Lee Renshaw, a 2009 Humber industrial design grad, braved the Dragons on CBC's Dragons' Den last night and came out victorious, ending up choosing between two competing offers for $100,000 and a 50% share in his business.
And although it was the strength of Renshaw's patented portable shelving system, the Rise and Hang, which garnered him the Dragons' dough, it was an unorthodox presentation that made the Dragons first sit up and take notice.
"You two were pretty brave to show up in your underwear," pointed out Dragon Arlene Dickinson, as Renshaw and his business partner and brother Sean started their presentation clad only in briefs and undershirts.
“Appearing on Dragons’ Den is an amazing opportunity to launch our product,” says Renshaw. “We were really, really nervous, but I’d had a lot of presentation experience at Humber, so that helped. The Rise and Hang’s so demonstratable – it was perfect for the show.”
For Renshaw, the idea for the Rise and Hang had its early beginnings when he was a Humber student. Because he lived in Kitchener, getting to his classes on time meant a lot of overnights in a lot of different places.
“I was staying at my girlfriend’s place in Markham, I was crashing on couches, I was bouncing all over the place,” laughs Renshaw. “It was a nightmare – my clothes were literally in a huge ball, all the time. I wanted some way not to look like I was living out of a laundry basket.”
The problem stuck with him, even after he graduated and stopped that nomadic student existence. Then, one day, working for a company that manufactured sports bags, a bolt of inspiration hit him.
“I had seen those collapsible shelves in Wal-Mart – you know, the ones you hang in a closet,” Renshaw says. “No one ever had thought about putting them into a suitcase, but I knew a system like that would help keep clothes folded and tidy. ”
Renshaw bought a sewing machine and stitched together a prototype, stapling the finished product into a suitcase because, as he puts it, “I couldn’t quite figure out how to sew that part!”
The rest, as they say, is history. With the support of Dragons Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton, they've reached a deal to sell the Rise and Hang on The Shopping Channel.
Renshaw says he's grateful for the opportunity to have appeared on the show.
“I’m just glad to have people see the product, and see what it does and how well it works,” he says. “Beyond that, I’d really like to inspire some future entrepreneurs – I’d love for a Humber student to watch the episode and see what’s really possible.”