I have no words for how I feel amidst the outpouring of support from friends, family, colleagues, vendors, customers and even complete strangers after the airing of our Dragons' Den segment. Just WOW.
I'm still digesting it all.
I was actually quite surprised at how many people were outright angry; they thought I got ripped-off; they thought the Fenis got too much air time and I got too little. (Sorry Ryan and Elizabeth!)
I am flattered by your passionate support for me and my business. Thank you.
I'm not going to lie - I was disappointed that the segment that aired was as short as it was and as a result, not reflective of what happened in The Den. A segment like mine is referred to as an "Also" as in Also in The Den. Interestingly, they find it harder to edit the shorter segments than the full-length ones. Watch it again and note how much of the audio is voice-over courtesy of Diane Buckner - hence they can make up whatever story suits them. But hey, that's the chance you take when you appear on a show like this, and I'm OK with it. OVER 1.5 MILLION people saw my product and very clearly what its function is. And the orders are rolling in. Onwards and upwards I say!
I did have a short chat with my segment producer Molly, who, when I asked what I could have done differently, was nice enough to ask Mike (the fellow who edited my piece) for some feedback. Here is what they had to say...
"I asked my colleague Mike for some feedback for you - he edited your piece. He said it was good, at least you made the cut, about 50% of products taped don't get to air. And 1.5 million viewers saw it! I can only say it's hard to sustain a LONG piece, usually pieces that make it to about 8 minutes were likely in the den for at least 45 minutes. With yours they didn't hate the product, they liked you, but they simply didn't see it as an investable business. It's almost the toughest kind of pitch in the den, cause it's a cool product, people like it, but over the course of your presentation there was no over-arching lesson to be learned by the viewer (meaning a lesson in business because you were either ill-prepared or over valued or what have you). It seems unless you really get a vibrant or heated discussion going, it's hard to sustain the arch of a full piece."
This made total sense to me. And I actually watch the show now from a new perspective ----> the lesson.
I will also add that although I still cannot share any specifics about what happened in The Den outside of what aired on TV, I will tell you that ALL of the Dragons were very kind to me. There was (obviously) a lot of "boob innuendo" flying around the set throughout the 30 plus minutes I was out there, but it was all in good fun. They had a problem with my valuation (as they do with most pitchers); they asked questions and I answered them; they decided not to invest... However, everything happens for a reason <---- I TRULY believe this.
Thank you CBC for the opportunity to present to five amazing entrepreneurs. And thank you Molly and Sam and all the fantastic people at the CBC for guiding me through the process.
Oh! and I was going to call this post "Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den Final Chapter", but somehow I don't think that is suitable...
Because I'd do it again in a heartbeat...
Oh and one last thing. See the pic above of Pandora La Glamme and Kevin O'Leary? Kevin actually pulled her back onto the set after we walked-off to have this picture taken. And here is what went down:
KO: "What do you do?"
PLG: "I'm a burlesque performer."
KO: "No really, what do you do?"
Nuff said, here's the pitch:
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the pitch, the model, the product, the Dragons - anything that comes to mind at all. We're all ears (and boobs)! You know the routine - leave your comments below. :-)
Lately I've been thinking that we've been home from taping our Dragons' Den pitch for over six weeks now and about the fact that I haven't had the time to get to this blog post (and honestly feeling pretty guilty about it). We got home very late the day after taping (a Saturday) and then had to go get the girls the following morning. And then it was straight into a new week in which we presented to a panel at Small Business BC for The Successful You Small Business Awards - Business Growth Category and then BANG! Rebekah got marrried and went on her honeymoon for two weeks and I'm still not caught-up! Finally, throw in an order to our distributor for almost 1700 pieces just to keep things hopping!
Then I thought... "Hey, I'm actually doing you guys a favour!", because now you'll have six weeks LESS to wait until Season 6 of Dragons' Den starts on September 22nd and we all start biting our nails to find out if we made it to air.
So really, that was a good thing right? I said RIGHT? Ahem...
Without further adieu, here's the lowdown on our whirlwind trip to Toronto, Ontario and the fabulousness that was standing in front of Jim Treliving, Kevin O'Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and W. Brett Wilson to pitch "our little business". Although I cannot tell you anything about what happened after I stepped onto that set, I will tell you that we had a blast and would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Now all the moms out there will know that "getting out of town" when you have (two) small children, whether you take them or not, is no small feat in itself. Not only did I have to pack for myself, but I had to pack for the business AND for both the girls (in separate suitcases no less as one was going to my sister's in Vancouver and one was staying with my Mom so she could still go to school). And I HATE packing. I tell ya, I was cursing Mike's name under my breath when he was all done in 10 minutes!
Our flight was at 7 am, so we ventured to be at the airport and parked by 5:30/6:00 am. I didn't get to bed until 3 am. (I was packing, remember?) Do the math people. At least I was nice and tired that evening to help me adjust to Toronto time.
We flew WestJet for the first time and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly staff, the easy check-in and the fact that after booking the window and aisle seats on both legs of our trip, that we ended up with the middle seat empty (which was, of course, our plan, he, he, he). But really folks, ANYTHING is better than Air Canada, right?! We are planning to fly WestJet again when we travel to Vegas in October for the ABC Kids Expo.
