Locals vie for spots on Dragons’ Den

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Residents of Waterloo are no stranger to innovative technology and start-up ideas. The Dragons’ Den auditions hosted in Waterloo on March 6 were just another opportunity for residents to make their creative business ideas known.

The producers of the television program were present at the auditions in order to judge who would get selected for call-backs and given the opportunity to propose their business ideas to the dragons.

This year the dragons will consist of Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickinson, David Chilton, Michael Wekerle and Vikram Vij.

Kristi Soomer, founder of Encircled, designs versatile and interchangeable clothing. One product has the ability to be transformed into eight different styles, including a scarf, cardigan, tunic or a dress.

Soomer’s company is based in downtown Toronto, however 95 per cent of her sales derive from her online website. Her company incorporates a sustainability approach, with all products being ethically made and fairly traded, along with paying their labourers fairly.

Soomer decided to bring her business idea to the Dragons’ Den auditions.

“I was asking for an investment. I was offering 20 per cent of my company for what, I think it was $180,000,” she said.

Soomer explained she was primarily searching for professional strategic advice to expand as an entrepreneur. She would use the money to get office space, increase inventory and product volumes, as well as purchase higher quantities of fabric.

“I think they were just blown away by the fact that it could do so many different things,” said Soomer. “I think they were really just enjoying it and thought it was really fun.”

Soomer explained that while the auditions were a bit intimidating, it was also an exciting and positive experience.

Tami MacDonald, designer and creator of Mina Interactive Bridal Design, also attended the auditions in Waterloo.

It was MacDonald’s second time auditioning for Dragons’ Den. She auditioned last year when her business was still in the beginning stages.

Mina Interactive Bridal Design gives the customer the opportunity to design their own wedding dress, including the top, middle and bottom areas. There are over 100 different options for just one colour.

MacDonald’s company is based in Tavistock, with many of her designs being featured in a store called Betroth in Cambridge.

“My proposal to Dragons’ Den wasn’t for a lot of money,” said MacDonald. “It was for a smaller amount, which would help me kind of set up a larger studio [and] get additional patterns going.”

Despite her need for an investment, MacDonald wishes to remain in control of her company.

MacDonald also described her audition for Dragons’ Den to be an extremely positive experience. She said she met a number of interesting people who were also auditioning for the television program.

“You got absolutely nothing to lose,” said MacDonald. “If you don’t get out there and promote your business, nobody else will.”

Soomer echoed this sentiment.

“If you got a really great idea, and something that you are really passionate about, you should go for it — pursue it and see where it goes,” she said.

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