Entrepreneur spotlight: Hailey Coleman


In keeping with this month’s theme of all things Dragons’ Den, our entrepreneur spotlight shines on Hailey Coleman, a recent graduate of Ryerson’s Business Management program and the first winning pitch on the fifth season premiere of the CBC hit show.

Coleman’s business is called Damn Heels. Damn Heels are cute, comfortable and discrete ballet flats meant to “save women from our beloved damn heels.” Coleman came up with the product for the hundreds of occasions when our high heels are more agonizing than attractive, more tormenting than tempting.
The idea behind Damn Heels came to Coleman one fateful night when she “hobbled home barefoot after an excruciating evening out,” (though I would have sworn she had seen me at the dozen weddings I attended this summer, heels abandoned, working to avoid being stepped on by enthusiastic dancers).

Either way, Coleman “decided that it was something that needed to be done for every woman. We needed a product that would save us from our damn heels.”

Coleman developed her product to be thin enough to be super-compact but also durable enough to cushion one’s feet. Damn Heels come in a tiny, barely-there pouch about the size of a large sunglasses case which completely expands into an extendable tote to put your heels in afterwards. Genius!

“We really wanted to develop something that was convenient, comfortable and most of all, fashionable,” says Coleman. “You don’t want to go from your high heels into something that isn’t nice, and we wanted everyone to continue looking good and feeling good even after taking their heels off. So that is why we developed the ballerina style flat.”

Dragons’ Den

Coleman came on the show with a poise and preparedness rarely displayed by the majority of candidates on the show. Taping for the show was back in April. Earlier that morning, Coleman had done a spot on CityTV’s morning show and exorcised what nervousness she may have experienced. Plus, Coleman’s business was already the recipient of two major business competitions, the OPIC and a $25,000 prize at the Slaight Communications Business plan competition.

As for her expectations going onto the show, Coleman wasn’t really sure what to expect but “had a good feeling about it. I knew exactly what I was asking for and I was happy that I came out with that. I was asking for $25,000 for 33 per cent [of the business] but I really had an open mind to see what they had to offer as well.”

The Dragons’ Den narrator said that Coleman ignited an “aggressive bidding war” amongst the Dragons, in particular between Arlene Dickinson and Kevin O’Leary. “I remember even thinking ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m not talking that much!’ says Colemen. “It was a great experience. I’ve had tons of emails so far saying people who’ve watched the show for years have never seen such a great response from the Dragons before.”

Coleman ended up shaking hands with Dickinson, agreeing on a $50,000 deal—half in working capital and half in marketing services.

Coleman went with Dickinson because “her network is incredible and her services are fabulous”.

Already available from retailers in Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg and at www.damnheels.com, Coleman’s business is on a steep upward trajectory. An apprentice Dragon, Coleman has provided a service for beleaguered fashionistas everywhere. Her shoes may be flat, but everything else about Coleman is going sky-high.