Chilliwack's Alex McAulay and his business partner

Chilliwack's Alex McAulay and his business partner

‘Naked’ ambition drives underwear line

Chilliwack entrepreneur Alex McAulay and business partner Joel Primus showcased their Naked underwear line on Dragons' Den, Jan. 11.

Watch out Calvin Klein, the owners of Naked have their sights set on you.

In just one year of production, the underwear line with Chilliwack origins is already in more than 100 retail outlets across Canada and the United States, including Holt Renfrew. It has high-profile investors backing it, including the founder of WestJet, and may have also recently been injected with a significant amount of cash flow.

Alex McAulay, chief financial officer and vice president of Naked, says it’s only a matter of time before the premier underwear line, which is made of top-quality Italian microfiber, saturates the market.

The company’s most recent appearance on Dragon’s Den could be that tipping point.

This Wednesday, Jan. 11, McAulay and business partner Joel Primus will be spotlighted on the CBC reality show, which features entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas in the hopes of securing financial investments from a panel of venture capitalists – the dragons.

During the airing of the show, McAulay and Primus will be at Kim Mallory’s photography studio in downtown Chilliwack answering questions from CBC viewers via Twitter, starting at 5 p.m.. The event will be filmed and posted to YouTube simultaneously.

“Dragons’ Den is a very, very popular show; it has a huge audience,” said McAulay. “We’re hoping to try and leverage that through Twitter and YouTube.”

Wednesday’s episode is the second time Naked has been featured on Dragons’ Den. Primus went on the show in 2009, before the product had even gone into production. He knew he had a great design and vision, and hoped the dragons would concur. However, while they were appreciative of the idea, they felt Primus’ overall plan was lacking. Furthermore, the only product he had were a few underwear samples – which he stripped down himself to show – sewn by a friend’s grandmother.

“It was still very much in the prototype stage,” said McAulay.

Primus walked away with nothing, but didn’t give up.

The business graduate bought the Naked trademark with his credit cards. In 2010, he teamed up with McAulay, a chartered accountant, who set up a capital structure for the company, a business plan, and brought in high-profile investors. A short time later, before Naked went into production, Holt Renfrew was sold on its pitch.

“It is seriously a fairy tale story,” said McAulay. “It’s an entrepreneur story, a true entrepreneur story.”

Their recent success hasn’t gone unnoticed. Primus and McAulay were invited back to Dragons’ Den for a second chance episode.

“There are a lot of underwear lines that get pitched on the show, but not one with the success that we have had,” said McAulay.

But those dragons can be intimidating.

Prior to filming, McAulay and Primus were led into a dark room with a backdrop that separated them from the dragons.

“That’s when the nerves started going,” said McAulay. “But one minute in, it was on. You were in the hot seat and they were firing questions at you right away. We negotiated for an hour, going back and forth, trying to find something that would work.”

McAulay was mum about the outcome of the show, as per contractual agreement with CBC.

“It was a good experience; we left happy for sure,” he said. “Regardless of whether we got a deal or not, it’s very good exposure for us.

“We have one of the finest made products in Canada.”

McAulay and Primus will be answering questions about the business and the challenges of growing a business on Twitter from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. via the company’s Twitter handle @NakedUnderwear. Questions should use the hashtag #cbcdragonsden.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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