So we arrive in Toronto, on time, collect our bags and jump on their amazing transit system, affectionately known as the TTC, which after paying only $3.00, dropped us off in the shopping mall below our hotel - how cool is that?! Speaking of our hotel, we splurged and stayed at the Fairmont Royal York, one of the old CP hotels, and it was grand to say the least (we didn't splurge THAT much, the Dragons' Den had a corporate rate there). Look up and to the lower right for a couple of pictures of this fabulous old world hotel. We get up to our room, I texted Pandora La Glamme, our fabulous model, to make sure we were still on schedule for taping the next day and then we relaxed for a bit while I went online to find a nice vegetarian restaurant to check out for dinner.
After weighing online reviews against the distance from our hotel, we decided on Sadie's Diner, which was still quite the hike (but I needed it) and it turned out to be an EXCELLENT choice.
Sadie's made THE best vegetarian hamburger that I have EVER had and then our waiter offered to make me a fresh batch of his homemade lemonade (YUM!). Mike ordered samosas and a wrap and was very pleased (and stuffed) as well. If you're ever in Toronto, even if you're not vegetarian (because you know I'm a flexitarian), check it out! It had a great 50's diner feel, awesome staff, great food and even better prices! AND they had a "breastfeeding welcome here" sticker on their door! It was fun explaining my business to the tattied and pierced (male) waiter when the subject of the nature of our trip came up. He was all over it though!
Next on the agenda was COFFEE!!! I had spied a Starbucks on our walk down so we headed towards it and got caught in a horrendous downpour. Even with an umbrella (thank GAWD I grabbed it), we were still soaked by the time we got inside. So we hung there for a while, then caught a bus back downtown and hit a liquor store so we could have some drinks back in the room.
We hung out, had a drink and I rehearsed my pitch with Mike a few times before turning in. Then I was up again at 6 am (that's 3 am my time) to get ready and rehearse some more before Pandora La Glamme showed up. (No rest for the wicked huh? For me, it was all about being prepared).
It was so great to finally meet Pandora (Suzy) after only speaking on the phone and via email for over a month. Well, she was just as fabulous in person (maybe more? is that possible?) as she was long distance and I was psyched for the pitch. She got ready, I practiced the pitch some more, we practiced together and then it was time to head to the CBC Studios about a five minute walk away. BUT, Pandora was having pastie problems. She had hand-made beautiful, red, glittery, heart-shaped pasties to wear during the pitch, but they weren't dry enough and thus weren't staying "in-place". What to do.... what to do... yikes!
We arrived at CBC just before our noon call time and after checking-in (and being told we were third on), were given a multi-page NDA to sign (and attempt to decipher). We waited in the lobby for about 40 minutes for someone to come get us. While waiting, a bunch of other pitchers arrived and it was fun trying to figure out what their businesses were by what they were wearing, and what props they were carrying.
Finally a runner - Bryan - came and got us and took us upstairs via a large freight elevator. First on the agenda was a prop check. We were instructed to lay out everything that we were taking on-set onto the table. Then we waited for executive producer Tracie Tighe, senior producer Lisa Gabriele and our segment producer Molly Duignan to come by to check the props and hear about our pitch. We had already discussed our pitch with Molly at length weeks ago over the phone, but this was the other producers' first taste of it.
Bathroom break! Pandora checked her pasties again and we realized that we couldn't use them at all. We let Bryan know and he called for the costume department. (Sorry, we don't have any pics of the problematic pasties.)
Next was a tour of the set. Along with the four other pitches in the afternoon segment of taping that day, we walked through the big doors (the ones that you see people LEAVING the set through on the show) onto the set and met Kevin, the floor director, who told us where to walk onto and off the set, where our "mark" was when we stood in front of the Dragons, what not to do (mention the date or time of year as who knows when your segment will air) and a bunch of other "TV stuff". This was our first glimpse of the set and especially the chairs that would every so shortly be filled with actual Dragons. The whole thing was VERY surreal. At this time we got an update and were told we were second on.
Bathroom break again (just in case) as we were getting mic'ed next! We were supposed to go to the lounge/holding area next, but there was no time...
Next was hair and make-up along with a chat with Sandra Rayner - the CBC business consultant - about our numbers and our "ask". After being told previously that my numbers were "good", I was encouraged to raise the stake that I was offering for the amount of cash that I asking for. I was a little thrown-off by this so late in the game, but dealt with it all the same...
Then a lovely lady from the costume department showed up with some new (albeit oh so generic) pasties for Pandora and she went to the bathroom to take care of her booby business! (Sorry, no pics of this either guys!)
Then we were on! eep! I was pumped up with adrenaline more so than nervous. Another lovely lady walked Pandora and I out of hair and make-up and down the hall to a sign that said "ON THE AIR". We walked onto the backside of the set where a bunch of sound techs had me start my pitch to check my mic. It was a dud - and apparently the first one in something like 14 days of taping! So then they had to re-mic me... (Hey, I didn't mind all those male hands down my top for a second time!)
