As Jill Van Gyn walked towards the filming room, where she and her FATSO peanut butter would stand before the Dragon’s Den judges, Van Gyn thought she was going to throw up.
“I’m always over prepared and I’m always terrified before I go in, but the moment I start to do it, it becomes super easy,” Van Gyn said of her Dragon’s Den experience.
The born-and-bred Victorian said she originally decided to audition for the show because she loves a good challenge.
“I thrive in those environments, the challenge of auditions and being in front of people where the wrong word could have a huge impact. I enjoy that kind of pressure, so when I heard Dragon’s Den was coming to Victoria, I thought it would be something I wanted to do,” Van Gyn said.
After the audition, Van Gyn was then selected to fly to Toronto to film her segment. Then she only had a one-in-three shot of her episode actually being aired, making the price of flights and time away from her business a risk. But it’s paid off: FATSO peanut butter will be featured in the Sept. 27 episode.
Van Gyn began watching Dragon’s Den more after starting her own company. She’d study how other food entrepreneurs pitched their product and how they were evaluated.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Arlene Dickinson,” Van Gyn said. “She’s really been able to be a strong voice in a sea of men in business.”
While she can’t reveal what happened when she met the Dragons — despite many people asking if she got a deal — Van Gyn said she’s most looking forward to seeing FATSO become a recognized brand across Canada.
“It’s scary because there’s no way to quantify what happens after you get on a show like this. Are my sales going to go up? Is this going to sink me? I don’t know,” Van Gyn said. “These are all unknowns.”
FATSO peanut butter began in Nov. 2016, and in two short years, Van Gyn has brought it from Victoria to Vancouver, and now it’s sold as far away as P.E.I. The CEO credits the local support from her fellow Victorians as helping her achieve her success.
“We have people who have really dedicated their lives to making Victoria an amazing food city, and the fact we have people who are dedicated to buying local has really held up a lot of these companies,” she said. “The support I’ve enjoyed in Victoria has been fundamental in bringing FATSO into a national brand.”
Her appearance on Dragon’s Den will air on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. Van Gyn will be watching herself with friends and family from a private screening (complete with FATSO snacks, of course) at the Victoria Whole Foods store.