Are you loving Season 6 of Dragons’ Den as much as I am? Another week brings us more important biz lessons, starting with…
Self-described ‘mompreneur’ Elaine Comeau kicked things off with an ask for $70,000 for 35% of Easy Daysies, her magnetic organizer system for kids. Comeau had ALL five Dragons’ vying for a piece of her company. Why? It’s not the biggest company out there. It’s not even the most innovative idea. But Comeau is the real deal. A school teacher by training and a mom to two young kids, Comeau practices what she preaches – and it was clear for all to see. The Dragons’ could see that she was “a great spokesperson” for the product – and that authenticity went a long way.
Things did not go as well for brother and sister team Alinka Angelova and Ryan Chambers in their pitch for $600,000 to fund their community-theatre project, Mute: A Musical. (I guess it’s going to be a very quiet show?) They didn’t really know how much money it was going to take to get the show to Broadway, they didn’t have plan for how they were going to use the money – but their worst sin was that they hadn’t done their homework. They walked into the Den without ever having talked to a producer or production company about the viability of their idea. When looking at new business opportunity, always speak to as many people as you possibly can. More conversations and meetings = more information, and that’s a good thing.
A little fame goes a long way…
Celeb chef Jamie Kennedy made a surprise appearance in the Den hawking Ontario’s Own, a line of healthy local prepared food. The company is owned by two women, but Jamie Kennedy has designed some of the recipes. The Dragons’ interest was piqued. Now, I think that if there had been no ‘celebrity’ endorsement, this company would have quickly been kicked to the curb. It’s not profitable, and won’t be for some time. But Star Power won out. Can this work in your company? Can you get your product spotted with a celeb? Can you get a celeb to endorse your company? This pitch proves that famous associations can give your company a boost.
Until next week,
One of the reasons I love Dragons’ Den is because it’s so relatable. If you’ve dabbled in entrepreneurship, you will see yourself reflected in many of the stories that appear on screen. There were three great business lessons in tonight’s show.
The proof is in the pudding
Raymond Lim has dedicated his life to preserving his father’s legacy. BKH Jerky makes Singapore-style beef jerky that they sell from their store in Vancouver. Singapore-style jerky doesn’t mean much to me. I’m not a big jerky connoisseur, and I’m not familiar with Singapore-style. Neither were the Dragons. But none of that mattered when Raymond pulled out the product for the Dragons to sample. Declaring it was the “best jerky” they had ever tasted, Raymond landed himself a deal to try and get his product into stores. The superior quality of the product spoke for itself.
A business without a plan is like driving without a road map
Mompreneur Jen Blaikie was up next with her line of naughty novelty products. A graphic designer by trade, Blaikie has a gift for coming up with cheeky adult-products. She had the Dragons in stitches with her ideas. But Blaikie has no revenue – and worse – no plan. She was unable to demonstrate that she’s thought about production, operations, sales and marketing. Clearly, she’s got some great ideas, but the Dragons bowed out when it became clear that, right now, that’s all she’s got.
"A product is not a company"
It wasn’t good news for Ramiro Ariza who presented his prototype for a lime slicing machine. He proposed that he had found a better way to deal with limes in bars. Instead of bartenders having to hand-slice limes, Ariza’s machine slices them automatically. Now, I have no idea if lime-slicing is a real problem in the restaurant industry or not. Regardless, Ariza entered the Den with a clunky prototype, no sales, and no way to distribute his machines. It was Kevin O'Leary who said, “I understand the product, but a product is not a company.” By focusing only on developing a prototype, that may or may not address a need in the market, all other aspects of business planning were neglected, and Ariza walked away empty-handed.
So keep on business planning, deliver a superior product and you’ll be on your way. See ya next week.
Regrettably, work and back-to-school have hindered my reality tv viewing – but I’m caught up now and loved the season opener of Dragons’ Den. I’d like to share some of the business lessons I learned from watching.
It doesn’t matter where you sell it – just sell it
I loved the first pitch. The ‘Chawel’ is multi-use beach towel that also acts as a change room, blanket and neck pillow. This is a practical, mass-produced product developed by someone who spent many years lifeguarding on beaches, watching sunbathers awkwardly get changed. When the Shopping Channel expressed an interest in the product, the Dragons’ ears perked up. For lots of us who develop products, I think we imagine selling our products on our own pretty web sites or on the shelves of beautiful boutiques. I liked the Chawel because it wasn’t glamorous, but the Dragons fully believed that they could sell an awful lot of them.
Are you the person to bring the product to market?
The pitch for the Thomas Compact Herbal First-Aid Kit was classic. The product, a natural, herbal first-aid kit is a really great idea, and, as the Dragons pointed out, totally ‘on-trend’ with current consumer demand. Unlike so many cases, the issue here wasn’t the product, it was the founder of the company, Becky Thomas. With her long hair and hippy-dippy vibe, the Dragons couldn’t imagine getting into business with her. The sweet spot of entrepreneurship is always an intersection of three things: a compelling idea, a strong market and your unique abilities. Even though this was a great product with a viable demand, the Dragons didn’t believe that Becky would be able to bring it to market.
The pitch from Diana Olsen, founder of Balzac’s coffee, was the highlight of the show. The presentation Diana delivered was fantastic: She was confident, but not arrogant; impressive, but realistic. She demonstrated what makes her business unique and she had a firm grasp of the numbers. No wonder the Dragons offered her a deal! I’m a huge fan of Balzac’s coffee in Toronto's Distillery District and the pitch Diana delivered was totally consistent with her coffee shop – unique and first-class.
It was a great start to the season. Can’t wait to see what next week’s episode holds.