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Students go into the Dragons’ Den (and live to tell about it)

Last April, three students from UNB went before five of Canada’s greatest business moguls on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. Not only did they survive the encounter but they will appear in an episode on March 26.

UNBSU vice-president external Greg Bailey, along with Garrett Nelson and Stephen Likely, all fourth-year chemical engineering students, earned a chance to appear on the show last year after winning the CBC Viewer’s Choice award at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Breakthru competition for their business called Black Magic.

Next Wednesday at 8 p.m. they will appear for 60 seconds on an aired episode.

“We’ve been told that we’ll be getting a 60 second spot, so don’t blink,” said Bailey. “We had no idea if we’d make it: they usually film way more episodes than they actually use so they have more material. Even in our case we pitched for almost an hour and out of that they’re only using a minute.”

Their business, Black Magic, was based around an industrial hand cleaner. It was developed by a professor at UNB.

“Anything oil-based like paint or grease would just wipe away with this stuff, which was environmentally friendly and made from renewable feed stocks,” Bailey said.

On top of winning the Viewer’s Choice award, they also placed third at the Breakthru competition.

Dragons’ Den is a show where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their business plans to successful venture capitalists – Kevin O’Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Jim Treliving, Bruce Croxon and David Chilton – for business financing. The Dragons, as the venture capitalists are called, are famous for being ruthless.

They are unable to say whether they made a deal – you’ll have to wait to find out on next Wednesday’s episode. But Bailey had some comments about three of the Dragons.

“Kevin was fierce. When he picks a point, he really dwells on it,” Bailey said. “Arlene was a saint. She was really impressed by the fact that we were students and defended us to the other Dragons whenever someone seemed like they didn’t want to listen.”

But Bailey sad it was Dragon Treliving that brought some comic relief to the experience.

“Jim was probably the funnest one to watch. He just sits there and listens, but when he speaks you know he’s going to say something that you never expected.”

Though they had what the team calls a near-perfect pitch, Bailey has one incident he hopes won’t make it into the episode.

“I completely blanked when trying to say Kevin O’Leary’s name,” he said. “The pitch had been going perfectly, and then it hit me that I was actually in the Den. I just kind of stopped for a few seconds and by the time the guys realized what happened, Kevin asked me, ‘Did you just forget my name?’ The other Dragons thought it was hilarious; they told us he needed the shot to his ego.”

Appearing on Dragon’s Den was a result of an unexpected twist of fate for the young entrepreneurial team. They had auditioned for Dragon’s Den the regular way before the Breakthru competition and hadn’t received a call back. Then they got another shot at it by winning the Viewer’s Choice award.

“We learned the value of doing something you love,” Bailey said.

Though being on the show was an exciting experience, he said the journey all started at UNB.

“There’s a lot of cool stuff happening at the classroom level in entrepreneurship at UNB, and students should get involved,” he said. “It will change your life.”

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