Luigi the Lovebird has cast his spell on the newest member of the Dragons' Den - not to mention the president of Hallmark Cards in Canada.
The colourful little parrot with a penchant for shredding paper, and his Victoria owner, Mary McQueen - who turns the shreddings into eye-popping greeting cards - secured a $10,000 investment from David Chilton on the popular CBC television program on Wednesday night.
Chilton's decision to partner with McQueen's Hand and Beak greeting card business has paid off since the show was recorded in April.
A phone call by the author of The Wealthy Barber to Patrick Carr, president of Hallmark Canada, lead to a nation-wide card distribution deal and a red-carpet rollout that coincided with the Dragons' Den airing earlier Wednesday evening.
Luigi and McQueen arrived by stretch limousine at the Hallmark store at Mayfair Shopping Centre. The pair were met by television and press cameras and guarded by a burley security man as they met Chilton.
"We're both flying pretty high," gushed McQueen who was carrying Luigi in a cage.
The law librarian at the University of Victoria has been creating the cards for several years, using Luigi's insatiable appetite for shredding any kind of paper.
The little yellow African lovebird - a small, affectionate member of the parrot family - uses his beak like a sewing machine needle to shred paper into precision strips. McQueen then crafts collages into greeting cards. The collection unveiled at Hallmark Wednesday night features six birthday card designs, each priced at $3.99.
McQueen's designs and the story behind her "chief shredding officer" immediately peaked the interest of Hallmark's president.
"After hearing Mary's unique story and seeing the detail and craftsmanship behind these beautiful cards, we immediately were on board," said Carr. "We are always looking for new and innovative ways for our customers to connect and we are excited to share Mary's story and her cards with our customers."
Carr added that Hallmark will donate all of the proceeds from the sales of Hand and Beak cards to Make-A-Wish Canada, the non-profit that helps grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Chilton was the only Dragon to bite on the pitch during recording of the show in April, said McQueen. She said her accountant valued the company at $40,000. She had asked for - and received - a $10,000 investment for a 25 per cent stake.
She flew to Toronto with Luigi in a cage at her feet, an experience the little parrot didn't like that much.
And while she said she felt confident in front of the Dragons, McQueen said Kevin O'Leary, the most ruthless of the Dragons, did his best to throw her off.
At one point, Luigi flew off and it took McQueen several minutes climbing the studio rafters with a CBC producer to bring him down.
Chilton said he was "immediately intrigued."
"I think Mary is smart, witty and has a unique product," he said. "I'm excited to see where we can take this together."
McQueen said she's ready to meet the challenge of producing cards for a national market. "I just feel so validated," she said in an interview from her home, where Luigi was busy shredding a photo of himself and owner on the front page of the Times Colonist.
"A lot of work has gone into this over the years. I've been creative since the day I was born.
"The whole experience has been beyond thrilling. I never dreamed I'd actually get a deal on the show, and now for my greeting cards to be carried by Hallmark - it's a surreal, but incredible feeling."
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