A couple of months back, around mid-March, I received the opportunity to pitch a business idea at CBC Dragons Den. I couldn't believe it when I first saw the email for a second-stage call-back, let alone pitching at one of the biggest studios in Canada!
After going through the entire process of preparing and presenting at the Den, I realized that not everyone gets a chance to pitch a business idea in front of 5 incredibly successful entrepreneurs. So today, I'd like to share with you my entire experience of coming up with a business idea, getting a callback, pitching at CBC, and meeting the one and only, Dragons.
Coming Up With the Business Idea:
When I was coming up with a business idea, I actually had no plan for applying to Dragons Den. I didn't know much about the show and just focused on a problem I had intended on solving with a product or service. The problem I chose to tackle was shower water wastage in Canadian households, and my solution was a sustainable, water-conserving showerhead.
Now, I can't share too much about the specific details of this product, but the idea was for it to target the three main pillars of sustainability in our world: economic, social and environmental sustainability. I designed this product in a way that allows customers to save water, contribute to protecting the environment, all while having a little bit of fun.
Later on, after figuring out the features the showerhead would provide, I created a partial MVP (as you can see above) by displaying a basic version of a feature of this product via Arduino (though I cannot reveal too much about it!). Regardless, I didn't have much of a vision for this product until I was advised by my mentor (and founder of StartupDojo) to apply and pitch this idea to Dragons Den. Instantly, my answer was no.
I couldn't see myself applying to such a renowned show as Dragons Den. There was no way that I could get in, so why should I just humiliate myself and waste the time of those who were willing to spend their time helping me review the application? But with a lot of motivation, and support from all my friends and mentor, I was convinced to apply to Dragons Den. I decided that even if they rejected me or didn't reply back, I had given it a shot and that's all that mattered!
This was probably the best decision I have made in my entire life so far. And I don't regret it even one bit.
Applying to Dragons Den (with Zero Expectations):
So this was the point when I had decided to officially apply to Dragons Den. I had started working on my application, which consisted of details about myself, my business and an elevator pitch.
Writing about myself was honestly pretty easy; all I had to do was answer many of the questions about the stage my business was at in a persuasive, but honest manner. There were many times where I had no clue what they were asking, because I was completely new to the business, and I ended up learning quite a lot from just filling out the first-stage application.
I also had to create an elevator pitch video, which was simply explaining my product in 1 minute to the producers reviewing the application (there is a picture below that was taken from my elevator pitch). What I realized from this step is that condensing a large piece of work is extremely harder than just having an unlimited word count. I learned how to present my product in a very clear and concise manner, and also realized that this is an essential, real-life skill that people practice and develop over time. I'm so glad to have learned about it through just an application process.
Getting a Call For A Second Stage Pitch:
Now, this was unexpected.
After submitting my application, I decided to breathe a little. I gave the application my best shot and learned a lot from it, so whatever happens next is up to the producers. A few days later, I was just browsing through my email when I saw an email from CBC Dragons Den. I was completely in shock when I had read the subject of the email below:
Not even going to lie one bit here, but I was freaking out.
They invited me for a virtual audition?!! It took me a while to realize that I had made it past the first stage, and was supposed to book a date to pitch a business idea in front of professional producers from Dragons Den. That's crazy, and I remember spending an hour or so just processing what I had just read.
Now, out of pure fear and lack of courage, I'll be honest...I had considered backing out of this opportunity. This was simply because of how intimating it looked to me in my brain. I was scared of failing, but thanks to the support of my family, mentors and close friends, I had picked a date to pitch my idea. Let me tell you that the decision to NOT back out was another EXTREMELY clever decision I made at the time ;)
I booked my second stage pitch a week from the day I had received the invitation email, and before I knew it, it was showtime.
Getting Accepted Into Dragons Den:
The second stage pitch went very well, and I had such a great time talking to the producers who were interviewing me. They asked me a couple of questions, and I was able to answer almost all of them with full certainty! After exiting that zoom call, the only thing I was thinking was that I did my very best for that pitch and I'm proud of coming this far regardless of what's going to happen next.
