Holy Crap! How Dragon’s Den Catapulted One Artisan Cereal Out of This World
Ever tasted something so good it made you blurt out, “Holy Crap”? Believe it or not, that’s exactly how this brand of gluten-free, vegan, certified organic breakfast cereal got its famous name.
Founded in 2009 by husband and wife team Corin and Brian Mullins, Holy Crap has come a long way from its humble beginnings. The delightfully tasty, award-winning cereal has been showcased not once but twice on Canadian hit television show, Dragon’s Den and has even gone as far as outer space (more on that later)!
We caught up with Claudia Howard, VP of Marketing at Holy Crap to give us the scoop on how the brand went from being created with a meagre $129 as a response to Brian’s food sensitivities to being Space Approved by Chris Hadfield himself!
“Dragon’s Den was one of Brian’s favourite TV shows,” Claudia explained. “He really liked watching entrepreneurs pitch ideas and look for partnerships from the business moguls that were on the show.” In early 2010 there was an audition being held in Vancouver. Though Holy Crap was only about a year old at the time, Brian and Corin thought it would be a great idea to audition. According to Claudia, “they had no idea how it was going to be received because they had kind of an edgy name, but it all turned out wonderfully!”
A week after auditioning, they got a call saying they were chosen to be on the show. Then came a whirlwind of packing up and shipping out to Toronto. The couple’s flight out to the bustling city was not without incident however – their luggage, complete with Holy Crap Cereal samples for the show, didn’t make it to Toronto along with them. Luckily, before too much panic set in (and just in time for their moment in the hot seat), they were reunited with their belongings.
Anyone who’s watched the episode knows they were given a deal almost immediately. While the filming took place in early Spring, the episode didn’t actually air until Fall. The episode resulted in a million dollars in sales overnight through their website alone. “It was amazing! In fact, PayPal ended up calling them and asking what was going on” laughed Claudia, “they’d never had a Canadian company do so well in sales in such a short period.” When they explained what had happened, they learned that the customer service rep. on the line bought their cereal as well!
“The value of the company jumped way up, so in the end they didn’t finalise the deal with Jim [Treliving]. They didn’t really need his investment. They were already taking the next steps they wanted at that time.”
Jim still proved to be an immeasurable source of inspiration and expertise however, “They still kept in touch with him – he loved the cereal and he acted as a great mentor to Brian and Corin and gave them a lot of advice.” Claudia estimates that probably about 16% of deals made on the show are actually solidified after the fact, “In the end, it was a fantastic experience and they made some great connections, got some great advice and exposure for the cereal.”
When asked, in addition to ground-breaking sales and international exposure, how appearing on the Dragon’s Den helped solidify Holy Crap as one of the top artisan cereals on the market, Claudia had a truly amazing story to tell.
“The Canadian Space Agency ran a contest called ‘Snacks for Space’ and people were invited to submit ideas for Chris Hadfield to take to space as a way of promoting his mission. A fourth grade student in Abbotsford, BC entered Holy Crap, but we didn’t know about it.”
Without having known about the contest initially, samples of Holy Crap were sent out as per the request of the Canadian Space Agency. “I googled it and I found the info on the CSA website about the contest including that Riley had submitted the cereal. We had no way of getting in touch with him. When the winner was announced, Riley’s dad contacted us himself. We were so excited and wanted to know how they came to submit us.”
As it turns out, Riley and his family had seen Holy Crap’s Dragon Den episode! Riley’s sister had severe allergies, so they went out and bought some of the cereal. Once they heard about the contest and the strict criteria for entry (no crumbs, a long shelf life and nutritious), Holy Crap was the only thing in their pantry that met the guidelines.
What did this mean for Holy Crap other than Space cred? As Claudia points out, “[CSA] packaged it in these single packs. All their food has to be able to be made up with hot water – that’s the only thing they have to add. If you look closely you can kind of see the dried milk powder. Corin thought we should be making single servings for humans down here on earth too. So that’s how we got the idea for our single serving cups, which have been very popular. We even sell them in vending machines!”
Overall, what did their time at Dragon’s Den teach them? Claudia offers some insight,” I think the lesson is probably to take risks and jump on opportunities. Brian and Corin didn’t know how it was going to turn out… but they made the leap and here they are!”
Follow her at @D_isforDayana