From mommy blues and tutus to a deal with a Dragon
Sarah Cheng, SAF grad lands deal on CBC Dragons’ Den
Sarah Cheng, SAF grad lands deal on CBC Dragons’ DenBy Patty Mah School of Accounting and Finance
Sarah Cheng (BAFM ’08, MAcc ’09) stepped into the Dragons’ Den with her five-year-old daughter while eight months pregnant. The Waterloo alumnus pitched her small business, Bluish, and ended up striking a deal from Canadian investor Arlene Dickinson.
Cheng’s entrepreneurial journey started with the birth of her first child, Summer, and with her second child on the way, she took the leap to leave her day job as an accountant to pursue her venture full-time. Her impactful story and beautifully crafted tutus touched Dickinson who saw Cheng’s venture as much more than an apparel company, but rather a platform for women to share their stories of new motherhood and postpartum depression (PPD) without guilt or judgement.
The “Baby Blues” or feelings of sadness, sometimes reaching severe levels and diagnosed as postpartum depression or postnatal depression, is experienced by 80 percent of all mothers and Cheng was one of them. Knowing that she had many reasons to be happy, Cheng reflects that “I was at a loss in how to manage my feelings of sadness and how to connect with my newborn.” She found that small, simple things like dressing herself and her daughter in matching tulle skirts gave her joy and reprieve from the rollercoaster of emotions she was experiencing. This simple act turned into the founding of Bluish.
“Through my personal journey in successfully managing the baby blues and then launching Bluish four years ago, my venture morphed into a larger narrative in providing a platform for women to share stories of strength, resilience and growth,” Cheng says. “Bluish is no longer just an online store selling matching tutus for mothers and daughters. It’s become a place where women are celebrated for the strength and resilience they demonstrate in the face of adversity — whether that be experiencing PPD, the loss of a husband or an eating disorder. Bluish means to be stronger than your blues.”
Dragon, Dickinson related to Cheng’s story and noted that her venture is “capitalism with heart, where storytelling is your product.” Since pitching to the Dragons, Dickinson’s team has provided invaluable advice to Cheng in broadening the scope of her venture to look ahead at what’s possible in growing the business.
When Cheng started Bluish, she was on maternity leave — a challenge all on its own.
Navigating the obstacles of parenthood, a growing business and managing the baby blues often felt overwhelming, but Cheng attributes her resilience to the knowledge she gained as an AFM and MAcc student, “because of what I learned at Waterloo, financial literacy, looking at numbers and simplifying complexity, came naturally,” Cheng says. “Accounting takes a lot of skill and understanding of what you’re dealing with and with Bluish, I found myself being able to apply those skills.”
Her entrepreneurial success and pitching to the Dragons required Cheng to draw from the skills she also gained as a co-op student and from participating in extra-curriculars.
“All of that training I feel has also prepared me very well and in particular for the Dragons Den pitch, especially because Bluish has been so personal for me,” Cheng recounts. “Past co-op experiences, meeting with and presenting to CFOs, managers and clients have provided perspective to help me remain calm under pressure,” which ultimately helped Cheng to successfully create a provocative narrative that sold on Dragons Den.
As Cheng looks ahead, she reflects on the generosity of the people and the relationships she’s made throughout her journey who have helped her launch Bluish.
“Whether it’s Dragons’ Den or another opportunity that pushes you and challenges whether the status quo is where you want to go and if that’s the right direction for your business, any kind of opportunity that does that is beneficial as an entrepreneur.”
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