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Sault Ste. Marie STUFFF hits the air on Dragons' Den

Lubricant company seeking help to broaden market
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In a matter of days, Bill Betournay and Viktoria McLea, and business partner Jeff Greco, will no longer need to keep an important business secret to themselves.

For months, Betournay and McLea, of Richards Landing, and Greco, of Sault Ste. Marie, have kept tight-lipped regarding the result of their appearance on CBC's Dragons' Den TV show.

Betournay's appearance in front of the panel of potential business investors will air on the Oct. 25 episode of Dragons' Den at 8 p.m.

"It is safe to say the episode will be interesting," he said with a chuckle.

"It's been hard to keep it a secret. Everybody has been asking us about it."

The local entrepreneurs were not permitted to share the outcome of the show prior to its airing unless it directly affected the business, such as to a banker.

Greco and Betournay, a self-described tinkerer and the brain behind the series of STUFFF canola-based lubricants, were first invited for an audition to make a business pitch to the show's two producers.

"Being a fan of Dragons' Den, it's a pretty good show and could give us that exposure if we were chosen," he said.

One evening in late March, Betournay located the Dragons' Den website and the opportunity to apply online to audition for the show.

"We had about 36 hours to get ready," Betournay said, adding they prepared their speeches in the car en route to Toronto. "It was very stressful, but we got through it."

Following that, Betournay and Greco were invited back to Toronto for the filming of the episode where the entrepreneurs were to pitch their product to a panel of six 'dragons'.

"The approach to the Dragons' Den is just how you see it on TV," he said. "Everything started happening so fast, questions were thrown at us, and we didn't have time to get stressed. It was a pretty cool experience."

The business partners started their pitch with a demonstration of how well the product worked by loosening a couple of bolts that were seized up. The time from filming to the audition occurred within a few weeks.

Four years ago, Betournay came across the lubricant by accident.

That first year he did hours of research and development, and went through the patenting process, with the first sales of STUFFF coming in 2015.

"I was still playing with the chemistry and all," Betournay said. "It's only been three years of retail products."

His background is not in chemistry but in decision support analysis with the North East Local Health Integration Network.

For the past three years, Betournay has been marketing his product throughout the northeast region.

A total of 208 litres of canola oil will produce 22 cases of 24 cans and takes about six hours to manufacture.

"I think we've done a real good job getting our product out onto the market, but we've come to this plateau and done as much as we could with the next step being the big box retailers," Betournay said.

"We've approached a few and have been turned down, pushed aside and have gotten nowhere basically."

STUFFF is new and considered a no-name brand, and so the partners are looking for an avenue to get their name out into the public.

Betournay never thought, four years ago, he would be where he is today.

"The first couple years was more curiosity than anything else, then putting it together, researching it and seeing if there was a viable product there to start with," he said, noting it was concerns over recycling and the environment that motivated him to keep going.

"I still cannot believe there were no safe, non-toxic solutions on the market. I'm still in shock that we stumbled across this solution."

A list of outlets are listed on their website at www.stufff.ca.

Betournay has received local accolades for his work.

In 2016, STUFFF was named Innovation Company of the Year by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, and this past September, Betournay accepted the Innovation Award during the 2018 Northern Ontario Business Awards.

This story originally appeared on SooToday.com.




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