FERNDALE — Matthew Bondie has slayed a dragon.
Not in a literal sense, of course, but Bondie, a 1977 Ferndale High School graduate, was one of the entrepreneurs on “Dragon’s Den,” a Canadian television show where select people present their ideas to a panel of investors. The investors then decide to buy in for a certain amount or not.
Bondie appeared on the Jan. 22 show with his invention, Baggie Butler, which holds several sizes of storage bags to help with pouring soup, bagging sandwiches or any other reason someone might need a bag held.
After a successful pitch, Bondie received several offers from the “dragons” and ended up going with the offer from renowned Canadian marketing maven Arlene Dickinson, who invested $100,000 into Baggie Butler for a 40 percent share. Dickinson will help market and brand Bondie’s product and get it into the open market.
“It makes me feel really good to be recognized by people in the business world and that they saw value in my product, as well,” Bondie, 54, said. “It was a reassuring experience. I was really excited that all (the investors) made offers and that I was able to get a deal done was really cool. I’m kind of moving rather quickly to get this to the mass market, if I can, and hopefully that happens this year.”
Bondie, who grew up in Pleasant Ridge and now lives in Rose City, said he grew up in a family with 11 people and now has four children of his own. Whether it was his mother or himself, soups and chili have always been a big part of his family’s meal plan.
But what happens when it is time to store the leftovers? Tupperware takes up too much room, Bondie said, but filling bags full of liquids has always been a messy process.
By taking a few pieces of plastic with notches that hold up the lip of a bag, Bondie has found himself something that helps his family in the kitchen and, he hopes, thousands of others in the near future.
“My mother used to make large batches of stuff and put it in baggies, and we had to find someone to hold the bag, and even then sometimes it would still make a mess,” Bondie said. “The bottom line is this is a product that holds the bag for you. I had five or six prototypes, starting with wire made out of coat hanger to stainless steel and wood, before I got the end result with plastic.”
Bondie has filed the proper trademarks and patents for the Baggie Butler, but he needed help getting the product out to the public.
His first run of 420 units sold in less than 30 days at $12.95 per Baggie Butler. At $3 each to make the product, Bondie said he has invested slightly more than $62,000 into the invention.
Before going on “Dragon’s Den,” he looked into “Shark Tank,” the American equivalent of the investment show, but auditions were scheduled too far out while “Dragon’s Den” was taking auditions at that time.
Being on the show, Bondie said he was nervous at first, but when he started talking about his product, it just rolled off the tongue.
“I guess there was a sense of nervousness, because the first time you do anything, you get nervous, and I was there in front of a bunch of people on television,” he said. “I think even seasoned television veterans would be nervous going up there in front of the investors. But once I got out there and started talking and going through my pitch, I started to feel more comfortable. Just getting the first words out of my mouth was the toughest part.”
If Bondie was nervous, it didn’t show to the investors, as Dickinson praised him for his pitch as part of her reason for investing in the Baggie Butler.
“I will provide the financing and give you all the marketing support you need to make this happen,” Dickinson said during the episode.” You are a great pitch man, fantastic on the spot, and I could see you selling it.”
Investor David Chilton, an author and publisher, also wanted a piece of the Baggie Butler. Chilton also offered $100,000, but he wanted a 50 percent share.
“You know what I like about you? You are authentic, and it all resonates, and you seem very real to me,” Chilton told Bondie on the show. “I would have to put myself into this and try to find distribution, but I think we could make it fly.”
While Bondie is happy to have an investment and that he created something he can use himself, the biggest sense of pride comes from the product being helpful for blind people or people with tremors, like his mother had.
“Putting stuff in bags is hard for everyone, but imagine how hard it is for someone with blindness or a mental impairment or tremors,” he said. “This product makes it twice as easy for everybody, and I think that is the best part. I made something because I had a problem, but somehow it turned out it is helpful for many others, so that is the payoff for me.”
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