QSB Alum’s new venture makes a deal on Dragons’ Den

Posted on April 14, 2011

At no other point during the season finale of Dragons’ Den did things get more heated than when Ethical Ocean entered the Den. The company’s socially-minded entrepreneurs, including QSB alumni Chad Hamre, CEO, EMBA’11, and Brenna Donoghue, President, Marketing & Sales, MBA’09, run an online marketplace for organic, fairly traded, and eco-friendly products.  Ethical Ocean’s pitchers Tony Hancock and David Damberger left the Den with a deal – but not without a fiery debate first.

The business received high praise from both Arlene Dickinson and Brett Wilson, who remarked on the growing number of people who want to feel good about the products they buy. In the end, Ethical Ocean struck a deal with Dickinson who offered $150,000 for 20% of the company.

The Dragons however, were far from unanimous. Perhaps unsurprisingly Kevin O’Leary was quick to shoot the venture down. During a rant that seemed to be aimed as much at the entrepreneurs as it was at Dickinson, he deemed the very premise of the company to be “a stain on the face of capitalism.”

Now, almost 10 months since the show was taped, Ethical Ocean looks to be proving O’Leary wrong. The young company now boasts a catalogue of over 3,500 products, ranging from eco-friendly fashion and natural makeup, to more unexpected products like a solar-poweredhands-free phone, a water-powered clock, and fairly traded soccer balls. They’re seeing their customer base from across North America quickly start to grow.

CEO Chad Hamre credits his studies at Queen’s School of Business (QSB) in helping set him up for success. “During my MBA, I learned the language of business and gained the confidence to lead, negotiate and structure Ethical Ocean effectively. QSB further helped me build a rich network of advisers, investors, and customers who have been essential in growing this business.”

Just this winter, the team closed their first financing round, raising $500,000 from angel investors – an experience, according to Tony Hancock, Ethical Ocean’s President of Operations, made easier by their experience in the Den. “It is a rare opportunity to have 45 minutes with some of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs,” says Tony. “Their insights and questions helped us identify our blind spots and question our assumptions about the business.”

The Ethical Ocean team, who will celebrate the company’s first anniversary on Earth Day (April 22), has set its sights on an ambitious growth plan for the year ahead. As they launch a new marketing plan this spring, the team is glad to have Dickinson (one of Canada’s most renowned marketing entrepreneurs) on board.