Then it was time for "the walk". If you've ever watched the show, the pitchers walk across a breezeway with backlit windows and then down a flight of not-so-easy-to-navigate stairs onto the set. Well, to get up to that breezeway, we had to walk UP the stairs behind the set. I admit my knees were a little wobbly as I walked up the steps and then down the other side - I didn't exactly wear flat footwear... <-- fashion victim!
Aaaaaand that is where the story ends (for now) my friends.
Before I go however, I must give a huge shout out to ALL of the people that we met during our short, but memorable afternoon at the CBC - Dragons' Den studios. Not only was everyone we met friendly, down-to-earth and super helpful, but they genuinely wanted you to do well! And for that, I thank you!
After dropping off our gear at the hotel, Suzy, Mike and I headed DIRECTLY for a cute little Irish pub downtown and had a much-deserved drink and late lunch. It was good to finally take a breath and relax, even if just for a moment.
To top-off the day, Mike took me to the top of the CN Tower for dinner as an early birthday present. We had a wonderful time - good conversation, great wine, fantastic food and we had an excellent view of the sunset. Then we spent Saturday cruising Toronto's famous shopping districts - Yonge Street, Queen Street and Yorkville among others - and I picked-up a few things.
So if you have questions about anything that you just read or saw in the pictures, please leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer them. And please also keep your fingers and toes crossed that the next Dragons' Den blog post comes sooner than later...
It was just last week that I was on the Dragons' Den Facebook Page reading comments from other entrepreneurs who had already "got the call". It had been 3-1/2 weeks since my audition, but I had heard nothing. The producers had just finished the forty-city, Canada-wide audition tour the previous Saturday so I kept telling myself that they wouldn't be calling until they got back to their offices and started short-listing. That's what I kept telling myself. I also told myself that if I hadn't heard from CBC within the two weeks "post audition tour", that I wasn't going to. I was preparing myself for the disappointment, not to be negative or anything, just trying not to have any expectations.
And then literally FIVE minutes before heading into a meeting on Wednesday morning, my business line rang downstairs in my office. I high-tailed it down there, although not exactly sure why as it wasn't yet 9:30 and that is generally when I start my day. I also don't usually answer calls that say "blocked" on my call display, but I answered this call. And it wasn't like I was even THINKING about it being Dragons' Den. Come to think of it, since my audition, I haven't been rushing to the phone every time it rings hoping the call display reads "CBC". Honestly, we've been so busy with the new product launch, that I keep forgetting about the whole scenario (until someone asks me about it of course). But there she was on the other end of the phone - the producer that I pitched to on that day 3-1/2 weeks ago in downtown Vancouver. I actually recognized her voice as she has a raspy, Bonnie Tyler thang goin' on.
OMG! I'm going to Toronto! Holy crap! She gave me a few dates to choose from and told me to get back to her ASAP as they fill-up fast and I "don't want to get stuck with the last day as the Dragons are grumpy by then." OK then... not going there! She also sent alonga 10-page "Contestant Guide" with tips and tricks, what to expect, what you can and cannot do, etc.Interesting reading...
What did I do next? Update my Facebook and Twitter statuses of course (lol). "Wendy is goin' to Toronto. woot woot!" it said on Facebook. The ensuing comments were hilarious I must say. And so supportive once I'd fessed up. Thank you all again for being so wonderful!
After my meeting I called Mike at work to tell him. I don't call him at work often as I have to call his team leader and ask to speak to him. Previous calls of this nature have occured when my water broke (with both my daughters) or when Antonia recently was injured at school - you get the picture. He said, "What's up?" So I told him and he answered, "I knew you'd get on." (Thanks hon). Then I emailed all my friends that are not on Facebook (or not on it often) to share the good news as well.
That evening I sat down and searched for flights. I was pretty envious of my friends to the south as I scoured different dates on our whole TWO airlines that fly to Toronto right now. NOT.MUCH.TO.CHOOSE.FROM. However, by the end of the evening, I had decided that May 13th was the date (Lucky 13 right?). So I emailed Molly (the producer) before I went to bed so that she would have the information first thing in the morning Toronto time.
Upon waking the next morning I had an email from Molly stating that "the 10th and the 14th are better now". So... back to the drawing board.
According to the guide, I have to fly-in at the latest the evening before and cannot fly out the same day as my taping (in case they run out of time and have to push me to the next day). I have now decided on the 14th of May, so we will be in Toronto from the 13th to the 15th. Still have to book our flights though... I am just relieved that we have a firm date.
Later that same day, Molly called to discuss my pitch and my numbers and gave me even more great advice and ideas on how to NOT end up on the cutting room floor. She was so helpful. Fantastic!
So my next order of business is to edit my pitch according to her advice, book our flights and find a model that lives in Toronto who wants to appear on Dragons' Den.
Oh, and to decide what to wear. Can't forget that!
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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. IfDragons' 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 non-chalant 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!
I texted Mike to let him know that I may be a little later than I had originally thought. And I updated all my friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.
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 semblence 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 shpiel 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...