CBC’s Dragons’ Den Windsor auditions are being held in Windsor tomorrow, and with a slate of local entrepreneurs hoping to make their big pitches, ourWindsor.ca sat down with Windsorite Mark Lefebvre of The Stilt Guys to talk about his experience on the show.
Lefebvre and his business partner Kyle Sipkens have been working together as The Stilt Guys for roughly eight years developing their company and Lefebvre decided to audition in Windsor because “we thought it would be crazy [to audition in Toronto]…there would be a ton of people there at CBC headquarters so we thought [why not do it in Windsor].
Two producers from the Dragons Den were at the Chamber of Commerce for the initial audition, and Lefebvre explained that he put his stilts on along with a Team Canada hockey jersey and “ducked under the doorway into the boardroom, so they saw the visual impact. As I talked about our past performance, some of our numbers and the things that Stilt Guys do at events, I pulled off the hockey jersey and I had a City of Windsor branded t-shirt on underneath. I wanted to give them a taste of how in the studio we could mix things up…we can deliver brand messaging.”
Within a week, The Stilt Guys had found out that they had made the cut and were invited to be on the show. “They emailed us a 16 page guide [and] it had all kinds of valuable information about determining the valuation of the company, how much to ask for, what percentage you’d be asking the buy-in from the Dragons, potential questions they might ask…as well as the non-disclosure agreement.”
Lefebvre and Sipkens focused on sharpening their business plan before presenting to the Dragons and “that in itself was a valuable exercise”, commented Lefebvre, adding, “that time we spent looking at our business, trying to [hone] it, that was great. Practicing the pitch for friends, family, business associates…every time you talk about your product, you are refining your idea and you’re also motivating yourself.”
Being in the studio with the Dragons was the best business meeting which Lefebvre has ever attended due to the incredible questions, advice and encouragement that the Dragons provided.
“Even though we didn’t get a deal, they said ‘You guys are on the right track, you’re doing well and you don’t really need us’”, explained Lefebvre, adding, “it was kind of bittersweet because we did want their money and we wanted their contacts and business acumen.”
Lefebvre would recommend the experience to those seeking to grow their own businesses, and he provided the following advice to those seeking to pitch to the Dragons.
Don’t Fudge the Numbers: “The worst thing you can do [is] fudge your numbers. Whether someone is at the prototype phase, or are developing and marketing a product … you have to be realistic and honest [with] where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re projected to go.”
Mix Things Up: “It’s entertainment; it’s a reality television show, so they’re looking to mix things up.”
Be Confident: “What’s really sexy is profit,” commented Lefebvre, “if you’ve got a great idea, they want you on the show. Even if it’s something that you think is dull [or a] boring product. If its innovative and something that looks like anyone of these successful business people might make more money at, that’s good television.”
Know the Dragons: “Just like any business interview, they always tell you to research the company and the CEO. I did my research, I checked out clips from old shows and [their respective businesses]…all the things that [the Dragons do] just to get an idea of what we could say to them to try to help our pitch out in some ways.”
Know Your Product: “If you look like a goof who doesn’t know what you’re doing, they might rip you apart and they might lose respect for you.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.