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St. Albert entrepreneur roasted in Dragons' Den

Nora Furber of Monjeloco emerges stronger from failed pitch

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Thursday, Oct 03, 2013 06:00 am

IN THE JEANS – Nora Furber (centre), owner of St. Albert's Monjeloco Jeans, makes her pitch on CBC's Dragon's Den. The show aired Wednesday evening.
IN THE JEANS – Nora Furber (centre), owner of St. Albert's Monjeloco Jeans, makes her pitch on CBC's Dragon's Den. The show aired Wednesday evening.
Supplied photo

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A "butting" St. Albert entrepreneur left CBC's Dragons' Den without a deal but is feeling positive about returning next year.

Nora Furber, owner of Monjeloco Jeans, appeared on the season premiere of the popular business show on Tuesday night to promote her Brazilian style jeans – levanta cola – that "lift the butt, and flatten the belly." While she convinced the dragons of her product, they told her she needed to be in business longer to get their financial support.

But Furber said there's a hidden twist to the show, and she's coming back next year.

"The dragons said that I wasn't in business long enough to ask what I was asking. They felt that I needed to be more established and have more experience," she said. "They did ask me to leave and then they brought me back and they asked me to come back. So I am getting prepared for that."

Monjeloco Jeans opened in May 2012 and has been successful ever since, she said. For years, Furber said she wore levanta cola – buying them in her home country of Colombia – and had friends comment on their looks. When Canada and Colombia established a free trade agreement, she opened her store.

All of Monjeloco's jeans are hand-sewn in a factory that employs single mothers. Furber said the workers are part of a social program that provides them with health benefits and a steady income.

When she went before the dragons, Furber offered them 40 per cent of her business for $300,000. She later told the Gazette that she wanted to use the money to advertise and market her product. While Tuesday night's episode does not show the dragons inviting her back, Furber said they liked her product and felt she had a good chance of getting their support if she could show more sales in a year.

"I found that they meant well and they gave me good advice. They were excited about my product," she said. "But when it comes to the business part they are like dragons – they are ready to roast you and they are tough."

Behind the scenes

Furber said she had watched a few episodes of Dragons' Den before going on the show and was always critical of how the judges talked to entrepreneurs.

She admits being anxious about meeting sharp-tongued Kevin O'Leary. But it turned out that O'Leary supported her idea and was fun to deal with, she said, while Arlene Dickinson was the most difficult to convince.

"I thought she will see the soul of the business. I was wrong. She was actually my toughest judge," she said.

She added that Jim Treliving gave her very honest advice and offered to get her in touch with someone to help her grow her business. She said that she may have lost some of the dragons on the deal when she tried to convince all of them instead of focusing on her supporters.

At one point of the show, some of the judges get up to touch her models' bums. On TV it looks as though the models are taken by surprise but Furber said the judges had asked if it was OK.

Preparing for next season

Thanks to her success and appearance on the Dragons' Den, Furber said her local store has already grown in popularity, with buyers coming in from as far as Cold Lake and Fort McMurray.

The business is now also selling its products online and just started a new marketing campaign across St. Albert to promote the sexy looks of the jeans. Displayed on local billboards, the campaign shows a model with her back turned to the viewers asking if they are looking at her butt.

"What I do is a little more direct and I am just trying to leave the conservative aside and go more for la vida loca, something more out there," she said. "With Canadians being a little more quiet and conservative than the Latin Culture, they really want to try something fun and they are very open minded."

Already preparing for next year's Dragons' Den, Furber added she has learned from her mistakes and is a much stronger business person now.

"I am going to be aggressive and fierce like they are and I know exactly which dragon to go for," she said. "I think the experience was amazing because it just made me stronger."


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