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It was a little less than two years ago that I quit my job of almost 21 years at a large telecommunications company to accept a position in the BCIT Entrepreneurial Skills Training (BEST) program – a government sponsored self-employment program. The program consisted of 10 weeks of classroom training and another 38 weeks of support from a business advisor, to whom we had to submit monthly reports, and a little bit of monetary support via Employment Insurance.
The program was one of the best things I’ve done for personal and professional development in recent years, but the PEOPLE are what I remember and value the most! There were 17 of us “budding entrepreneurs” accepted into the program and I’m still in contact with more than 10 of them while three have become good friends whom I see or talk to on a regular basis. We also keep in touch with our business advisor who joins us for coffee from time to time.
It was during the BEST program that I was reintroduced to the show Dragons’ Den on CBC (I had heard of it, but had never seen it). We watched a few episodes as part of our classroom training. I was intrigued. Dragons’ Den originated in Japan and versions of it have emerged in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, The Netherlands, Finland, in the Middle East and of course our own here in Canada. More information can be found on Wikipedia. There is also a similar show in the US by the name of Shark Tank in which Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary also appear. (I watched this show once, but didn’t like it nearly as much).
This is how it works in a nutshell… you pitch your business to five self-made millionaires/billionaires in the hopes that they will invest in your company in exchange for a stake in it. The catch is, you have to leave with at least as much money as you asked for. Therefore, if you over-value your business, they will have to take a larger stake to give you the money that you’re asking for. Capisce?
Back to the classroom… so the Dragons’ Den audition tour came through town and our business advisors and instructors encouraged us to apply. I considered it… briefly… and promptly chickened out. 😉
Fast forward to the Fall of 2009. I generally don’t watch TV, but I am now ADDICTED to Dragons’ Den on CBC, Wednesday nights at 8 pm. My husband is too. I now feel like I’m ready to apply but according to the website, “Applications are currently closed. If Dragons’ Den returns for another season, applications will open in spring, 2010. Please subscribe to the newsletter for audition announcements.” What do they mean “if”? I start visiting the website regularly only to see the same message over and over.
Now it is, I believe, February 2010. Mike and I are in our usual spots on the couch snuggling on a Wednesday night when “the Den” breaks for commercial and they announce the audition tour! I immediately go online and sign-up for an email alert that will advise me of the date(s) for Vancouver.
The dates are set within a few weeks – I can audition on March 13th or March 27th. I ask my friend Donna to model for me. She says yes (YAY!) but can only do the 27th (I am relieved that I can procrastinate until then). You may remember Donna from our How to Take an Overbust Measurement video. Donna had her baby just a few days after that video was shot – a little girl named Serenity who is now almost six months old! Honestly, it feels just like yesterday that we shot that!
It is now a few weeks before my audition. My “BEST” gal pals Pauline Siu of flora and fauna and Kathy Day of Earthly Presence and I decide that a “dry run” is in order. Kathy recruits Ethical Bean’s owner Lloyd Bernhardt to participate as well (thanks Kathy!). We scramble to find a time that works with everyone’s schedule. Another date set – whew! Finally the day arrives and I head over to EB at an ungodly hour with my homemade banana cake (it was the least I could do). Let me say once again – THANK YOU ALL for participating. The feedback that I received was invaluable. Really. Oh and if you haven’t tried a Chai Tea Latte from Ethical Bean. Oh my GAWD you haven’t lived yet! (and I’m a Starbuck’s Toffee Nut Latte die-hard). But I digress…
Up to this point, I hadn’t allowed myself to TRULY think about the audition or the possibility of me ACTUALLY going to Toronto (if I was chosen to go to tape) and thus I was pretty nonchalant about this whole “Dragons’ Den thing”. But when I got to the EB boardroom last Wednesday morning, I got nervous! I realized after the fact, that I was nervous for a couple of reasons. First, I wasn’t prepared enough. And second, it was now REAL. Probably the biggest thing that I took away from those couple of hours, aside from all the great advice and feedback that I received, was that in order to get through this audition, I had to prepare, prepare, prepare and then prepare some more!
