Whether it’s an attempt to find a wider audience for their product or service, or the need to inject capital into their operation, most Dragons’ Den hopefuls are looking for a partner to take their business to the next level.
But agreeing on-air to a deal is no guarantee of success, as some Greater Victoria entrepreneurs attest.
Ryan Lockhart’s pitch for his fits-all screwdriver bit earned him a deal with Dragon Arlene Dickinson on the episode that aired Feb. 17 on CBC: $60,000 for a 50-per-cent share and a royalty on units sold.
He hosted 125 people at a party that evening to watch the show, despite knowing the agreement struck at the show’s taping back in May 2011 ended Feb. 14 with the two agreeing to walk away.
Dickinson wasn’t convinced Lockhart’s unique product and his dream of creating a new line of “unstrippable” screws were enough to overthrow Canadian fastener icon Robertson, he said. But she liked his vision and energy and gave him her cellphone number to keep in touch.
“I’m a silver lining guy,” he said. “It was painful to be in this unknown for nine months, but it’s been helpful. I’ve had to work through everything.”
Lockhart has since secured a Calgary-based investor who appears to share his enthusiasm for his invention and ideas.
Jason Heit and Darren Owen, co-founders of professional mixed martial arts promoters Armageddon Fighting Championship, agreed to give Dragons Jim Treliving and Robert Herjavec a 30-per-cent stake in their company for $80,000 in 2010.
But as the months went by and Armageddon continued to put on shows – without seeing any cash from the Dragons – the original agreement made no sense, Heit said.
“So much time had elapsed that it just wasn’t the same deal,” he said. “A year-and-a-half later, our company had significantly grown.”
Armageddon has since teamed up with other promoters to form Aggression Fighting Championship, which Heit characterizes as the “biggest MMA promoter in Canada.”
WannaWafel founder Renaat Marchand and his son, Arno, agreed to take $100,000 for a 50-per-cent stake with Treliving in May 2010.
Marchand never saw the money and says he got little help from the Boston Pizza owner’s company to move the deal forward. Like Lockhart and the MMA partners, Marchand grew frustrated waiting and let the deal lapse.
A subsequent partnership with a local businessman developed 10 franchises across the country. But the relationship soured and few of the franchises are truly active, with Grande Prairie, Alta. the lone bright spot.
Marchand and wife Krista still operate their stand in Market Square and roll out their famous waffle cart for special events. While the past couple of years have been tough financially and emotionally, Marchand remains hopeful about growing the business.
“From what we’ve learned I would say ‘no more partnerships,’” he said with a kind of weary optimism.
“We have to work on what we can control and what we do well. I’m still passionate about the formula and the product.”
• Dragons’ Den originated in Japan and versions have emerged
in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, The Netherlands, Finland, in the Middle East
and of course
• Dragons’ Den airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBC Television.
• If you missed an episode of Dragons’ Den, you can watch full episodes online at CBC.ca or download Dragons’ Den from iTunes.
• The Dragons’ Den theme song is It’s Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is by Oasis.