By Paula Roy –
To say 2015 was Steve Morrier’s year is a bit of an understatement. His newly founded company, Split Tree Cocktail Co., burst onto the local market amid a surge of interest in artisanal cocktails. His tonics, syrups and cordials quickly made their way onto the shelves of over a dozen eager retailers, including several right here in Kitchissippi, where Steve and his family have lived for many years. To sweeten things even further, Steve participated in the popular CBC television series Dragon’s Den, where he successfully struck a deal with Manjit Minhas, co-founder and co-owner of Minhas Breweries and Distilleries. His year-old company has since quintupled its sales and production and things are looking very rosy for 2016 and beyond.
Steve, who goes by the title of Chief Alchemist, says the Dragon’s Den experience was unbelievable.
“It’s no magic bullet but it does open a ton of doors and serves as a great icebreaker. I can show people the video footage and explain that now I have financing and the product supply is stable. Since the episode aired in October, I’ve had a lot more people contacting me, looking to collaborate, as opposed to me having to knock on doors. Dragon’s Den definitely gave me national exposure which I could never have achieved on my own.”
He notes that his online sales went from zero to 100 in a matter of weeks and his product is now being shipped to his regular outlets in Ottawa and Toronto as well as to Banff and Vancouver. He’s also in talks with distributors who are interested in bringing the product to new markets across Canada.
Did he worry he was selling his soul by accepting the Dragon’s offer? “Thankfully not,” says Steve. “I got some good legal advice and in the end, I did not have to give up any equity. Instead I pay Manjit a royalty from sales; she is my cash flow and pays for all my production costs. She’s also helped with aspects of graphic design and our website. It’s a very positive relationship.”
He plans to expand his product line in 2016 with two flavours – lavender-lemon and apple-pear-gunpowder green tea – that are getting great reviews in testing.
“I’d like to get into a few new products like cocktail-related accessories and I’m also planning to explore shrubs (vinegar-based cocktails) and fermentation,” says Steve.
Steve is convinced that cocktails are not a trend that will soon wane. “Particularly if made carefully with quality ingredients, a delicious cocktail can really enhance the experience when entertaining. Our products make it possible for everyone to make great cocktails at home, with ease.”
Now that his Split Tree products are finding their way into stores and homes across Canada, in part due to his success on Dragon’s Den, Steve admits that he’s working twice as hard as before.
“The only difference now is that almost everything is now coming to fruition.”
Split Tree products are available at splittree.ca. In Kitchissippi, you can pick them up at Maker House Co. (987 Wellington St. W.) You can watch their pitch on Dragon’s Den right here.