Heading into the Den? How to Make a Deal with a Dragon

Every Canadian entrepreneur want to make a deal with a dragon on CBC’s popular reality show Dragons’ Den.

Two of the show’s newest members, Manjit Minhas and Michele Romanow, have a few tips for nailing the pitch of a lifetime.

Minhas’ expertise is in manufacturing and retailing. She’s the co-founder and CEO of Minhas Breweries. She started the business at the age of 19 with her brother, which is now operational in 16 countries around the world. She also acquired several businesses outside the liquor market including those in television and film, construction and graphic design.

Romanow comes from the tech space. She’s the founder of Buytopia.ca and Snapsaves, now Snap by Groupon after being bought out for eight figures. She founded Buytopia.ca at the age of 26 and has become a well-known expert in the tech space.

Though these two dragons come from vastly different backgrounds and bring a wide range of experiences to the den, they both emphasize a few ways entrepreneurs pitching in the den can get their attention.

Above all, they both value the person behind the idea. Romanow is looking for someone with a certain “je ne sais quoi?”

“I’m looking for that person who, first of all, really wants it. They have an ‘I have a chip on my shoulder and I’m gonna make it in this world’ attitude. You’re looking for that person who really cares and that attitude will just pivot into an idea that works,” she says.

Though the idea and the market have to be viable as well, Romanow insists that if someone’s willing to give it their all, the rest will likely fall into place.

Minhas agrees that she’s looking for someone with whom she can have a long term partnership. What makes a great entrepreneur in her books? Passion.

“Really it’s all about the person, I was looking to invest in amazing entrepreneurs. People who have a passion for what they do, that are trustworthy, that are coachable and can be a lifelong partner for me,” she says.

Both dragons agree that their partners must be willing to take more than their money. Their gold coins come with a few golden pieces of advice as well.

“Be coachable! Don’t be so combative. Some people come in and they’re so stuck in their ways. You’re coming not only for a deal but you’re coming for advice. You’re coming to get expert advice from five very successful Canadian entrepreneurs,” said Minhas.

Romanow emphasizes that nothing works the first time around. She’s looking for an honest evaluation of where your business is at and how much it has the potential to grow. However, you better know your numbers beforehand.

Both women agree that the biggest red flag they’ve come across is an entrepreneur that doesn’t know their numbers.

Romanow warns against being “Someone that doesn’t care to understand their numbers and has a generally defeatist attitude towards parts of their business.” Though anyone who watches the show knows that anyone without an accurate evaluation I has virtually no chance, what exactly does it mean to ‘know your numbers’?

Minhas, known as the ‘beer baroness’, and Romanow, referred to as the consumer tech expert, agree that your burn rate, your market opportunity and your business evaluation are key features that you must understand before approaching the den.

Minhas agrees that someone who doesn’t understand their growth rate, their market and their profits when they come in is unlikely to make a deal.

Above all, Minhas, Romanow and other dragons are looking for confidence. After all, if you don’t stand up for your business, who will?