Nothing compares to the feeling I get when raving reviews come in from our customers. But facing the Dragons (of Dragons’ Den) comes close! It has been one of my most exciting and memorable entrepreneurial experiences.
Whether our segment actually airs is something we won’t know until Season 9 premieres later this fall.
Still, it was worth every moment of apprehension, and every hour of practice time that we put in, before the main event. It was so much FUN!
From the audition, to working with a producer during preparation, to the actual event, it was all very professional.
In preparation for the audition I put together a PowerPoint presentation. The night before the audition I realized how ludicrous this was, given this was a TV show audition, and not a boardroom presentation! Thank goodness I realized that on time or I likely would not have been invited to the show!
After the audition they told me that I would either hear from them by the end of February, or not. And if not, I would be able to audition again next year. The end of February came and went so I put it out of my mind, accepting the fact that we had not been chosen to pitch. But then, first thing in the morning on March 4th, my birthday, we got the call. It was so exciting and it was the best birthday present ever!!
We were given our choice of three taping days, April 8th, 9th or 10th. It couldn’t have been a worse week because we had booked and paid for two trade shows in Vancouver and had many other commitments. Plus, the Dragons Den taping was in Toronto. Nevertheless, we cleared our schedules. Nothing would stop us from entering the Dragons Den!
Producers warned us we’d have just 60 seconds to introduce ourselves, our company, make our ask (% of equity for $XX investment) and then do our entire pitch. They told us the Dragons will give that 60 seconds and then they will jump in and fire away after which time it can be difficult to maintain control.
We had four weeks to prepare. And prepare we did.
I did a significant amount of number crunching, and got input from three professional business valuators to come up with the right ‘ask’. We wrote out proposals for the producer including our pitch, our props, and our concepts to ‘involve’ the Dragons. We went through four iterations of these as the producer rejected most of our concepts. We weren’t sure exactly what we would be ‘allowed’ to do, right up until 15 minutes before the show!
We practiced and changed our pitch, practiced and changed our pitch, practiced and changed, over and over and then we practiced some more.
Doug (my husband and business partner) arranged a ‘faux’ Dragons Den experience. He brought in five high-powered people to play ‘the Dragons’ and invited another 30 people to watch the pitch and provide feedback. We taped the pitch so that we could look for areas to improve.These dragons proved to be even tougher than the real ones!
The whole process forced us to really nail our ‘elevator pitch’.
PITCH TAPING DAY
By pitch day, we felt we were ready. What we weren’t ready for were the microphones, cameras, and lights that were in our faces for the ten minutes before we went on to the set. “How do you feel?” “What do you think is going to happen?” “Are your hands shaking?” “Which of the Dragons do you hope to do a deal with today?” Good grief, that was tough when all I wanted to do was quietly practice my pitch!
We finally went on the set, and other than forgetting one important point; we felt we did a pretty good job of our pitch. I was very proud of Doug that day!!
We estimate we were in front of the ‘fire-breathing dragons’ for about 50 minutes. The editing that goes into each piece is obviously significant. For me, it seemed like 5 minutes given the adrenalin high I was on. It was surreal being there on set after having watched the show so many times. Half way through, I had forgotten all about the cameras and lights because I was completely absorbed in the discussion about our business.
Having the undivided attention and engagement from of a group of brilliant business people, all talking about my business, was pure bliss.
We are sworn to secrecy about what actually happened in our pitch until our segment airs (IF it airs). We promise to post information on the air date if/when we receive it.
We are grateful to CBC and the Dragons themselves, not only for affording us this amazing opportunity, but also for inspiring young entrepreneurs and for illuminating the importance of entrepreneurship and small business in Canada.