August 10, 2020

By ALEXANDRIA DEER

Brave entrepreneurs donned their armour and sharpened their sales pitches on March 16 for a chance to enter the dragon’s den.

One of the 40 auditions across Canada for CBC’s hit show, Dragon’s Den, was held in the Acceleration building at the University of Waterloo’s Conrad Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology.

Priscilla Sreedharan, an associate producer for the show, was screening possible participants throughout the day.

“It’s an open audition, so we ask people just to come down. They can fill out an application online or fill one out here. We ask them to pitch to us like they would pitch on the show,” said Sreedharan. “Anything that’s pitched here we take back to our team and pitch it to them and we decide what’s right for the show.”

Joanne Van Liefland and her business partner Perry Catena were one of the teams who auditioned. Van Leifland and Catena went to Waterloo with their organic wrap looking for $75,000 for 20 per cent of their company, Healthy Living.

“It’s an organic, raw wrap. It’s gluten free, dairy free and wheat free. It’s an alternative to the traditional tortilla wrap. It’s great for people who have allergies to certain things,” Van Liefland said.

Van Liefland began making her organic wraps three years ago for family and friends and began selling them two months ago when a health food store in Simcoe, Ont., was intrigued by her product. She came to the audition with the hopes of being able to one day produce her wraps on a mass scale.

“I can only do so much on my own before I need more money for equipment,” Van Leifland said.

One of Sreeharan’s favourite pitches that day was for an online exercise subscription called Make Your Body Work, which embraces the idea of eliminating gym memberships to work out at home.

“He had this great online system where he would post new workouts every week. So you would subscribe to it for $5 a week and they were just great body workouts, especially if you were female,” Sreedharan said. “He figured out how to capture that market that doesn’t have time to go to the gym but they have 45 minutes at home to do a workout. He was really energetic and passionate about what he wants.”

Of the 35 people who auditioned, Sreedharan said any of them could make it to the den.

“You get some really interesting stuff when you’re on the road. People take their businesses very seriously so it’s very important to them that we give them the respect of auditioning. You never know what’s going to be the next big money-maker. What you may think is silly could be an amazing idea.”