Young Jewish entrepreneur has successful experience on CBC’s Dragons Den


MONTREAL – For 25-year-old Dylan Ribkoff, a Jewish ‘underwear’ entrepreneur from Montreal’s West Island, the months leading up to his appearance on the CBC reality show The Dragons Den were pretty tough. That’s because the show was taped last May in Toronto, but until it aired on Oct. 12 he was sworn to silence about the outcome.

The Dragons’ Den provides aspiring entrepreneurs with an opportunity to pitch their concepts and products to a panel of Canadian business moguls who have the cash and the know-how to make it happen.

Ribkoff is the grandson of fashion industry legend Joseph Ribkoff, something which clearly impressed the Dragons. His pitch was for a 25 per cent stake in the business for the sum of $50,000. As he brought models on the stage to showcase his product – two males and a female (he does not as yet have ladies underwear, but wanted to show that one day this could be a possibility) – he definitely made an immediate impression.

Dragons Robert Herjavec, Bruce Croxon and Kevin O’Leary took a pass on the venture, but Arlene Dickinson offered to put in the $50,000 for 50 per cent of the business. Jim Treliving agreed to partner with Dickinson in the venture. Ribkoff countered by asking for $80,000. When they did not bite he thought it over and agreed to their terms, figuring that these experienced and well-placed individuals can take him places.

“I watched the episode with all of my friends at a restaurant,” Ribkoff said. “It was such a relief to finally have the result public. I had not even told my own mother.”

Dickinson is one of Canada’s most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs. After becoming a partner in Venture Communications in 1988, she became sole owner in 1998. She has grown the company into a strategic and creative powerhouse for a blue-chip client list, which includes Toyota (Prairies), Unilever, EnCana, Travel Alberta, Mayo Clinic, LCBO, Western Canada Lotteries, Forzani Group Ltd. and now Dylan Ribkoff.

Trevliving is chairman and owner of the Boston Pizza International restaurant chain, a business he bought into when he was an RCMP officer 40 years ago.

He helped turn it into Canada’s number one casual dining brand with operations in three countries and almost $1 billion in annual system-wide sales. Beyond the restaurant business, he has made investments in many other successful ventures including real estate development, sports entertainment and the Canadian oil change retailer, Mr. Lube.
“This development opens a lot of doors for me,” Ribkoff explained. “I did not get the $50,000 yet. At this time we are going through a process of due diligence whereby everyone is doing their homework before a formal agreement is signed. For me, though, this was not all about the money. This was a tremendous publicity platform and having Jim and Arlene to turn to is amazing.”

So how did Ribkoff come up with this idea?

“I had always wanted my own line, but I hadn’t had the moment of clarity or rather naivety, needed to actually go ahead with it – then, I had to pee,” he explained. “By the time I was finished, it was clear: underwear!

“At the time, I was working for my grandfather. I was on a flight from Spain to England when nature called and a light went off; literally and figuratively. I saw the underwear that I was wearing and thought: ‘I’m not satisfied.’ They were too plain. I didn’t love them like I loved my clothes. Whenever I went shopping for underwear, it seemed as if there were two extremes: on one end were these plain, black and white, shapeless underwear and on the other, over-designed g-strings that were covered in slogans like ‘Spank Me’ in big, bold print. The entire underwear shopping experience was uncomfortable.”

The underwear first went on sale in Quebec at a few stores, besides being available online. He now has sales reps criss-crossing the country filling orders.

 “I always loved clothes.” Ribkoff notes. “I try to design the same way that I dress: simple and bold. I love colour blocking and clean lines.”

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