From The Gazette

Kirkland

Kirkland family pitches mom’s ice cream on Dragons’ Den

  • Members of the Constandinou family, left to right, Alex, Antonio, Maria, Ninette, Nick, Nicos, Anastasia.
    Members of the Constandinou family, left to right, Alex, Antonio, Maria, Ninette, Nick, Nicos, Anastasia.
    Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Nick Constandinou

The Constandinou family of Kirkland is poised to enter the Dragons’ Den.

Nick and Ninette Constandinou and their seven children appear on the CBC Television show Dragons’ Den to pitch for financial backing of their burgeoning ice cream business Wednesday at 8.

The episode was taped in April, but because confidentiality agreements were signed by all, Nick Constandinou could not reveal whether or not the family persuaded the panel of business titans to give them a financial boost.

Backing or no backing, the opportunity was golden.

“From a marketing point of view, it couldn’t get any better,” Constandinou said. “On average, 1.3 million people watch the show every week. It would take me 10 years to get that kind of exposure.”

Dragons’ Den features a panel of successful entrepreneurs who listen to pitches from small-business owners and then decide whether or not they warrant financial backing.

Not every taped episode makes the final cut. The family were contacted three weeks ago and told their pitch would make it to air.

The ice cream saga began around 35 years ago when Nick, originally from Cyprus, met Ninette, originally from Venezuela, while the two were attending Champlain College.

It was love at first sight and the two were soon married. One of their wedding gifts was an ice cream maker.

After the babies began arriving — Nicos first, followed by Maria, Andriana, Antonio, Anastasia, Alex and John — Ninette began making ice cream, creating flavours inspired by her children’s favourite desserts.

Ninette continues to create new flavour combinations, but has no interest in sharing the limelight with her businessman husband as the ice cream grows in popularity.

“She’s a stay-at-home mom,” Constandinou said. “She’s quite reserved. Not a get-out-there-and-do-it type at all.”

It took a whole lot of persuading to get her to agree to market the ice cream in the first place and even more nudging to get her to audition for Dragons’ Den. She’s a fan of the show, but watching it is one thing. Appearing on it is something else entirely.

She agreed at the last minute, and Nick and Ninette auditioned in January. They were contacted weeks later and told that they had been selected for a taping on the condition that all seven children appeared with them.

“We got everybody’s schedules handled and made an event of it,” Constandinou said.

Ninette’s Ice Cream was officially launched in April 2012 and is available at select stores in Quebec and Ottawa. The ice cream won an innovation prize at the SIAL Canada food trade show in 2012. The flavors are Basil Lemon, Cinnamon Apple Pie (the apples come from Rougemont), Gingerbread Crunch, Raspberry Truffle and Mocha Almond Fudge.

The ice cream has a lower fat and sugar content than its competitors and is gluten free — with the exception of the Gingerbread Crunch flavour — and kosher. Each 500 ml container sells for $6.49.

Ninette is currently working on four flavours inspired by Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton cookies. The two businesses will co-brand the ice cream and already have contracts for 10 locations in Dubai, U.A.E.

The ice cream is produced at a plant in Peterborough, Ont., and distributed by VersaCold.

Dragons’ Den airs on CBC Television, Wednesday at 8 p.m.

For a list of stores that carry Ninette’s Ice Cream, visit www.facebook.com/ninettesicecream.

kgreenaway@montrealgazette.com

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