Leeza Zurwick of Happy Gut (left) will make an appearance on Dragons’ Den on Nov. 21. Photo submitted

Castlegar woman to appear on Dragons’ Den

Happy Gut sells water kefir beverages and kits to make water kefir at home.

When Castlegar businesswoman Leeza Zurwick started her business in 2017 and began hearing from customers that she should go on Dragons’ Den she thought she wouldn’t be interested in it.

But eventually the owner of Happy Gut heard the comment so many times, that when she found out there was an audition in Kelowna, she decided to take a leap and see what would happen.

The culmination of what has been an eight-month journey will happen on Nov. 21 when the episode of the popular television show featuring Zurwick airs on CBC.

Happy Gut sells water kefir beverages and kits to make your own water kefir at home. Zurwick was inspired to start the company after being introduced to the fermented probiotic beverage herself and not being able to find the products and tools necessary to make it in her hometown.

“I started making it and I started feeling more energy and my bloating had gone down, my skin had cleared up … and I didn’t get sick at all that winter, so I knew something had shifted in my world,” said Zurwick.

Her Dragons’ Den audition took place in March and she got great feedback from a producer right away.

“Three weeks later, I got the phone call that I was accepted,” said Zurwick.

She headed to Toronto the beginning of May to tape her episode. But it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that she heard it would actually air.

“It has been very secretive,” said Zurwick.

Zurwick says the whole experience is not what most people think.

After being selected, she was given a producer to work with. He helped her through the process including developing her script.

Zurwick was supposed to have her turn in the den first thing in the morning, but due to several different circumstances didn’t actually get on until 4:30 p.m.

“I was very exhausted by the time my turn came,” said Zurwick. “Emotionally spent is the best way to put it. It was the hardest emotional thing I have done in my life.”

Presenters have 30 minutes to pitch their ideas to the Dragons but not every pitch airs, and of those that do, everything gets cut down to a six minute segment.

Zurwick says there were some surprises during her presentation including what happens when the Dragons open up her drink for a taste.

As for deals and offers — Zurwick said nothing moves forward on those until after your episode airs.

In the meanwhile, Zurwick has continued to work hard and grow her business.

“Before, I was just a small business in a small town, but now it is becoming much more global and expanding,” she said.

Zurwick can’t talk about the results of her appearance until after the show airs, but one thing she can talk about is her selection to the GoodSpark program by Dejardins. Businesses with a social enterprise component that have appeared on Dragons’ Den are eligible to become candidates for the program. Desjardins’ aim is to demonstrate that socially responsible ventures can also be financially viable.

Nine candidates from this season have been selected, including Happy Gut.

Happy Gut has been employing people with disabilities since the beginning through the Kootenay Society for Community Living’s Employ Me! program.

The company is profiled on the GoodSpark webpage, will be featured in the Toronto Star and will be promoted by the program.

For those not familiar with water kefir, Zurwick says it’s a bit like drinking an Italian soda. Although the drink is fermented like kombucha, it does not have the same sour vinegar type taste. Water kefir takes 48 hours to ferment compared to 15 to 20 days for kombucha. Another difference is that water kefir does not contain caffeine.

Developing her products has been an involved process, with Zurwick bringing on a microbiologist to ensure her cultures were growing optimally and having an engineering student come in several times a week to feed and grow the grains and take care of the data entry.

“It is a very scientific process,” explained Zurwick.

Zurwick has big plans for the future and the public will get a glimpse of them on Nov. 21.

“A whole new life is going to begin — but I just don’t know what that is. Life is going to change, but I don’t know what it is going to change into,” said Zurwick.

“It is going to be good.”

Just Posted

West Kootenay traffic officers catch 21 impaired drivers Saturday

Checks in Nelson, Castlegar and Trail were set up as part of a national enforcement campaign

Incident at Trail landfill deemed a medical emergency

WorkSafeBC not investigating medical crisis that shut down McKelvey Creek Landfill on Friday

Shorthanded Trail Smoke Eaters end rough road trip

The Trail Smoke Eaters drop all three games of Mainland Division road trip

CP Holiday Train headed to Castlegar

The festive food bank fundraiser will take place December 12.

Kootenay communities owe names to Chinook jargon

Place Names: Taghum, Lebahdo, Sitkum Creek, and Chahko Mika come from pidgin trade language

VIDEO: Kenney lays out key demands for meeting with Trudeau

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aims for clear signs of federal action on two-day Ottawa trip

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Dance cancelled after Alberta teacher’s climate lesson prompts online threats

School district near Red Deer cancelled annual family dance due to Facebook comments

Most Read