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Entrepreneurs face the Dragons’ Den, return with $20,000 grant

"We're really excited, with the grant that we got (from the Desjardins GoodSpark program), to be able to give back to the community," said Laurie Haliwyz-Way, co-owner of Literacy Lane
literacy lane
Laurie Haliwyz-Way (L) and Lisa Warken (R), co-owners of Literacy Lane, a Medicine Hat-based company that recently pitched to the investors on the CBC television show Dragons’ Den. (supplied)

Earlier this spring, Medicine Hat entrepreneurs Laurie Haliwyz-Way and Lisa Warken travelled to Toronto with big hopes for their children’s literacy business — and the pair weren’t disappointed with the experience. 

Haliwyz-Way, who originally hails from Moose Jaw, and Warken own Literacy Lane, a company that produces customizable adhesive floor decals designed as learning aids to improve children’s literacy skills in an engaging and productive way. 

The pair applied to present their business pitch to the investors on Dragons’ Den for the upcoming 14th season of the popular show, one of over 3,000 hopeful businesses vying for a chance. 

Only 100 applications were selected to head into the Den, and Literacy Lane was one of them, much to the excitement of both Haliwyz-Way and Warken. Their business was only four months old at the time of the auditions in March. 

“As you're walking up the stairs and you're getting to the point where you're going . . . to enter the Den, it was surreal,” said Warken, of the experience. 

“It was just that a chance of a lifetime,” added Haliwyz-Way. “We were pretty nervous going in, but the millionaires that we were up in front of, they were all very compassionate.”

The experience was surreal, the pair admitted, and although they remain unsure of whether their pitch will be aired as part of the show, they hardly walked away empty-handed. 

As a sponsor of the Den this year, the Desjardins GoodSpark program selected nine businesses from the assembled 100 live pitches who fit the criteria as a socially conscious business that is positively impacting the youth in and around their community.

Near the end of August, Haliwyz-Way and Warken were informed they were one of those businesses to make the list, receiving a $20,000 grant to further their venture.

Desjardins will now help promote Literacy Lane and it’s products, and Haliwyz-Way and Warken plan to use the grant to supply select schools across Canada with their Literacy Lane adventure packs for free.

“We've been well received in the schools that it's in right now, and we're just really excited to be able to reach other places further away than our bubble here in Medicine Hat,” said Haliwyz-Way.

“We're hoping that by giving the lanes to a few [schools] across Canada, we can spread what we have and everybody can join in on our mission to help improve literacy,” said Warken. 

As a speech pathologist and literacy intervention assistant respectively, Haliwyz-Way and Warken developed their products using research and experience working with children in a learning environment.

“We're working in the schools, we can see where kids are needing support,” said Haliwyz-Way. “It's well known that movement really helps kids focus, become more calm and organized, and we've just added purpose to that so [our product] goes beyond just the movement break.”

Literacy Lane is currently an online-based venture, shipping worldwide, and Haliwyz-Way and Warken are hoping this adventure will help their products reach even more communities. 

Receiving the Desjardins grant is a positive step towards their goal of expanding Literacy Lane both nationally and internationally. 

The first episode of Dragons’ Den aired on Sept. 26. While Haliwyz-Way and Warken have yet to hear word on whether they will appear on the show, they remain hopeful for the promising future of Literacy Lane. 

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