locations between Whistler and Vancouver and nine more locations set to open before the end of this year. The ultimate goal for the Green Moustache is to set up a disease-fighting, health-promoting eatery in every hospital, and next to every university and fast-food chain across Canada to support Canadians in reducing cancer rates by 50%. They have also launched a non-profit arm to their business called Sea to Sky Thrivers Society to roll out programs in elementary schools, high schools, hospitals and First Nations communities.
Although people may have thought Nicolette was crazy for leaving her government job, she was tired of writing a million reports and the amount of time it took to roll out programs, she decided that she needed to work for herself so she could make well-researched quick decisions without as many barriers. Also, working as a health consultant, she realized there was an evident need that had to be filled. Her clients, family and community wanted and needed access to 100% organic, nutritious and affordable meals. Clearly it wasn’t just Nicolette and her clients who were seeing a need in Canada for something like the Green Moustache but also the Dragon’s on Dragons’ Den which the Green Moustache appeared on just last month.
Despite the show appearing to be very intimidating, Nicolette described her experience on the Dragons’ Den to be really comfortable. “It truly felt like we had walked into a boardroom to make a pitch to a group of interested, kind and inquisitive investors,” she explained. Knowing the Dragon’s would ask tough questions, Nicolette prepared for anything and everything. However, getting to Toronto for their callback was a bit of a nightmare. The family was in the middle of building their third restaurant and because of the chaos they missed their flight and ended up having to pay for five additional seats. On top of that, her kids threw up all over her and the other passengers on the plane. Thankfully the bad luck they had getting to the Dragon’s didn’t rub off when they entered the Den, and Nicolette and her husband ended up walking away with a deal with dragon, Manjit Minhas ($500,000 investment for 25% of their company).
But despite striking a deal with Minhas, bad luck struck again and an hour after the pitch her whole family fell sick of a terrible virus in their Toronto apartment and instead of celebrating, they spent four days nursing their family back to health only to find out that their flight home was canceled. It’s safe to say that Nicolette’s Dragon’s Den experience may be one that her and her family will never forget for more reasons than landing a deal.
For other entrepreneurs looking to audition, Nicolette shared the following advice:
- Know your numbers. Have proven time in your business and the have sales to back up your pitch and business valuation. You need to prove that you have a business model that works and that others desire.
- Be yourself. Investors rarely invest in the business itself, but they always invest in the entrepreneur. So show your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and have a vision for growth for your company that YOU believe in and that you are motived by.
- Don’t expect an investment. Go into the Den with utmost desire to pitch all sides of your awesome business because it will be the best marketing investment you will ever make in your own business. Forty million plus people will watch your pitch if your segment airs, so you want to put your best face forward, be confident but not arrogant, knowledgeable but not a know-it-all, and ultimately be grateful for the experience because unless you are already making millions in profits, you most likely would never be able to pay for the kind of publicity and press that the Dragons’ Den show will give you.
The Green Moustache has some exciting things planned to grow their business even further and we can’t wait to follow along!
Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada