How to slay a dragon

Courtney
Courtney Symons
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Local entrepreneurs discuss time in Dragons’ Den at Ottawa Business Summit

When local entrepreneur Andi Marcus walked onto the set of CBC’s television show Dragons’ Den in 2009, she admits she looked nervous but swears she was not.

David Chilton, the author of The Wealthy Barber, speaking at the 2013 Ottawa Business Summit.

The president and CEO of Mistura Beauty had just walked down steep, corrugated steel stairs onto the set, holding multiple props to pitch her multi-purpose beauty product, and wasn’t sure she’d make it down alive.

“It was me, my 70-year-old mother and my klutzy stepdaughter in five-inch stilettos,” she said.

Her deer-in-the-headlights look caught on camera was merely because she was glad she made it to the stage, she said.

Ms. Marcus was one of three entrepreneurs featured on the Dragon Slayers Panel at the Ottawa Business Summit on Feb. 20. She was joined by Impakt Protective CEO Danny Crossman and Chris Napior, vice-president of global business development at Sine Slice Inc.

Each of them has taken a trip to the Dragons’ Den, and they shared their experiences with more than 200 attendees at the annual conference hosted at Algonquin College.

DEAL OR NO DEAL

Mistura Beauty never ended up securing a deal with the dragons, Ms. Marcus said, but the exposure led to a 1,100 per cent increase in sales after the episode aired.

Mr. Crossman appeared on the show last year with his sensor technology called Shockbox that detects concussions in players participating in contact sports. The dragons threw the helmets on the ground to test the technology, but the sensor on Jim Treliving’s helmet fell off and flew across the floor – the result of a faulty adhesive. Mr. Crossman said he watched it happen with eyes as wide as saucers, but just kept pitching.Like Mistura, Impakt Protective walked away from the show without any money, but Sine Slice landed $100,000 from Shell Canada Ltd. for having an energy innovation that wowed the dragons last summer.

That money goes quickly when you’re securing patents, Mr. Napior said. The company’s technology acts as a conductor between an outlet and an electronic device, resulting in a 25 per cent decrease in energy consumption by simply plugging it in.

Mr. Napior lives in Manotick and says not a week goes by that someone doesn’t congratulate him and his company for the coup.

The television show isn’t a panacea, the entrepreneurs said. Ms. Marcus told attendees that despite her success following the show, she often can’t afford to fill large purchase orders and spends half her time in Toronto courting investors.

“I would consider exiting right now,” she said. “It’s a lot of work.”

THE NEWEST DRAGON

David Chilton, Canadian author of The Wealthy Barber and the newest edition to CBC’s Dragons’ Den, warmed up the stage for the three entrepreneurs with a keynote address highlighting anecdotes from his experience as a smash-hit author and businessman.

After working as a stockbroker, Mr. Chilton said he discovered his real passion was speaking with people about their finances. He began traveling the country coaching teachers about financial planning by breaking down complex systems into humorous tales. He didn’t use PowerPoint presentations or handouts. Just himself, sharing stories.

The success of that strategy led him to write a draft of his first book that was never published, called The Ultimate Guide to Losing Money. Mr. Chilton scrapped that idea while watching the television show Cheers one night when he decided to create a fictional character to impart his wisdom through: the wealthy bartender. A few edits later, and he had created the wealthy barber.

After sharing sample chapters and receiving negative feedback from prominent businesspeople, Mr. Chilton said he almost shelved the idea.

“I came this close to giving up on The Wealthy Barber,” he said. “But instead, I took the same four sample chapters and gave them to the 12 guys on my slowpitch team. Twelve beer-swigging, illiterate idiots. They loved it.”

His teammates’ feedback and questions made their way into the book as queries that fictional characters asked the barber.

Mr. Chilton decided to self-publish and broke his own cardinal rule: Never cash out your RRSP. But he did so in order to get 10,000 copies printed in 1989. They sold out in less than a year.

That book sat on more than two million bookshelves by 2009, when Mr. Chilton decided to take it out of circulation, with many references too outdated to fix.

Mr. Chilton addressed the audience for almost two hours, sharing stories and garnering much laughter. He stood in the centre of the stage with no podium, no props – just himself, sharing stories.

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

Earlier in the day, RankHigher.ca founder and CEO Scott Wilson discussed search engine optimization techniques for CEOs of small and medium-sized businesses.

Richard Martin, author of Brilliant Maneuvers and MBA circuit lecturer, taught attendees how to combine military leadership with business strategy to achieve success.

The Ottawa Business Summit is co-hosted by Ottawa Business Journal and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

Organizations: Ottawa Business Summit, Shell Canada Ltd., CBC PowerPoint The Ultimate Guide Ottawa Business Journal Ottawa Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Manotick, Toronto

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