Surviving the Den
A picture tells a thousand words (and they're all lies)
There you go. Evidence. I survived the Dragons' Den. What I'm not telling you is that they take your picture in front of this massive DD poster before you face the Dragons.
When you see someone on TV or anywhere else in the media you get to see them at their shiny best. Practiced. Polished. Primed. Perfect. Just like that picture of me. I want to let you know what really happens before all that.
Part of being an entrepreneur is dancing with fear so I'm going add notes below when I tackled something I had never done during this adventure. I'll highlight anything new like this: [NDT] for "never done this."
Ok, time to rewind.
I decide to blast my trip to Toronto off in three days [NDT]. It's the kind of thing you do when you've got 3 young kids at home and a 2nd company to run. And if you're an entrepreneurial, "I love challenges" type of person, it's just how you do things.
Somewhere over Calgary I realize that I'm not actually going to Calgary and that the time difference may pose a challenge. There's nothing I can do about it so I shelve the concern and go back to running through my 60-second elevator pitch for the 2,392nd time. People around me on the airplane think I'm losing my marbles. They're probably right.
I land in a sea of people. Toronto. 3 hours earlier than home on Vancouver Island. The best way to get from the airport to my hotel is on the train, so I hop on a train head straight into downtown [NDT].
The train is empty which is nice because it gives me time to relax and watch the scenery. Haha, riiiiight. I don't watch the scenery. I call Alicia Woods to discuss tips and strategy in the Den [NDT]. Alicia pitched her wicked company Covergalls on Season 9 of DD and walked away with a deal and multiple offers. I get pretty jacked talking with Alicia and she really focuses me on what my main priorities are heading into the Den:
- Make it to air - treat the show like a $1M commercial for your business and, for God's sake, don't be boring. If you are headed for a win, win BIG. If you're headed for a fail (and you'll know if your pitch goes this way), fail BIG. Many boring pitchers that get deals don't make it to air. Instead, pitchers that fail to get a deal but are entertaining make the air. 180 pitches are filmed and only 90 make the air each season. You want to make it to air.
- Make a deal - you spend all this time writing, researching, calculating, prepping, pitching, revising. The Dragons in the chairs want to see you succeed. Don't get greedy. Your business isn't worth what you think it is. Stuff the pride. Make a deal.
The Fairmont Royal York is a ridiculously nice hotel. I have no idea how I end up staying here. That's a lie. It's my first time in TO and, well, when in Rome.... I almost put out a post to the Lil Worker Safety Gear Facebook page asking for a free couch to sleep on for a couple of nights, I'm glad I coughed up the extra cash to stay in such an awesome place.
You'd think a guy would be able to relax in such sweet digs. I can't. I've run through my pitch 3,038 times and counting. I'm a nervy mess. Not to mention that my planned bedtime at 9pm is actually 6pm PST. Ugh.
I'm going to skip the part of the story where I get lost looking for a place to eat and wind spending $30 on a hamburger [NDT]. Man, that's embarrassing.
Back to 9pm (EST).
You know that feeling when you just can't get to sleep? You start counting the hours until you have to wake up? And counting keeps you up longer? Here's an incomplete list of techniques I try to get to sleep:
- pulling my hair
- hitting my head on a wall
- walking outside
- yelling into a pillow.
Fresh as a daisy
I watch the clock tick from 5:29am to 5:30am and the alarm goes. Sleepless night number two. There's nothing that gets me more pumped than taking on a major life challenge after staying up for 48 hours straight [NDT]. I'm as fresh as a daisy.
Time to head to the CBC studio.
I arrive about an hour early. You never know what hurdles life is going to throw in your way. I get to meet some of the other pitchers in the hall waiting for security. An odd thing starts happening. We all just start pitching each other. I mean, why not, right? The Wike guys have a freaking amazing bike that turns into a stroller. The FUUD guys have a super cool food delivery company. Kenn invented sweet ODii grabbing tools. These guys rock.
Let me stop you right here. This is important. I'm having a great time talking with my fellow soon-to-be pitchers, learning about their inventions and businesses. All of a sudden, this crappy voice pops into my head.
"You don't belong here," it says.
"Look, these guys made a bike that turns into a frigging stroller. All you have is hi viz safety gear in super tiny sizes. Save yourself the embarrassment and go home now."
"You don't have the numbers to get a deal. The Dragons are going to laugh you off the stage."
The voice is real. It's the Resistance. I can turn tail and run but I bet that almost every other pitcher in the hall has similar thoughts running through his or her head.
If you really pursue something you believe in, something you love, you're going to hear the Resistance too. Fight it. Just so you know, we're all fighting it in one form or another all the time. Don't give in. Persevere.
Before the CBC security lets us into the studio, all the pitchers are required to sign a 69-page non-disclosure agreement. I'm exaggerating a *bit*. I start reading this titan and decide to just flip to the back and sign it. What, am I going to just leave, jump on the plane and head home...? No freaking way.
Now, here's every detail of everything that actually happened behind the scenes in the Den....
I know you want to know how my pitch went to the Dragons went. Believe me, I want to tell you bad. It went nothing like I planned. Things got crazy. Kids. Cameras. Dragons. [NDT]. I've said too much. Remember that 69 page NDA? My lips are zipped. You'll have to tune in for Season 12 of the Dragons' Den to find out.
Fingers crossed. Toes crossed.
UPDATE - the episode aired and it was CRAZY GOOD. If you haven't seen it, check it out here. If you have seen it, WATCH IT AGAIN!!! http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/lil-worker-safety-gear
Now, how many times did I write [NDT] up there? A lot. Was I freaked out about doing some of them? Yup. Did that stop me? Nope.
Don't let the NDTs stop you.