Dragons Den executive producer Tracie Tighe (front) and two cohorts listen to pitches at the Coast Discovery Inn.

Dragons on the scent again

Dragons Den auditions were held in Campbell River this week

George Andrews knows all about saddlesore.

“When you get off the bike, you can’t even sit down,” says the 82-year-old, recalling his 1975 cross-country bicycle journey.

He’s hoping the Dragons also know what it’s like to feel muscle pain in the backside and inner thighs.

“I could never find the right (seat). So, when I came home, I started making it,” he tells three producers from the hit CBC-TV show Dragons Den.

The trio, including executive producer Tracie Tighe, were at the Coast Discovery Inn on Wednesday. They were back in Campbell River to hear pitches from about a dozen inventors and business people who are hoping to make it onto this year’s show.

“I’ve invested about $140,000,” says Andrews, a Courtenay resident and owner of Gabs Bicycle Saddle. “I’m thinking (of asking) somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000. That would ease my expenses a little bit.”

The premise of the show is to elicit investment from the Dragons; five wealthy Canadian entrepreneurs looking for big capital gains by offering their cash and expertise to the pitchmen and women.

“We’re going to say it’s the best bicycle seat ever…?” Tighe asks.

“It is,” Andrews replies with confidence.

The producers head out on a Canada-wide tour each year, seeking new ideas, both practical and goofy, to bring to the Dragons Den.

It will be a few weeks before the fledgling entrepreneurs hear if they’ve made the cut for the fall season, to be taped in Toronto April 12 to May 13.

Even if they don’t make it, the initial experience of being questioned by the producers – similar, but not quite as grueling, as the grilling they’ll face from the Dragons – is a good one.

“I’ve watched the show and my friends told me I should be on there with my Swinkey,” says Courtenay golf pro Brian Bendictson, who’s created a “golfer’s toolbox” of aids to improve a duffer’s game.

“Just listening to them has already helped me get my (financial) numbers in order.”

And getting the right numbers is key to getting the Dragons’ attention.

That’s what Annette Magled of Salt Spring Island found out. She started out by asking for a $250,000 investment in her company, Vida Grains, which makes a variety of healthy cereals.

The producers are given samples to taste and they nod their heads in approval with each spoonful.

But then Tighe points out there’s already been a couple healthy cereal makers on the show, including Holy Crap from the Sunshine Coast, which got a Dragons’ deal and is now a multi-million dollar company.

Tighe asks what the money will be used for and Magled replies it will be used to rebrand the products and to try and get national distribution. The products are already sold in 15 health food stores, but that’s not enough to impress the Dragons.

“You’re asking for way too much money to go in front of the Dragons,” says Tighe. “You need to start selling – get some orders.”

Magled agrees and says she will re-think her numbers.

As for Andrews, he’s sold about 300 bicycle seats from his home-based business. Metal parts for the seat are made in Vancouver and then they’re assembled in his basement where his wife sews the covers.

That makes producer Katie Cumby wonder why Andrews has invested so much money in the company? He explains the cash went to create patents in Canada and the U.S., and other funds were wasted on companies who claim to help new inventors.

That’s a story the producers have heard many times, yet Andrews is not deterred and tells about another long bicycle journey he did from Inuvik to Calgary in 55 days.

Tighe just smiles and asks the octogenarian, “Have you ever heard of taking the bus?”