As a business owner and an MBA student, you can imagine my joy when I was provided with the opportunity to volunteer at the Dragons’ Den auditions in Vancouver. Not only have I been an avid watcher of the show but also toyed with the idea that I might, one day, have the chance to win over the dragons myself. Spending the day watching eager entrepreneurs haul in props and give pitches to producers gave me an insider’s view of what it takes for an opportunity to go face to face with the dragons.
I spent the first part of the morning checking people in and answering questions from pitchers. Emotions ran high and I could feel the excitement in the room as watched eager participants practice their pitches in corners with partners and supportive family and friends. There were people from all walks of life; men in suits, families in chef costumes and a man with a contraption that I have yet to figure out its use. Most of the companies pitching their ideas were still in the early stages of business. Some were already in their first few months of operation while others were in start-up stage and looking for revenue to get themselves up and running.
I was offered the opportunity to sit in with one of the producers and watch pitches in progress. I think I was more nervous for the pitchers than they were as I sat across the table wondering what it felt like to be in their shoes. As a business owner myself, I can relate to the feelings that come from being closely attached to your own idea or venture. As a mother I can say with experience that the love of a new venture can be likened to that of a newborn child. Taking a business from infancy can be a very tumultuous time, naysayers and opposition telling you that your concept is unnecessary or already accomplished elsewhere is hard to accept. In my eyes these pitchers were some of the bravest people I would ever meet, willing to bare it all for in order the opportunity to better their business. The producers were very professional and had the utmost patience, allowing pitchers enough time to be heard and encouraging them to take their time if they were feeling nervous or unable to fully explain a concept. I have a lot of respect for both the pitchers and for the producers as I watched a careful dance of explanation and consideration.
At the end of the day, after all the pitches were heard and we all said a cheerful goodbye, I was left with my thoughts. As an entrepreneur I saw so much of myself in many of the people there. And I agree with the traditional view that many of the characteristics of a true entrepreneur such as bravery, risk taking, creativity, and resilience cannot be taught in school. However, I can assure you, from someone In the midst of an MBA program, building a foundation with a formal business education has been so important to the health and growth of my own business. The Dragons Den experience solidified my belief that anyone can have a good idea and being an entrepreneur takes courage and conviction. However, even though it can take just one good idea to start a business, it takes solid business know how to make it fly.
Michelle is a full time MBA student at SFU with an undergraduate degree in Sociology. She founded the company TT Distribution Inc in 2005 ( www.ttdistributioninc.com ) which specializes in the distribution of products to doctors, midwives and expectant parents. She is hoping to use her MBA to not only expand her existing company but is also hoping to incorporate a non-profit venture in the near future.