Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Auditioning for Dragons' Den

Dragons' Den auditions continue across Canada this month. Why not step into the Den with your invention, product or business idea?

I just received a request for audition advice from a startup entrepreneur I know in Western Canada. I'm excited that she has registered, and as you'll see, I think she has a good shot at getting on the show. And of getting an offer.

I used to help the CBC Toronto crew with Dragons' Den auditions, years ago, when they were under-resourced. So I have some insight into what the producers (and the Dragons) are looking for. But I've been out of that loop for a few years now, so take the following for what it's worth.   

Here, with a few edits to retain confidentiality, are my comments to this entrepreneur. 

She asked what time she should show up: "You don't need to get there early; that's usually a busy time. I suggest you go 1-2 hours before they close. By that time the producers are tired, their expectations are low, and you will blow them away."
She asked whether the fact that her product's sales have been slow will be a problem. Hell, no! 

"The fact that you are in stores and making sales is a big plus. You are way ahead of most people auditioning, because most of them don't have a product, and most of those who do are still looking for distribution. The audition judges (and the dragons) know sales success is as much a factor of promotion dollars as of product quality, so I doubt they would hold a slow start against you.

"Remember: above all they are looking for a good, upbeat story. And you have it.

"You saw personally a gap in a growing market. You looked for solutions and couldn't find one, so you designed one yourself and then hired a factory to produce them! Plus, you didn't want to risk your savings (the Dragons hate it when people do that - it's a sign of very bad judgment). So you looked for financial help. And after being turned down by a few sources, you found some additional capital (so there's a great lesson there about persistence). 

"Keep your story simple. (Sometimes entrepreneurs get too immersed in their own  stories and go on too long. Practice telling your story as simply and as briefly as you can.

"One other thought. Think of a customer success story. It could be anything positive that a retailer or retail customer has said or done. Did a customer provide amazing feedback on the product, fit, convenience, etc? Did a retailer hunt you down and beg you to supply them? One or two quick, casual anecdotes like those will help position you as a winner."

The annual Dragons' Den audition tour began in February and continues across Canada until April 7.  Upcoming locations include BC, Alberta, Whitehorse, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Quebec and Ontario. Click here for dates, locations, and other useful information.

Go ahead. Own the Den!

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