PORT HARDY—Bruce and Carol Dirom are thankful for their recent appearance on the CBC television program The Big Decision.
But now the owners of Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc. are in need of a quick decision.
“We’ve got more business than our cash flow can handle right now,” said Bruce, citing recently completed contracts with the Sobeys grocery chain and Walmart Canada. “It’s scary. It’s bigger than anything I could have imagined.”
Dirom said Hardy Buoys’ sales in the coming year will double last year’s total, and the company is making plans to expand its factory, add cold storage capability and add employees.
But all that will require an infusion of funding, money that is not forthcoming from traditional bank lending.
“I understand banks have lending policies,” said Bruce. “They want to look at your last three years’ sales and that just doesn’t work. Really, we’re going nowhere with bank lending. We need private investors, and that’s where Arlene comes in.”
And while Dickinson has made a general commitment to the Diroms and to Hardy Buoys, she has not come through with money. On the other hand, Dickinson is not the only potential investor available.
“We’re anxious to hear what Arlene has to say, and we’ve been told by her people that we’ll know something by the end of this week,” said Bruce. “But I’ve got some other options pending, and we can’t keep waiting for any one person.”
Hardy Buoys was selected from a large group of nominees to appear in the inaugural season of The Big Decision, a spin-off from the popular Dragon’s Den program hosted by Dragon Arlene Dickinson.
The show offers struggling businesses an opportunity to earn funding infusions or other business assistance by proving their mettle to Dickinson.
The Diroms appear to have done just that after hosting a Big Event community party in late February at the Civic Centre, which was taped for the CBC program.
Since the program aired in early April, the Diroms were feted during a trip to Toronto, where they visited the Dragon’s Den set and met the Dragons; continued negotiations with Dickinson; and conducted a Skype interview with CBC to help promote the next season of the program.
“We got great exposure and got our name out there in Canada,” said Carol. “When Bruce and I were in Toronto, people actually recognized us — Bruce more than me — and said, ‘You were the people on that show, right?’
“What we’ve earned, or won, is Arlene believes in the product and the company. She sees the potential and wants to be involved in some way.”
But well apart from the celebrity and publicity of the nationwide program, Hardy Buoys has been beating the bushes for a year now, trying to round up both sales orders and the bridge funding to make sure they’re all filled.
“We’ve been working with a guy in Vancouver leading our sales team, and everything he’s been working on for the past year is happening now,” Bruce said. “We have a lot of irons in the fire.”