Before I had time to process much, I had received an email from one of the producers for a follow-up call. Now, I wasn't sure if this was a rejection follow-up or something else, but I decided to set it up the day I had received the email. I knew the suspense would be the death of me, so I sat there for an hour waiting for the meeting to start. Then, exactly as the clock hit 5:30 P.M, I was let into the meeting room.
I was so scared, as I connected to the audio and turned on my camera. The producers started by asking me a couple more questions about the business, and future plans. After I had answered them, one of the producers asked me whether I'd come to pitch at the Den.
Now, of course, at this point, my brain chose not to process information and I just sat there in shock until I had started losing my mind and saying I'd come for sure!!! It was truly one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life! A picture of my reaction snipped can be seen below (the shape of my hands looks worrisome thanks to the Zoom background I had on ;), as well as the Instagram post with all the pitchers' reactions (I'm somewhere near the middle).
Practicing For The Pitch (Best Version > Perfect Version):
Once I was officially accepted to pitch at the Den in a month or so, I immediately started thinking about preparing and modifying my pitch. With the help of my producer (shout out to Jane Chupick), mentors (shout out to Andre Bertram and Dia Rahman) and close friends (shout out to Grace Ko and Emma Gui), I was able to come up with an amazing presentation for the final pitch.
In the end, there were many complications and unexpected changes (thanks to the pandemic)! The filming date was postponed for another two months, and I realized that the more time I got, the more stressed and worried I was about unnecessary things. I started preparing calculations for my business evaluation that were slightly irrelevant to my company's stage, and thankfully, I had eventually realized that I was making a BIG mistake with my time.
My producer had helped me practice, and I could see myself getting more confident with the more questions I practiced, and the more I got used to speaking about business in a casual as well as a professional manner in front of an audience. Here is a picture of me answering some of my producer's questions (with a smile :)
Arriving At The Studio For Pitching:
Okay, I do have to say that as soon as I saw the CBC building, I started getting nervous. You can even see the fear and rethinking life emotions on my face in the picture below (though I do have to say my sister seems much more excited):
Once I was registered, I was sent up the elevator to this really busy room filled with props and little rooms. It was backstage, and pitchers were assigned to their according rooms where they shall until it is their turn to pitch for the Dragons. Now, this was a little intimidating at first, but I got adjusted as soon as my eyes landed on the table with Mr. Sunshine's banana and chocolate popcorn. I even took a picture of it!
Excited after seeing Vincenzo's Mr. Sunshine merchandise, I realized that even if I didn't get a deal, at least I had an extra-large Mr. Sunshine T-shirt and hat to flex ;)
Now when I say that time literally passed in seconds, I mean it. I had practiced my pitch a couple of times with my producer and we had fixed the slideshow complications that were present with some of the transitions. Then, before I had time to process (2 hours by the way), I was getting the mic fixed on my blazer while walking to the Den.
Presenting The Pitch To The Dragons:
As I walked into the backstage of the Den, I could see the Dragons asking questions to the pitchers before me. I cannot tell you how scared I was, but there were producers all around and they were so supportive of me and kept motivating me before it was my turn to stand before the Dragons. Then guess what? It was my turn to pitch my idea.
Right there, at that moment, I decided that whatever happens doesn't matter. And I know I've said that I thought about this many times during this journey, but this time, it was for real. I knew that as soon as I walked in front of the Dragons, they would see the greatest version of my pitch till now. I thought this to myself as I walked into the Den, with my head held high and my ear-to-ear smile.
Watching the dragons watch you pitch a business idea was quite the feeling. And when I say quite the feeling, I mean that my knees were literally having a stroke while I presented the entire pitch. However, I made sure that I never faltered or said something with a lack of confidence.
