Hopefuls flock to Dragons' Den auditions
They came from across B.C. with boxes, chairs, paints, pets, drawing boards and anything else that would help sell their ideas.
They sat and waited patiently, as one by one they were called in to pitch their products.
By noon, 45 people had signed up, with more coming in as the minutes passed. All this effort, just for the opportunity to, maybe, face the dragons.
B.C. entrepreneurs came out in full force as producers of the hit CBC television show Dragons' Den were in Abbotsford Friday, holding auditions for season eight of the popular series.
Auditions have been taking place across the country since Jan. 19 and will wrap up Saturday in Vancouver and Toronto. The audition tour included more than 40 stops.
The Abbotsford audition, held Friday at the Best Western Plus Regency Inn and Conference Centre, featured a wide variety of concepts, from pet products to home maintenance, fresh foods to workouts.
Selected candidates will be invited to face the “Dragons” – a panel of business tycoons – in Toronto later this year to seek investment in their product or business.
Abbotsford’s Alex Kotai made the most of his time, presenting his online fitness workout called Cardio Blast. Along with his assistant Ann Holdsworth, Kotai pulled out all the stops trying to impress producer Molly Duignan by performing a well-rehearsed skit, a workout demonstration and, of course, the business pitch.
He charges $19.99 a month for membership which allows people to access a new online workout video every week. They also provide health and meal planning and more than 50 recipes.
He told the producers that he’s invested $114,000 of his own money into the concept.
What he wants from the dragons is a little promotional help.
“I’m seeking $1 for five per cent (of the company),” he said, explaining that he doesn’t want money, rather someone with the expertise to help get the word out and promote the company.
This is the second time he has pitched his product. Last year he made a business-style presentation in a suit and tie.
But like all of the hopefuls, Kotai will have to wait two or three weeks to find out if he will be on the show.
“We take everything back to Toronto and round table everything we saw. That’s why we don’t give a golden ticket today,” explained Duignan.
Other ideas pitched on Friday included several pet products, like all-natural treats and doggie perfumes, as well as a sturdy plastic canister designed for holding used paint rollers and keeping them fresh, a chair to help moms give birth in a sitting position, and a fish slide that would allow fishermen to get their catch on board easier.
“Every year I think there’s no way there can be more stuff. We’ve combed the country seven times now, but every year more and more people come out,” said Duignan.
"Everyone’s got a dream, but sometimes you come to an audition like this and it could be the first time that you’ve heard that it’s not an amazing idea. That’s the hard part.”
Abbotsford residents have built a track record of success, at least for appearing on the show.
Last year, local auditioners who were approved for filming included Reg Wall and his WienerStick barbecue accessory; Gary Baars of TNT Agri-Services, which sells and delivers hay; Paul Martens with his odourless toilet called Ventex; Robert Stone of Mrtaxes.ca; and Daniel Litchy of D-light Solution.
Joel Primus, president and CEO of the underwear company Naked Inc. has appeared several times on the show. Originally, he was turned down by the dragons. However, the last time he appeared, it was Primus who turned down the dragons. Naked underwear has now expanded into the U.S. market, and its accounts include Holt Renfrew, Boys’ Co, Got Style and Kitson in L.A.
Abbotsford’s Neil Currie and his partner cut a deal with infamous Dragon Kevin O’Leary in season four. The deal eventually fell through but their company, Vantagewire.ca, an online real-time stock quote website, continues to thrive.
In 2007, Abbotsford physiotherapist Greg Bay appeared on the show, pitching his product Coreshorts, a product to help athletes recovering from groin injuries. While he did not secure a deal with the dragons, Bay later signed a deal with the sports garment company Under Armour.
The current season of Dragons' Den has averaged over 1.4 million viewers per week. It is the highest-rated Canadian unscripted program on television, with an average audience of over 1.4 million Canadians each week. The show airs on Sunday nights.