After starting this journey 8 months ago, our TV debut on CBC Dragon's Den will happen this THURSDAY OCTOBER 28th!! Starting a business and launching at the beginning of a global pandemic has had its challenges for sure, but it has also pushed us forward at lightning speed and presented unique business opportunities along the way. As we get closer to our episode airing, I thought I would share a little insight about our journey to the DEN.
The Road to "THE DEN"
It was March 11, 2021 (almost exactly a year from when Wild Life Outdoor Adventures launched and our website went live) when an email came through from one of the Dragons' Den producers - AHHHH! Say Whaaaa? 🤯
Being an avid Dragons' Den fan through the last 15 seasons, I was familiar with the format and what facing the formidable Dragons' would entail. I knew that with a mere 14 months of data it would be hard to create a valuation that was both attractive to these savvy investors and fair to our rapidly growing company. However, I also felt the experience and opportunities from even auditioning would be valuable. So, after some back and forth, I replied:
Jane,You know what? I’m just going to take the plunge and do it right now.I just needed a little push.Truly, thank you.Jenelle
I was fresh out of an accelerator and pitch competition where Wild Life was a Top 5 for the Total Mom Pitch powered by Visa & Scotia Bank, so I felt like I had a head start when prepping for my virtual audition. So when the time came, I logged on to the Zoom call with 3 CBC producers, and just like the show, I gave my pitch and waited with bated breath for a vigorous line of questioning. While the producers were much softer than the Dragon's themselves, it was my first feel for what it would be like on the show.
Weeks later, after answering a few follow-up questions, we were offered a live audition in Toronto at the CBC Dragons Den studio. Side note: you know how they often show the reactions of people when they find out they have a live audition? Yeah... they couldn't use mine because despite owning a kids company, the first words that fell out of my mouth were some real choice 4-lettered ones. Oops. I was surprised and excited to say the least.
Prepping for the Episode
After several nerve-racking, long weeks with many delays, and re-scheduling (ugh, Covid) we finally got our official filming date, June 3! Before leaving for Toronto, I had one final virtual meet and greet with one of the producers so they could ensure I'd done my homework.
🚧 One of the first curve-balls that was thrown our way, just weeks before I boarded the plane, was that long time Dragon Jim Treliving as well as Lane Merrifield would be leaving the show 😭. Enter a brand new Dragon, Wes Hall and some serious google sleuthing in attempt to get to know our new pitch panel.
Plane ride to Toronto, I think I re-watched all 15 seasons of Dragons' Den this year.
After 2 pre-travel negative Covid tests I got on a plane to Toronto, and continued to crush Dragons' Den episodes as part of my pre-den preparations. Personal note: flying 12 weeks pregnant with debilitating nausea = 👎 👎
As an entrepreneur I’ve learned quickly that you have to check your ego at the door🚪. If you have the chance to get in front of business leaders and entrepreneurs who have successfully built businesses - you do it! (Ready or not!) This process forced us to pause and dig hard into our numbers, forecasts, and create a plan for future growth - that in itself was valuable in accelerating the business.
Hotel pitch prepping
I had to arrive 3 days prior in order to get another negative test before entering the CBC building. It was great opportunity to practice my pitch, and attempt to prepare for any questions and give the most accurate picture of our business to date. That, and brush up on wearing make-up (had lost my skills through the pandemic, resorting to scrunchies and sweatpants most days). It's worth noting that I chose to support other Canadian brands by reaching out to a couple of my favourite Canadian designers to WEAR LOCAL🇨🇦!
We don't run a traditional subscription box model, in our initial offering each of our 12 adventure kits build on each other. That means at any given time, we are holding on to a significant amount of inventory. Between product development, start up expenses, and some unexpected costs due to the pandemic - I knew the right Dragon would have to see the social value in what we are doing, be purpose-driven, and see the long-term financial opportunity to grow as we scale. I was also pretty conservative with my numbers because the last thing I wanted was to get a deal, go through due diligence and have it revealed that the numbers were padded to seem more favourable.
Film Day Arrives
I am not a morning person. When the film date came, I slept 0 hours in fear that I would sleep in and months of preparing would be for nothing.
Early morning, sleepless night
Ultimately I own 75% of the business so I represented Wild Life myself. However, my co-founders were highly involved in the process. Our goal as a team went beyond seeking funding, for us it was about finding the right parter who was aligned with our purpose and could fill in skills gaps. We knew that there was other money and funding available so if couldn't get money from the right person then giving up equity this early would not be worth it. In the end, our "Ask" we settled on was an offer to invest $115,000 for 15% of our company.
Outside the CBC Studios the morning before filming
The Dragons' Den stage is HUGE, the studio is beautiful and massive and feels just like what you see on television. The show is surprisingly authentic, the Dragons' did not know me, my business, or have any background or supplemental information.
Backstage looked different amidst Covid restrictions.
Before the show, I was put in my own "cube" and met with producers virtually, I never actually set foot on the set until the live filming where you enter through those big brass handled doors. I was met briefly by a sound tech to get mic'd up and met with a props team in attempt to describe my vision for the set. Literally minutes before I went out I was told that the finish on the stage floor was brand-new and I was not going to be allowed to perform my planned demo of "Tarp Stretcher Obstacle Races"... What did they expect from a kids outdoor adventure company? 😜 so I quickly pulled another idea from our activity cards, took a swig of water, put on a smile and walked out on stage to give it my all 👊
I would 10/10 recommend the experience to anyone who has the chance to audition or pitch. Because hey, if you aren’t doing things that make you uncomfortable, you aren’t growing to your full potential.
Stay tuned for PART 2, I will share more details about the actual pitch and results after the episode airs this week!
Jenelle Peterson on the CBC Dragons' Den set
Be sure to watch us this week in Season 16: Episode 2 on October 28th @8PM on CBC or the CBCGem App. Follow us on our social channels for live-stream before and after where we will answer all your questions. Want to read about the inside scoop on our episode? Read the follow up blog, Dragons Den PART 2: Deal or No Deal?
Lastly, please help us share our story with your networks - we want people to hear about our experience and business to we may work on fulfilling our ultimate purpose; to get more kids outdoors more often.