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From Gustavson grad to Dragon’s Den deal: Garett Senez launches Quark Baby

January 24, 2024

Gustavson MGB graduate Garett Senez stands in front of the Dragon's on CBC's Dragon's Den to pitch for funding for his company, Quark Baby

Scaling an innovative idea into a sustainable business is no small feat—but securing $2 million from some fiery dragons will certainly help.

Garett Senez, MGB ‘11, recently experienced a milestone in his entrepreneurial journey by successfully securing funding on Dragon’s Den for his startup, Quark Baby. The investment will propel Quark to new levels, enabling cross-border expansion of his company, which was created to improve parenting with innovative and affordable baby products. 

 As a self-proclaimed marketing geek with a successful career at multi-national corporations like L’Oreal under his belt, Senez’s pursuit of entrepreneurship appears as a pivot on his resume. But he has always been an entrepreneur at heart. From his humble beginnings as a paperboy to his inherent desire to do things himself, amplified by his aversion to hierarchy and bureaucracy in the corporate scene, it was inevitable that he would one day charge ahead on his own. 

Quark Baby's inception

 The driving force for Quark Baby was prompted by the birth of his daughter Hannah in 2021. Fuelled by a desire to provide the best for his family and being dissatisfied with existing baby products, he created the solution himself. His understanding of marketing and his Master in Global Business (MGB) expedited his path to market. 

Senez strategically prepared a foundation for the company before its launch, identifying categories to focus on, evaluating potential profit margins and creating the brand story. However, Senez faced early hurdles, especially in advertising expenditures, product efficacy and selling locations.

Despite the challenges, Senez received clues that he was on a solid path with Quark. Thanks to his established network and skills, he got in the door with big box brands in Canada, the first being Walmart. He says, “Walmart was a big feather in my hat. If Walmart says ‘yes,’ who else is going to say ‘yes’? After that, it was just dominoes.” The dominoes fell with Indigo, Best Buy, and many more, securing 24 big box stores in Quark’s first year of business. Senez included this impressive fact in his pitch to an intimidating audience: The Dragons.

Authentically seizing the Den

Senez’s appearance on Dragon’s Den marked a crucial point in Quark Baby’s journey. When asked what motivated him to apply, his answer was immediate. “I read [dragon Arlene Dickinson’s] book. I felt compelled by her vision and her story,” he says. Senez related to her, starting over after a career change, which reflected how he felt with his baby and sense of a new purpose. 

Senez didn’t consider for long whether he should apply to Dragon’s Den. Knowing that Quark Baby needed funding to scale and expand, he Googled the application process on a whim. To his surprise, and perhaps due to a sprinkle of fate, the Den was accepting, so he submitted his story and received a response the same day asking him to send a video pitch. Senez knows he can talk, so this didn’t deter him—and a week after pressing send on the video, the producers contacted him to chat and book his segment date. From the decision to apply to appearing on the Den, the process took only three weeks.

The Dragon’s Den day was arduous and filled with setbacks, but Senez’s authenticity and persistence shone through. His acute knowledge of his business impressed the dragons, despite having prepared his pitch on a plane from a friend’s wedding in Maui the day before. At Dragon’s Den, the 11-hour ordeal was edited down to eight-and-a-half minutes for the screen. 

Anyone who has met Senez knows that his energetic baseline exceeds the average person, so when his call time was pushed back, he tried to burn off energy by running around the building. Then, to amp himself up for his pitch, he chugged a litre of cold coffee—which left him with a pasty mouth and an excessive heart rate when it was time to speak. He recalls getting through the beginning of his pitch, but at some point, he says, “I felt like I got hit by Rocky and almost fainted.” 

At the end of his pieced-together pitch, he had the wherewithal for wit and said, “We’ve built the mood, we’ve set the stage, now who wants to make a baby?” Although this lighthearted moment was not aired, the dragons laughed, diffusing some of the tension in the room. 

Knowing that he had missed key points, and maybe his opportunity for funding, he took a chance on authenticity. “I know I totally flubbed that pitch and it doesn’t even matter. I’m here. Let’s do the Q & A section.” He had spent countless hours studying his numbers and knew his business well.

It seemed that both his business strategy and his confidence impressed the dragons—in the end, every dragon offered Senez what he had requested: $2 million funding for a 15 percent share in his company. 

Dragon's Den impact goes beyond funding

This experience funds Quark Baby, but it also marks a personal milestone for Senez. Off camera, Senez and the dragons shared inspirations, praise and laughter. Senez remarks that he took “mental moments” like Pam and Jim on The Office, mimicking a camera and snapping a memory. Through these interactions, Senez shared that his inspiration for entrepreneurship came from his dad, and teared up at the thought. One of the dragons told him: “in 17 seasons, I’ve never been more impressed with an entrepreneur.” Apart from the financial success, Senez secured true connections on Dragon’s Den, further cementing the value he’s always placed in building authentic relationships.

The impact of Dragon’s Den on Quark Baby has been monumental. Senez remarks how thrilled he is with the outcome, with Quark Baby already undergoing the Dragon’s Den process. Apart from the investment, he notes, “it also brought significant attention to the brand both in terms of awareness and in-store sales. Positive all around.” Looking ahead, Quark Baby’s future is as ambitious as its beginnings, with plans to expand first to the United States, and then internationally. 

International experience drives his success

Senez’s aptitude for global business stems from his love of travel, solidified by his experience abroad through UVic’s Gustavson School of Business. The Master of Global Business program opened his eyes to cross-border commerce, as he pursued his studies around the world in Taiwan, Austria and France, gaining invaluable experience and fostering relationships.

His graduate degree also equipped him to land a role at L’Oréal.

“This experience allowed me to understand the Canadian retail environment very well, which has been instrumental to Quark’s early growth in retail,” he says. When the wheels started turning for the new venture, he connected with trusted investors from his network in China, pitched his Quark brand and product suite, and secured the first $500,000 for Quark Baby, which wouldn’t have been possible without his cross-cultural awareness gained from UVic. 

Looking ahead

Senez’s journey can be distilled into one powerful statement he shared, echoing other entrepreneurs. “The difference between someone who succeeds and fails is persistence.” He encourages future entrepreneurs to embrace the lessons from failed plans and to learn on the job, like he did at L’Oréal, as it can have unforeseen advantages when someone breaks out on their own. 

His experiences as a marketer, a global business student and new parent charged him with the insights necessary for navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship. Senez’s journey is a narrative of passion, perseverance and the pursuit of a global impact. 

With another baby on the way for the Senez family, Quark will remain his focus until his kids start growing up. What Senez creates next is anyone’s guess, but one can have no doubt that it will inspire others to lead with authenticity and follow through with persistence. 

Watch Garett Senez on Dragon’s Den, Season 18, Episode 10, on CBCGems. 

—Kristin Lathrop. Photo credit: CBC Dragon's Den