Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A dragon nudges Frogbox forward

Boston Pizza guru aids new city franchise

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THE tall, weathered man in dress blue jeans and smart loafers sitting in the lobby of a downtown hotel looked like he could be a retired sports star.

But a young child with her father in tow knew exactly who he was.

Jim Treliving is the "nice dragon" on the CBC television show Dragons' Den. When asked, he happily agreed to have the father take his picture with the young girl.

With the popular reality show about to start broadcasting its sixth season, Treliving has agreed to invest in more companies than he can remember.

He was in Winnipeg to take part in Monday's Boston Pizza Jonathan Toews FORE Kids Golf Classic that raises money for the Children's Rehabilitation Foundation.

It also coincided with the launch of the Winnipeg franchise of Frogbox, one of the companies Treliving now has a stake in from the Dragons' Den experience. Winnipeg has the 16th franchise of the eco-friendly moving box company.

He is famous for Dragons' Den, but Treliving, 69, made his fortune from the success of Boston Pizza where he is the founder, chairman and still one of its largest shareholders.

Treliving grew up in Virden before moving to Regina where he become an RCMP officer. He ate in the original Boston Pizza restaurant in Edmonton in the mid-60s and by the end of that decade he quit the RCMP and became a franchisee.

In 1983, he bought the then 44-restaurant chain. Today, there are 346 locations in Canada, 54 in the United States and three in Mexico.

He is based in Dallas and focused on the restaurant chain's U.S. expansion, with six to eight new locations per year.

It's his expertise in marketing Boston Pizza franchises that is particularly valuable as an owner of Frogbox.

The concept is simple. Frogbox rents reusable plastic boxes delivered to the door and picked up when the move is over.

While it may not sound like it has the potential for triple-digit returns like some Internet businesses, the word is Frogbox could be a winner.

"When I looked at the numbers, I was shocked," Treliving said. "This really is a high margin business."

Partners in the Winnipeg franchise are Dave Owen, who will run the business, real estate agent Chris Pennycook and businessman Harry Ethans.

Owen said more and more people are willing to pay a fee -- $79 for 25 boxes for one week -- for the convenience and the eco-friendly aspect of having reusable boxes dropped off and picked up at the door.

"The costs are comparable to the purchase of new cardboard boxes," Owen said.

It is also a pleasant alternative to the classic runaround of scavenging for used boxes and then struggling with their awkward sizes and questionable integrity.

Started in Vancouver in 2008, the Frogbox franchises have been selling well since the Dragons' Den show.

Treliving said the business is low risk and has good returns.

But he said the secret to his style of investing is being comfortable with the people involved.

He was impressed with Doug Burgoyne, Frogbox's founder, and was happy to learn that its Winnipeg franchisees are close friends and associates with Treliving's Boston Pizza franchise owners in Winnipeg, Richard and Kim Enright.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2011 B4

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