More than a dozen small businesses tried out for chance to cut a deal on popular TV show
BY BO GEMBARSKY, BIV
Amid the hustle and bustle of students looking to earn degrees at SFU’s Surrey campus, more than a dozen made their pitch to CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den.
One group had an app that teaches kids how to cook. Another: an idea for charging electronic devices on the go. Still another: a mobile garburator and composter that turns organic waste into liquid.
Ann-Marie Fleming and her sister Jennifer were among the applicants. Their company, Dog Quality, carries washable dog diapers and pads and the “Dogger” walker. They sell from their home and website, DogQuality.com.
“We improve the quality of life for older dogs,” Ann-Marie said. “As they age, they have mobility issues and incontinence issues, and our products make life easier for them.”
The sisters started Dog Quality three years ago. For the first 18 months, they sold only other companies’ products, identified holes in the market and designed products like the Dogger to help fill gaps. The biggest challenge they have now is exposure.
Dog Quality is run on a shoestring budget; the money squeeze means more demand than supply. The Flemings are asking for $50,000 for 20% of the company. Ann-Marie believes Dog Quality is worth $250,000., based on sales last year of $160,000.
As for the audition, there was a lot of waiting. The applicants were led into the holding area – a classroom down the hall from the theatre – where they prepared to be called to face the producers.
When everything was ready, Dragons’ Den producer Michelle MacMillan addressed the group.
“Think about props, think about how you’re going to present this to the Dragons. Start thinking: how can this be awesome on TV?”
Successful auditioners will receive callbacks by May. Those who are called will travel to Toronto to be recorded for the show.
During the Flemings’ auditions, the producers asked, “Isn’t it just a fancy baby stroller?”
Ann-Marie didn’t flinch: “That’s what we based it on, and basing it on existing designs is one way we can keep our production costs down,” she said, while pointing out the various attributes of the stroller: room for two small dogs inside, an adjustable mesh canopy with wide visibility, an orthopedic pad, safety lights and a rear-suspension feature they say is “not available on any other dog stroller.”
MacMillan and co-producer Richard Maerov have been involved since the first season of the Den, and Maerov always finds himself impressed by the variety of ideas, the presentations and the energy he sees.
“I find it inspiring to see them coming out year after year,” he said. “We’re always tapping into an unending reservoir of entrepreneurialism.”
First published in Business in Vancouver, issue 1170.