Five for Fighting
Looking to make your way into the Den? Follow these footsteps
by Alberta Venture Staff
1. Perfect your pitch. When it comes to public speaking, the old adage holds true: Practice really does make perfect. Before their appearance, Stoked Vodka’s “Liquid Chicks” sought the support of Community Futures in Grande Prairie, who set up a panel of mock Dragons. BeautyGram’s Jennifer Ruparell took a pitching class as part of a business program at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. Meanwhile, the Goodjohn brothers had experience pitching Karoleena Homes to their biggest supporters and toughest critics: their friends and family.
2. Know your numbers. You only have to watch one episode to know that the most important (and really the only) rule in the Den is to come in armed with detailed numbers and an accurate valuation. “If your valuation is decent, you have a better shot,” Ruparell says. “Listen to your instincts. You can always work your way up.”
3. Don’t fear the Dragons. The Dragons may seem like creatures of mythic proportions, but it’s all part of the editing process. While segments are usually only five minutes in length, the time each entrepreneur has to pitch is actually much longer – and the Dragons don’t always breathe fire. Stoked Vodka’s Brenda Magnusson says they were pleasantly surprised when the cameras started rolling. “[Kevin O’Leary] was actually really nice to us,” she says. “Going on the show was a lot of fun and the producers were very friendly.”
4. Be prepared for newfound fame – and new customers. Regardless of the outcome of your appearance, national television exposure can result in an influx of business. Even though Ruparell walked away without an investor, her business changed drastically when BeautyGram’s segment went to air. Unprepared, BeautyGram’s website crashed and it had initial difficulties meeting the high volume of orders. “The phones were ringing off the hook,” Ruparell says. “It was crazy. I wasn’t prepared for what it was going to bring us.”
5. A handshake isn’t a cheque. Only roughly 10 per cent of deals that are made on the show actually make it through to the boardroom. Most businesses fail the due diligence processes. And for those who succeed, it may take months before the funds actually come through. In other words, don’t go buying that new Ferrari with the vanity plates just yet.