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Silver lining after deals with dragons fizzle

This time last year, WannaWafel owner Renaat Marchand was among the throngs of dreamers auditioning in Victoria for the CBC show Dragons’ Den.

Tomorrow, dozens of inventors and entrepreneurs will follow in his footsteps to audition in downtown Victoria for a chance to appear before the show’s five wealthy business tycoons.

But months after making his deal, Marchand never received the money or a contract.

In December, he finally walked away from Boston Pizza owner Jim Treliving's offer of $100,000 for 50 per cent ownership of Marchand’s business.

“Things weren’t moving fast enough,” said the owner of WannaWafel in Market Square.

Marchand has moved on, capitalizing on publicity from the show and preparing to franchise WannaWafel this spring.

“The hype would only last so long,” said Marchand’s son Arnot, who also appeared on the show.

But the process of due diligence is lengthy for a reason, says a Dragons’ Den producer.

“It can take a long time and maybe that's surprising to some people, but (the dragons have) got a lot to check out before they can hand over the money,” said Michelle MacMillan.

“It’s such a big risk,” said MacMillan, who will be conducting the Victoria auditions.

In a similar case, Jeff Widderich pitched his Soduko-like puzzle, Str8ts, in a November episode. He received a $150,000 investment promise from three dragons, in return for 10 per cent of royalties.

“The paperwork was astronomical,” the Gordon Head resident said of the process involved. “We were never getting past first base. At one point it was getting ridiculous.”

A few months ago he decided to accept two investment offers that came in after his television appearance.

However, both entrepreneurs say there is still a silver lining to the experience.

Widderich says he’s in regular e-mail contact with dragon W. Brett Wilson. And Marchand’s appearance on Dragons' Den will be included in a commercial on Cineplex movie screens this March.

“Some people see a little rock on the street as a hurdle,” said Marchand. “I’m incredibly happy.”

The Dragons Den audition is tomorrow (Feb. 17) at the Inn at Laurel Point Hotel, 680 Montreal St. from 11 to 6 p.m.

emccracken@vicnews.com

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