I know my product inside and out, I know my numbers inside and out. But when I get frazzled (yes I DO get frazzled sometimes), I forget everything. And then some!
So true to form (I’m a master procrastinator), there I was on Friday night – AFTER movie night with my daughter – re-writing my pitch, timing my pitch, editing my pitch and practicing my pitch while folding the laundry (so that I had clean clothes to wear to the audition). I was feeling pretty good about it when I turned in around midnight and quickly hoped to myself that I didn’t dream about the audition ALL.NIGHT.LONG.
Mission accomplished – no dreams about Dragons. 🙂 I got up early and decided to see how much of the pitch I had retained overnight. It must have sunk-in overnight as I felt pretty confident and decided to jump in the shower (where I practiced my pitch some more). Then Donna arrived and I ran it by her, Mike, Antonia and Michaela. Oh no! Feeling a bit nervous again. Well, no time for that – off we went to hook-up with Leslie Cairns – founder of the Buggy Bag – who was also auditioning.
We had previously discussed going down early – around 8 am – to beat the line-up. Then we heard from someone that auditioned last year who said not to bother going down early as they scout the line-up and pull people randomly (my girlfriend that works in film had told me they might do it this way, so it sounded legit). So we showed up right at 11 am… aaaaaaand there were already 37 people ahead of us. Yup, first come, first served. They told us to put our name up on the board and allow 15 minutes per person. Quick calculation…… that’s 9+ hours. GROAN!
We found some seats and tried to digest the fact that we may be spending the next nine hours in this room. I tried to practice my pitch some more, but it was pretty noisy in there with more than 50 people, plus they were playing last season’s episodes of the Den. So we started chatting with people to pass the time. I met the owners of Pee-pee Teepee. I was familiar with their product but didn’t know that they had diversified to include other products like shoes, blankets and clothing. So awesome! We’ll see them in Vegas this year at the ABC Show. And Jamie from S2S Nation (his website isn’t quite live yet) – cool, limited-edition, custom-designed, bamboo and organic cotton t-shirts.
A couple of hours in, they were only at #11, so we decided to refuel. I had been craving sushi for a couple
of weeks so we headed across the street to a Japanese restaurant. I eyed the Starbucks on the opposite corner for my “dessert”. After stuffing ourselves with yummy sushi and then grabbing a Chai Tea Latte (not nearly as good as EB though), I was totally recharged and feeling über confident for the first time since arriving!
When we got back to the room, the board was a mess – there seemed to no longer be any semblance of order with names crossed off randomly all over the place. So Donna went up to the fellow holding the “official list” and asked him where we were at. Donna came back and I asked her what the verdict was. She said, “I’m not telling you.” I said, “We’re next?” She said, “Pretty much!” I was ready! Woot!
The next thing I knew, we were in the next room pitching! I started my spiel when about 1/2-way through they interrupted us to say, “Show us how it works.” So we jumped to the demo portion of the pitch and they started firing questions at me, all of which I answered. 🙂 Then they took a picture of Donna with the PumpEase on and asked if they could take two samples back to Toronto with them. And then they told us we did a great job and we were done!
After we left the room, Donna said, “You are SO going to Toronto.” and promptly offered to be my model there as well. I was so focused on my pitch that apparently I missed a bunch of stuff – whispering, body language, eye contact. But I’m not counting my chickens just yet…
We walked back into the waiting room and everyone asked how we did. I said it was awesome (because it was) and I tell ya, if it hadn’t been 4:00 already, I would have dragged both Donna and Leslie off to the bar for a double! We were definitely on a “high”! As it was, had to get home to Mike and the girls for dins. However, we did head out that night to a local pub with a bunch of friends including Angie, whose hubby was playing in the band. I had a coupla Caesars, danced a coupla songs, caught-up with a coupla friends and had a great night! Cheers Dragons! I’ll catch-up with you in T.O.!
Are you a fan of Dragons’ Den? Do you have a favourite pitch? Please share it with us below…