Conquering Dragon's Den as a Small Business Owner

Karen's Dragon's Den

Appearing on the hit TV show Dragon's Den can be a game-changer for any entrepreneur, offering a unique opportunity to pitch their business idea to a panel of seasoned investors. For our US readers, this is the Canadian equivalent to your Shark Tank. In this blog post, we'll delve into the experience of Karen, the co-founder and CEO of Blume, as she braved the Den and pitched her business Blume to the Den. Ultimately it was a life changing experience and one she is so proud of but it was hard to find details on what the experience was actually like. She wanted to share the inside scoop for future entrepreneurs who are thinking about auditioning and some things she did to feel confident in the den. Ultimately nobody knows your business the way you do. Entrepreneurship is hard and not for the faint of heart. Lean into the experience but don't let it define you, it is your journey. 

We'll also provide you with tips on how to prepare for your own pitch, highlight the most commonly asked questions on Dragon's Den, and showcase a few notable success stories from previous seasons.

Karen's Dragon's Den Adventure

Karen Danudjaja grew up watching Dragon’s Den, and her Dad loved watching entrepreneurs pitch the dragons. When she started Blume she knew pitching on Dragon’s Den was an opportunity to get her business in front of a large audience of potential customers and raise brand awareness for the business. She auditioned three times before eventually being accepted to pitch in Toronto. Karen was extremely nervous and excited walking into the Den. With all the Dragon’s sitting in big chairs facing you, it was a surreal experience to stand where so many entrepreneurs have pitched before. She hoped going into it that Arlene Dickenson would make an offer because she was always her favourite Dragon and had a specialty in supporting food businesses. 

How do you get on Dragon’s Den?

  1. At certain times of year Dragon’s Den hosted by CBC opens up audition calls to pitch your business. The first step is applying through an online form. In that form you need to be able to write a compelling description of your business, share your revenue numbers and a brief overview of your products and growth story. The form only takes 20-30 minutes to write up but is pivotal to getting to step 2.

  2. The second step for getting on Dragon’s Den is a virtual meet with a producer. The producers choose their favourite applications to have virtual pitches. You should pitch with personality and energy, because they determine who gets on the show. Karen pitched three times. On the final time she built a display behind her and stood up to pitch like she would in person and that is what sealed the deal. It is important to remember that ultimately, this is for TV. Being theatrical and making it entertaining and visual is just as important as your pitch.

  3. You'll be in Toronto to film the pitch. They film a number of pitches and not all are selected to air. You have to remember this is ultimately a TV show and if your goal is to get on TV you need to make it interesting. Be very clear in your goals. For Karen she really wanted the brand awareness and experience, cater your pitch with your goals in mind.  Think about unique demonstrations, displays or costumes you can use to your advantage to help you get on air. Ultimately a little drama or something special to make the episode interesting will improve the likelihood that they air your episode. The flight and hotels in Toronto are not covered. They do have some props available when you go in to set up for the pitch but for the most part all the costs are covered by the businesses.

Preparing for the Pitch: Tips and Strategies

  1. Know your numbers: Dragon's Den investors are notorious for digging deep into the financial aspects of a business. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your company's financials, including revenue, profit margins, and growth projections. Be prepared to defend your valuation. While Karen was prepping for the show, she noticed that the Dragon's really didn't like valuations based on capturing a percentage of the market. For her valuation she used a multiple approach based on her industry and the current market conditions.

  2. Practice your pitch: Rehearse your pitch multiple times until you can confidently articulate your business idea, value proposition, and unique selling points. Pay attention to your body language and ensure that you come across as passionate and knowledgeable. Karen practiced not just her pitch but also responses to most commonly asked questions. Part of her prep was watching a number of episodes and realizing that there are 3 questions that always come up. What makes your product different? What are your goals/what does success look like? What are your margins? Karen had answers ready for these and practiced them in front of friends and family to get comfortable.

  3. Research the Dragons: Familiarize yourself with the backgrounds and investment preferences of the Dragons. This will help you tailor your pitch and understand which Dragons might be the best fit for your business. Karen felt more confident in the room just knowing a little background on the Dragon's. It helped her be more responsive to their questions. They have personalities in the Den and you need to play the room.

  4. Anticipate tough questions: Be prepared for challenging questions that the Dragons might ask. Consider potential weaknesses in your business model and have solid responses that demonstrate your problem-solving abilities and industry expertise.

  5. Do something unique whether it be a demonstration, costume, display or questions you ask. Bring personality and never forget it is a show. Karen spent about $1,500 on the display - it is your moment to be memorable and have a visual impact. 

  6. Best Tip: Watch other episodes to help you prepare. You will familiarize yourself with the flow of the pitches and learn the most commonly asked questions. It will also help inspire you by seeing other successful entrepreneurs and success stories that came out of Dragon’s Den.

Dragon's Den Cast in 2022

In the 2022 season of Dragon's Den, the esteemed panel of judges, known as the Dragons, consisted of Arlene Dickenson, Michelle Romanow, Robert Herjavec, Manjit Minhas, Vincenzo Guzzo, and Wes Hall.

Arlene Dickenson, a successful entrepreneur, is recognized for her expertise in marketing and branding. Michelle Romanow, a tech entrepreneur, brings her innovative thinking and digital expertise to the Den. Robert Herjavec, a prominent investor, focuses on technology and cybersecurity ventures. Manjit Minhas, known for her involvement in the beverage industry, evaluates opportunities in the food and beverage sectors. Vincenzo Guzzo, a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO of a cinema chain, assesses investment prospects with a keen eye for entertainment and real estate. Wes Hall, a prominent businessman, is experienced in private equity and investment banking. With their diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, the Dragon's Den judges in 2021 provided aspiring entrepreneurs with a wealth of knowledge and opportunities for growth.

These esteemed investors brought a diverse range of skills and experiences to the Den, providing a wealth of knowledge and opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Commonly Asked Questions on Dragon's Den

  1. What is the problem your product solves? Dragons often want to understand the pain points your product or service addresses and how it provides a unique solution to customers.

  2. What is your business model? Expect questions about revenue streams, customer acquisition strategies, and potential scalability. Be ready to explain how you plan to generate profits and achieve sustainable growth.

  3. What is your competitive advantage? Dragons are interested in knowing what sets your business apart from competitors. Highlight your unique selling points, intellectual property, or any other factors that give you an edge in the market.

  4. How will you use the investment? Be clear about how you plan to allocate the funds and how they will contribute to the growth and success of your business.

  5. What is your exit strategy? Investors want to know how they can expect to make a return on their investment. Discuss potential exit opportunities.

Is it worth going on Dragon’s Den?

In the end, Karen had a great experience on Dragon’s Den. It resulted in a web exclusive and she conquered her fears of presenting in front of the Dragons and going live on CBC. She is really happy she went on the show and pushed her comfort zone. The community loved seeing Blume on Dragon’s Den and it provided lots of content and interest for Blume’s consumers. It also resulted in interest from other investors. In the end Karen didn’t move forward with an investment from Arlene Dickenson but many offers do proceed and it can result in getting financing in your business. Karen would do it again and is glad she did it but it didn’t result in huge sales or awareness from the show itself, it is more like it resulted in really unique content that we can repurpose in the brand and a great milestone in her entrepreneurial journey.

Watch Karen Pitch Blume on Dragon's Den!

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