(In the article below the KayaArm and KayaLeg names for the stabilization devices have been reversed)
Kingston Heritage By Mandy Marciniak
News – Ralph Wirsig is a retired mechanical engineer living on Buck Lake; he is also the inventor of the KayaLeg and KayaArm kayak stabilization systems, inventions he hopes will attract some dragons.
Wirsig was one of many entrepreneurs who presented their ideas and businesses to producers of CBC’s Dragon’s Den on Feb. 26 at the Ambassador Hotel and Conference Centre. The stop was part of a 33-city audition tour and producers were excited to see what Kingston had to offer.
“We do this tour every year and we always see great things coming out of Kingston and that is why we keep coming back to the city,” explained producer Adam Avrashi. “We are always looking for someone who has a great idea or concept and we are looking for a great story. If you have a great story about why you got into the business and why you are passionate about it, that helps a lot.”
For Wirsig, the story behind KayaLeg and KayaArm comes from years of kayaking with his wife.
“My wife would often take a spill from her kayak getting into it or getting out and I would have to hold it to stabilize her,” he explained. “I thought there had to be a better way and I started working on stabilization ideas.”
Wirsig developed a dock-mounted system that he calls the KayaLeg. He developed the product himself and first constructed it out of wood, but then moved to aluminum. It works by allowing kayakers to manoeuvre up onto an aluminum apparatus that stabilizes the kayak and allows for a secure in and out position.
“There isn’t anything like this out there,” he told producers. “I was able to construct the product and patent the idea and now I’d like to sell the idea.”
Wirsig is hoping for $200,000 from the dragons for his idea and 15 per cent of the royalties going forward. He has already sold numerous systems in Canada, the United States and even Australia, but he can’t keep up with numbers going forward.
He also showed the producers his KayaArm system that works to stabilize kayakers who don’t have a dock to mount to or who travel a lot. The KayaArm is a metal apparatus that is drilled into the top of a kayak and works to hold the handle in place to allow kayakers to lean it on the shore or a dock to stabilize.
“There is a lot of potential there if it was part of the original equipment and it could be drilled right into the kayak,” he explained. “A lot of people don’t want to drill into their kayak, but it could be part of the build and that is what I am hoping to see in the future.”
The producers were receptive to Wirsig’s presentation, taking notes and asking questions throughout. They saw the potential for the project, but they are not the final say.
“We listen to the stories and take a bunch of notes and then take all of that back to Toronto with us,” explained Avrashi. “If the idea gets approved after that then it gets paired with a producer and thrown into the den. We are the gatekeepers to the den in a way.”
With 33 stops and numerous presentations at each stop, selecting who makes the cut is no easy task and while the selection process can be difficult, Avrashi loves seeing the different ideas people come up with.
“It is really inspiring,” he said. “My favourite part is getting to try some of the products that come in. This tour we’ve seen everything from art to sauerkraut to a stepladder. It is always interesting.”
Beyond the auditions, decisions will take place at the end of April before filming starts in late April and early May. Wirsig was happy with his presentation and he is hopeful for the future of his business.
“It is a great product with a lot of potential,” he said. “It could expand to Australia, New Zealand and even further.”
For more information about Wirsig’s products visit www.kayaleg.ca