Dec. 4, 2019

Dragons’ Den Star Got His Start at College Pro

Alumnus John Evans learned how to paint his way out of a corner while at UCalgary

He may have been a UCalgary student during the academic year but, come summer, you would have found John Evans, BA’11, schlepping cans of paint up and down ladders as he toiled away as a franchise owner of College Pro. Back then, confesses the business and poli-sci grad, the only wink of entertainment he enjoyed were episodes of Dragons’ Den.

“Honestly, getting on that show became my dream . . . I’ve been thinking about it for a decade,” admits the owner of EverLine Coating, a line-painting and parking-lot services company.

So, in February 2019, when the audition date was announced for the 14th season of Dragons’ Den (which just wrapped last month), Evans was ready. More than ready.

As for those 10 years he’s been following the Dragons, well . . . they’re all reflected in Evans’ playbook. During his first summer job, he lost $25,000 with College Pro and found solace in the Den; in his second and third summer with College Pro, he went on to win platinum and diamond awards for best sales. He then completed his interdisciplinary degree at UCalgary and paid back his grandparents (who had bailed him out with a $25,000 loan); moved out of a frat house; hit his grandparents up for another loan to buy a licence in order to start EverLine, and since then has expanded that company into a cross-Canada operation with seven franchise owners. 

With that work history behind him, Evans nailed his written application for Dragons’ Den and, within two weeks, was set for an in-person interview in Calgary (along with scores of other hopefuls). That, too, he crushed — and he found himself, last May, in Toronto about to deliver a 60-second pitch as well as a demo of EverLine to his heroes, the six fire-breathing Dragons.

“Here’s what I was thinking,” explains Evans. “I had to come up with a segment that would be a lot of fun and somehow engage the Dragons, something that viewers would enjoy watching, and somehow ask for an investment from Canada’s top business leaders.”

Alumnus John Evans

Alumnus John Evans

Like an all-star athlete, Evans began training, honing his pitch about EverLine down to 60 seconds that would include an interactive demo of its environmentally friendly and durable line-painting; something that would also capture the essence of the company and the power of franchising it.

“Before I flew to Toronto for the shoot, there were many moments of terror where I was curled up in a fetal position, watching Rocky II,” laughs Evans. “But, by the time I got to Toronto, I was ready. During the day of the actual filming, I went for a jog, did some jumping jacks, listened to the soundtrack from Rocky and then heard what I’d been dreaming of: ‘EverLine is on deck.’”

Walking down the famous Dragons’ Den stairs was surreal, recalls Evans. “It was absolutely an out-of-body experience,” he says. “When I got to the bottom, I saw all six Dragons — Jim, Michelle, Vincenzo, Arlene, Lane and Manjit — staring at me, waiting for me to make my move. The days of being an armchair quarterback were gone; I was in the game. The pitch began, adrenaline took over and, as they say, the rest is history.”

No spoiler alert is needed. Although Evans couldn’t divulge the results to anyone until the final episode ran on Nov. 21, he will now proudly tell you that Manjit Minhas came to the table with $250,000 for five-per-cent of the company, along with a three-per-cent royalty.

It was better than my ask of $250,000 for 10 per cent, so I am thrilled,” says Evans, whose dream of expanding his franchise operation to 30, Canada-wide, just became closer to reality. He also got to spread the word about his company to the 519,000 viewers who watched the finale which, in turn, has resulted in 100 leads from across the country.

Once Evans secures those 30 franchises, his plan is to take EverLine into the States. “While I’ve bootstrapped the whole company here in Canada, I couldn’t do that in the States. I’d get shredded,” he says. “But having the Dragons support me is a game-changer.”

Next time you’re cursing those rubbery speed bumps at Deerfoot Meadows or looking for a parking stall at Chinook Centre, think of Evans.

“Yep, that’s our handiwork,” grins the entrepreneur, whose favourite class was Dr. Ron Glasberg, PhD’s class on the foundations of Western thought. “It may sound weird, but I do apply some of the philosophies we learned to my everyday working life.”