Brock student Cecily Zeppetella, together with her father Pete Zeppetella, entered the Dragons’ Den earlier this month and walked away with not one but two investors.
The fourth-year Media and Communications student took part in her father’s pitch for Zeppsgear, which produces patented outerwear for labourers working at heights. The company’s jackets allow for safety harnesses to be worn underneath without a risk of choking in the event of a fall.
The pitch, which lasted about 40 minutes in real time, demonstrated the effectiveness of the gear with a surprise dummy drop from the studio ceiling, catching the Dragons off-guard.
Zeppetella says the pressure of the pitch combined with that of being on camera and following production’s cues, while wearing warm jackets under studio lights, made for an interesting and exciting experience.
And the outcome is just what she and her dad hoped for.
“We’ve had opportunities from investors before, so it was more about the Dragons’ expertise rather than the money for us,” says Zeppetella. “We knew that it would be a good kick-start on the marketing side and that some of the individuals on the panel would be able to help us wanting to regulate or mandate the product.”
She notes that website traffic spiked after the episode aired on Thursday, Oct. 5, and that the women’s line sold out quickly.
“We got orders, which was great, but we also had wholesalers and distributors reaching out to us, especially for the women’s side because it’s hard to find good quality women’s workwear,” she says. “We’ve been really focused on the southern part of Ontario, but now we have a lot of people from out west reaching out, and we have a fashion show coming up in B.C. for safety wear for women.”
Zeppetella, who started at Brock in Business Communication, says she changed majors when she realized how keen she was on media policy and research. These interests and her training have served her well as she has grown more involved in the family business over the past few years, looking at how Zeppsgear might be mandated and thinking creatively about how to get her father’s innovations into broad use.
“Cecily’s experiences in applying policy and research ideas from her CPCF degree really resonates with me,” says Associate Professor Karen L. Smith in the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film. “I have seen first-hand that Cecily leverages both classroom and co-curricular opportunities to develop innovative ideas, like enhancing worker safety through Zeppsgear.”
Zeppetella believes that community involvement should be a big part of any entrepreneurial journey. She says she has worked hard to involve Zeppsgear with different organizations, charities and safety training programs, and has jumped at opportunities to engage, including at Brock.
“In the Goodman School of Business, Zeppsgear was studied by one of the marketing classes in 2021 as a case study,” she says. “For a startup, I think it’s really important to be connected, especially to growing minds and youth for perspective — and you never know who you’re going to meet.”
Written by Amanda Bishop