Imagine being trapped with half a dozen giant, ferocious serpent-like creatures that are capable of breathing fire and all waiting to pounce on their next prey. Those lucky few held captive are at the mercy of the creatures all aspiring to be the next catch – at least that’s the hope of one Maple Ridge man.
Mark Amery, 42, was recently called into the TV show Dragon’s Den where he pitched his home-based service businesses to six dragons.
“Absolutely the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done,” he said, about asking the business panel for $100,000 for a 15 per cent stake in Feels like Friday, his company which actually includes several businesses.
Feels Like Friday is the umbrella company of his three franchises: Gorilla Property Services, Toodaloo Pest and Wildlife Services, and Eenie Meenie Miny Mow Landscaping Services.
“We’re not so much the residential market. It’s more of the strata, the multi-unit, the townhomes, commercial end of it,” he said. “So there’s nobody really in that space. There’s a few but they didn’t really dominant… there’s nothing really the total package.”
Amery ran his own pest control company for about six years when he sold it and started developing Gorilla Property Services from scatch. He launched the property maintenance and window cleaning franchise in 2015 and now has nearly 40 locations.
“We cleaned up the industry. There’s no more paper, everything is real time. They can run the entire business from their phone,” he said. “Rather than have a property manager… find three or four different service providers, it’s kind of the one stop shop.”
Amery said he never planned to seek out the dragons for an investment, but when his company was expanding quickly, his wife suggested he attend the auditions for the CBC show that were held in Abbotsford earlier this year.
In May the dragons came calling and in a matter of weeks Amery was in Toronto preparing to enter their den.
“They were extremely intimidating. It was not what I expected,” he said.
"I was volunteering at a summer camp for special needs children and I saw this weighted device… we decided to bring something to the masses, but in a much more premium form."
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Amery made his sales pitch to dragons Arlene Dickinson, Jim Treliving, Lane Merrifield, Manjit Minhas, Vincenzo Guzzo, and Michele Romanow.
“As soon as you’re done, they just firing questions at you,” said Amery. “They eat you alive out there.”
But whether the dragons took a bite out of Amery’s business is unknown, at least for now. Episode four will air Thursday (tonight) at 9 p.m. on CBC.
“I learned instantly things that you would need to do to strengthen your business within minutes of being up there… what I would learn in a year I learned in about 10 minutes there… when they talk, you listen,” he said.
Amery won’t be parking in front of the television set when the episodes airs, he said he will have to record it or try and catch it on his cellphone.
“I have five little girls, so I’ll be at soccer,” he laughed.
His kids have also played a role the development of the business.
“I always run the names of the businesses, it may sound silly, but I always run it by my kids and my kids’ friends… I think if kids can relate to it, it’s very user friendly,” he said.
The former pest controller said he never pursued post-secondary studies after high school, although he wishes he had.
“I started and failed a bunch of times,” said Amery.
So when it comes to taking risks, he remembers the advice his father-in-law gave him, “well what’s the worst thing that could happen… you’d be right back where you are now.”
“If you want to do it, just do it,” said Amery. “You get one go at it and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but just don’t hesitate. Don’t listen to [people who doubt you.]
Amery’s three operations now have more than 44 locations across Canada and just recently entered the market south of the border with franchises in Las Vegas.