CUCU Covers, a company based out of the DMZ’s Fashion Zone, will be on CBC’s Dragons’ Den this fall.
The startup (pronounced kookoo) produces customizable stick-on covers to personalize bank cards. It was founded by graduates Kunal Arneja, Deepak Kanda and Nathaniel Bagnell in Ryerson’s entrepreneurship capstone course in 2015.
“Deepak actually had this concept in his head prior to the class and so he found that basically everything he owned was personalized. His phone and his T-shirts and his laptop, all that stuff had stickers and things that represented him. But he had all these boring bank cards on the table, and so he drew up the concept for creating this cover,” said Kunal Arneja, co-founder.
CUCU’s catalogue currently has over 300 designs, and features 35 artists from around the world.
Their SKETCH collection is in partnership with SKETCH Toronto, a local non-profit which helps support youth artists who are homeless or on the margin.
“Me and Deepak were walking just past the office one day and we came across this artist on the street and he was selling his abstract art. He was just laid up around Yonge and Dundas, he had all his artwork out there and we walked by and we looked at his work and it was really, really good,” said Arneja.
They asked the artist if they could feature his artwork on their covers and give him all of the profits as a new way for him to make money.
“We thought there has to be something like this where we could find more artists like this who are trying to get themselves out of poverty to do art, and that’s when we came across SKETCH,” said Arneja.
The startup won Enactus Ryerson’s Slaight New Venture competition in April of 2016, and took home the grand prize of $25,000.
“That was a huge boost that let us survive for about three years and work on our ideas some more,” Arneja said.
The team is currently working on creating more products that have not been personalized before.
They are planning to introduce a marketplace where artists will be able to upload and sell artwork, as well as partner with bigger franchises, such as movies and sports teams, in the future.