Margot Woodworth has earned a number of titles over the last 12 years: Horticulturalist. Immigrant. Entrepreneur. After her March 23rd appearance on a well-known Canadian reality show, she can add one more to her moniker — dragonslayer.
The Dryden-based entrepreneur is celebrating after her Internet tree seedling business, Evergreen Memories, caught the attention of Dragons' Den powerhouse Jim Treliving, nabbing her a $70,000 investment and him a 30-per cent share of the company.
Since the episode aired, Woodworth has received hundreds of expressions of interest from across North America in her business, which sells tree seedlings as wedding favours or corporate event keepsakes, as well as biodegradable seeded paper that blooms wildflowers when planted; an idea that came from working with one of Canada's largest car manufacturers.
“Honda was looking for the perfect green gift for Earth Day two years ago and we came up with plastic sleeves that were 100-per-cent biodegradable,” she said. “The tree was in the plastic sleeves, and Honda's logo was printed on seeded paper. You could even plant the card afterwards, and that was a neat idea.”
Growing up in Germany, Woodworth was well-versed in the nursery business, working at her family's greenhouse where perennials and annuals were cultivated for sale at their flower shop. When she immigrated to Canada 12 years ago at the age of 25, it was a natural transition to find work at Tamarac Nurseries.
Woodworth and her boss soon hatched the idea of packaging tree seedlings, and when presented with the opportunity to purchase the business in 2005, Woodworth's experience and intuition kicked in. Germany had been recycling and paying for grocery bags for 25 years, and Woodworth sensed Canada's eco-friendly identity would soon blossom.
“The whole business of going green was just in its infant stages. Back then it was, by far, not as popular as now to use a tree for wedding favours as candies or something else,” she said. “It just started to grow more and more.”
Woodworth credits the business' success to good working relationships with Tamarac Nurseries, which cultivates 3.5 million seedlings a year for the company, and Botanical PaperWorks of Winnipeg, which manufactures the seeded paper. That her products are all made in Canada is a point of pride and part of a key marketing strategy for the entrepreneur. And she's confident that her appearance on the Dragons' Den will move her business into a new chapter.
“We did a little bit of marketing — we have a fantastic website and we advertise in Today's Bride (magazine) — but we haven't really explored the U.S. market, which is a $70-billion wedding business just on its own,” Woodworth said. “So we went to the Dragons and they were very excited about us.”
Of the 5,000 people who auditioned for the show, 300 were invited to the taping, and they were whittled further to 150 applicants. Woodworth was one of 20 who closed a deal.
“It's incredible,” she said. “We brought the business to the next level, for sure.”
Following the taping, Woodworth hosted a viewing party in Dryden, and proceeds from ticket sales went to Grace Haven, an adult daycare centre that caters to people living with Alzheimer's.
“We donated it all,” Woodworth said. “That was our part of paying it forward. It was great.”
Immediate plans include expanding her reach into the wedding planning industry and introducing more gift ideas into her product line. Ultimately, Woodworth sees the evolution of Evergreen Memories as an opportunity to contribute to her community's economic health.
“Here in Dryden, over the last year, there was a lot of doom and gloom going on with big layoffs in the paper mill and stores closing right downtown, and I said, well, that might be an opportunity to employ more people,” she said. “It's a great job to work with us. It's fun and it's creative, and it keeps the nursery people employed.”
Excited about her new relationship with Treliving, Woodworth says her staff's passion and drive to succeed are what anchor Evergreen Memories.
“Just because we live in a small town does not mean we need to live a small-town life, especially now when you have access to computers,” she said. “You meet some incredible people that way, but get yourself out there.”