Open auditions for the hit CBC reality television show Dragon’s Den were held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Jan. 30. Local entrepreneurs had an opportunity to pitch their original ideas to the show’s producers for a chance to come face to face with the Dragons when the upcoming season is filmed in Toronto.
Peter Joyes, an artist from Gabriola Island, is confident that his product will receive a call back from producers. Joyes, who owns a company called “The Deceptive Advertising Institute,” pitched several of his novelty products including “Intrusive Thought Repellent,” a so-called cure for nervousness. The product, a deceptively adorned spray bottle containing “dehydrated water,” as Joyes describes it, was designed to make people laugh.
“Intrusive Thought Repellent is designed for nervous people who stand in front of the Dragon’s Den auditions thinking ‘Oh they won’t love me—they will think I’m stupid— they will throw me out,’” Joyes says. “My product makes people laugh—that’s the whole idea. Everyone has intrusive thoughts and here is a way that you can rid yourself of them—it’s wonderful.”
The entrepreneur isn’t seeking any money from the show’s panel of venture capitalists but hopes to receive valuable advice from them to help launch his products.
“I don’t think there is any other city where you get this kind of range,” Michelle MacMillan, an Associate Producer of Dragon’s Den says. “We find great businesses here every year. It’s always a unique day here and has been consistently good to us.” MacMillan and fellow Associate Producer Richard Maerov were entertained by the range of pitches at the auditions. “We’ve seen a bit of everything from energy bars to coin operated garbage cans,” Maerov says.
“There was a guy who has come up with a lotion for a man’s scrotum to prevent chafing. It came in a bottle shaped like a scrotum and was an interesting pitch—we like to try the pitcher’s products but we took his word for it on that one but maybe the Dragon’s will be a bit more adventurous,” Maerov adds.
He says that once the audition tour concludes, all of the show’s producers will meet in Toronto and pitch their favourite auditionees from across Canada. “I could realistically see maybe six or seven of them being invited to Toronto to present to the Dragon’s this year,” Maerov says.
Nanaimo restaurant owner Angela Negrin appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2010. Negrin, who owns and operates Pirate Chips in downtown Nanaimo, was dressed in full pirate regalia for the taping and served the Dragons her specialty deep fried Nanaimo bars.
Unfortunately, the Dragons rejected Negrin’s franchise proposal. “I didn’t argue as soon as they said they were out,” Negrin says. “But they were each all out because they thought my products were unhealthy.
“It definitely put me on the map,” says Negrin who has operated Pirate Chips since 2003. “It was great to represent my city on national television.”
Dragon’s Den has been canvassing Nanaimo for entrepreneurial talent since 2008. The producers have added Salt pring Island and Penticton to the 2013 tour. “We like to pick a few new spots every year,” Maerov says. “It’s nice to go to some new places because people don’t necessarily travel to the big cities to audition and it’s better for us to go out there and find them. You find some pretty awesome characters and cool ideas.”