And when I walked out of that room of entrepreneurs WITH A DEAL, I couldn't help but be at a loss for words. It was truly the proudest moment of my life to date and I don't think I'll ever be able to forget it (or the Fettucine pasta from Boston Pizza that I got after it as well ;)
Leaving The Den After The Pitch:
When I walked out the doors and back to the producer and pitcher area, I was greeted with such amazing remarks and words of congratulations. My producer gave me the deal package, though I won't reveal too much about that as it will show up near the end of this article. But even while heading down, I was just unable to process what had just happened. It was way too crazy to be true. Below is a picture of me after receiving the deal, and still processing what was going on:
My Biggest Takeaways & Insights:
After being given such a wonderful opportunity to pitch at Dragons Den, I realized that there are many takeaways and key insights that I have learned from this entire journey that are going to stick with me for life. So I'd like to share some of these takeaways and insights below:
Keeping persisting no matter what is an important thing to keep in mind, especially when working with a business idea. There are always ups and downs in anything you do, but if you keep hustling through the challenges, then the result can be quite rewarding.
Be confident wherever you go and in whatever you do. When you're confident in yourself, others will believe in you because it all starts with you. When you're able to believe in yourself, and in your idea, everyone else will as well (but it also has to make sense :)
There is no harm in giving your best shot at something. Making it into Dragons Den was a result of giving my best shot at it, because there was no guarantee whether I'd make it in, but why not try? The worst that can happen is I get rejected, but at least I tried!
Keep striving to reach the best version of yourself and your product, not perfection. This is because you find yourself never reaching perfection. So all you can do is keep improving, and deliver the best version of whatever you're presenting/ pitching.
Reach out to people and be open to feedback. No matter what you're trying to accomplish, whether it is building a business or giving a TedTalk, always make sure to be open to feedback so you can keep improving. Additionally, reaching out to people in the appropriate field can help you receive high-standard feedback.
A Brief Impression of Each Dragon:
Since I met each of the Dragons and had an intense (but also chill), 20-minute conversation with them in the Den, I thought that it'd be interesting to share my impression on each Dragon from when I entered the Den to when I exited!
Wes Hall was quite the majestic Dragon and I could tell as soon as I entered the Den. Even though he was new to the show, he was quite natural when he spoke and interacted with me. He also spent a lot of time listening and observing, which did make me a little nervous. But when he did speak, he had quite a calming voice and I was comfortable talking to him as well. He's also one of the most inspirational people I've met, so I'm so glad he's now part of the show!
Michele Romanow is actually one of the coolest people I've met. She's the youngest entrepreneur on the panel and she's so inspirational overall. She also spent a lot of time observing the way I presented my pitch and myself and took great interest in my product as well. Near the end of my pitch, she even gave me a piece of advice I will forever keep with me. She said, "always stay a nerd Prerana, no matter what".
Manjit Minhas is the ultimate T.V personality. Along with being a rock star entrepreneur and boss, Manjit is the ultimate T.V Dragon. When I was interacting with her, I felt our conversation to be the most natural on T.V. She was basically made for this show, because the way she would respond and react just felt so perfect. I loved every second I spent talking with Manjit Minhas!
If the word elegant could be a person, it would be Arlene Dickinson. As soon as I walked into the Den, I immediately noticed Arlene, who was smiling at me in the most joyous manner ever! She was so nice to me throughout the entire pitch and even inquired a little bit about my inspiration for this business idea. But I do have to say, Arlene's smile and sense of elegance are truly magical.
Now I'm not going to lie, but I was scared of Vincenzo Guzzo the most before I had entered the Den. However, once I had started talking to him, he wasn't that intimidating. He still had a sense of sharpness that was constantly there, but he was quite funny and I enjoyed talking to him as well. And on a side note, Mr. Sunshine popcorn is his brand and it's absolutely delicious!
In conclusion, I'd just like to thank my parents, my mentors, my producers, my friends and the Dragons. Thank you for all your support, because without that, I wouldn't be writing this article. I would also like to reveal a little bit about the deal I received in the Den.
I received a shared investment, including all the Dragons and led by Wes Hall. I'm grateful to Wes and Michele for coming up with the idea! Sadly, my episode was unable to air due to some product complications, but this was a learning experience of a lifetime. And finally, thank you, dear readers, for making it this far and I hope you enjoyed and gained something out of this article.