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Entrepreneurs feel the heat

Producers listen to ideas
Kyle Wells

It may not have been Arlene Dickinson or Kevin O’Leary breathing fire at hopeful entrepreneurs, but the producers of Dragons’ Den were no less intimidating during auditions at Powell River Town Centre Hotel.

Every year the show’s producers head to different corners of the country to dig up wild, weird and wonderful ideas for business ventures to present to the Dragons on CBC television. Last year they visited Campbell River and noticed how many people came from the Powell River region to try out, including someone who made it to the show. This year they decided to come to the source and held auditions in the city on March 16.

Producer Molly Duignan said that for a single season of the show they visit about 36 communities across Canada over six weeks and see thousands of pitches. Each season has 21 episodes and around 250 people who apply get to have their pitch filmed with the Dragons in Toronto. Of those about 150 make it onto the program. In Powell River producers saw nine pitches, less than in other communities, but no less interesting and unique in quality.

“It’s always fun to come to a new place,” said Duignan. “There’s definitely good characters around here. There’s been a broad range.”

The auditions are not used on the show à la American Idol, so they aren’t filmed, but just like in the show the contestants must stand before the panel of producers, give their pitch and answer direct questions like “What is your investment?” and

“Would you buy your product?”

Gordon Baker came from Nanaimo to pitch investment into his geoduck clam farm. Baker, in partnership with another company, is hoping to develop a further 10 hectares of aquaculture ground and is looking for investment capitol. Baker thought auditioning for the show would be a good opportunity for some exposure, even though he understands that a deal might not come from it.

“Generally they’re asking for a lot of equity in a company,” said Baker. “My business partner and I have been at this for 10 years already and we’re not really willing to give up too much equity...If we can get to a reasonable agreement with them then we’ll move forward with a deal and otherwise it will be good exposure for our company and it’s good practice.”

Ted Manyk came to the “den” with an idea for a prescription pill bottle slip-on bottom to make the bottle more stable and easier to put down. Manyk is retired and more interested in spending time in Mexico than running a business, so he wants to sell the concept. He already has a patent pending on the stabilizers and is looking for someone to take over the idea under licence. He thought that Dragons’ Den could be a good avenue to get his idea off the ground.

“You can spend an awful lot of money trying to promote it and advertise it,” said Manyk. “I’m not too keen on blowing that kind of money if there’s another way to do it. So this is a good start.”

Duignan couldn’t say what pitches the producers liked and what ones they didn’t, but did say that they saw some unique ideas in Powell River that could end up on the show. Being a television show the producers need to pick ideas that are both good or different, plus, the ideas need to play well on television. Even a solid business idea can be turned down if they have had a similar one on the show recently or if it just won’t work well on television.

“We’re always looking for something we haven’t seen,” said Duignan. “At least a couple from the auditions today will definitely make it into the den.”

Season six of Dragons’ Den begins in September on CBC.