Stories from the Den: Adil Hooda, Holiday Rejects

Stories from the Den: Adil Hooda, Holiday Rejects

Lifestyle | Posted by - June 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

The three of us met at the University of Calgary. Chris and I studied mechanical engineering together and Kyle is a chemical engineer. We’ve all dabbled in different entrepreneurial projects and share a business mindset. Still, living in Calgary there is a great demand for engineers, so it made sense to study engineering. In school Kyle ran a ticketing site and Chris and I had a tutoring company, did internet consulting and ran a zombie adventure race. About three years ago, I hosted an ugly Christmas sweater party but nobody wore any because they were too hard to find. That’s where the idea for Holiday Rejects came from and we started sourcing ugly sweaters from vintage retailers in the U.S. We rented a house together, a kind of Facebook house, and that’s where we started the business. We thought auditioning for Dragons’ Den would give us some good media exposure as well as experience in pitching investors. We also wanted a strategic partner to help us grow and move into retail locations.

We asked for $30,000 in exchange for a 30% equity stake. It was intimidating. We shot for 45 minutes and the Dragons drilled us but they didn’t have too many criticisms of the business model and they saw the opportunity. Kevin O’Leary, David Chilton and Jim Treliving partnered and countered with a royalty/loan-based offer that we accepted on air. 

Due diligence was intense. It took about six months. I think the Dragons wanted to see that we had our ducks in a row.
Due diligence was intense. It took about six months. I think the Dragons wanted to see that we had our ducks in a row, that we were committed to moving forward with Holiday Rejects and that we weren’t going to leave it to pursue another idea. We provided purchase orders for supplies, our lease agreement with a shopping mall. The process lit a fire and made us write a business plan and prove the value of the project not only to our investors, but also to ourselves. Once the episode aired in December [2013] our site went down because we were flooded with so many requests. We thought we were prepared because we had upgraded our systems but the traffic was immense. Sales went up fourfold. 

We now have two retail locations, one in Calgary and one in Edmonton. This year we will expand to six kiosks. We’re looking at different locations and storefronts. We have a lot of other ideas beyond Holiday Rejects and David, Jim and Kevin seem to be open to them as well. We went on the Den because we wanted to build relationships. 

Bio: Adil Hooda

Adil Hooda probably didn’t think he’d wind up pitching an ugly sweater business on Dragons’ Den when he started his studies in engineering. But he and his friends, Kyle Fitzgerald and Chris Cheng, knew they had an idea when Christmas rolled around and they couldn’t find sweaters to wear to themed parties. They saw potential for ugly Christmas sweaters in the market, so the three friends decided to become business partners and launched Holiday Rejects.

Tags: adil hooda, chris cheng, dragons den, holiday rejects, kyle fitzgerald, profiles

Mary Teresa Bitti
Mary Teresa Bitti is the founder of MTB Writing & Editing Services Inc. based in Oakville, Ontario. She writes regularly about business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy and works with organizations to help them craft and share their stories.
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