Four Lethbridge, Alta., brothers, all under the age of 15, entered the Den in Season 9 with Screamin’ Brothers allergen-free frozen treats. After receiving multiple offers, the Wikkerink brothers proved anyone, at any age, can be an entrepreneur.
As one of the longest-running producers on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, I’ve seen thousands of auditions. And yet, the only thing I’m never truly prepared for is children entrepreneurs.
Some of these kids are amazing. They can field questions with both the maturity of an adult and the clarity of a child. One of the best examples of this is the Wikkerink brothers, who managed to convey their business idea with an elegance that demonstrated a well-executed plan.
I recently spoke with the Screamin’ Brothers about their success and experience in the Den.
The brothers created their frozen treat company in 2010 when an earthquake devastated Haiti and left their youngest brother, David, stranded.
It’s a pretty remarkable story about how these four kids created a socially-responsible business — but diehard Den Heads already know the scoop. So if you haven’t seen it, you’ve got homework.
Watch the pitch
But I wanted to find out more about what made them successful, both in the Den and at their Calgary audition.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get past the producers in Calgary?
Answer: “We believe we were selected to [film] in Toronto because we were passionate about our business, knew our goals, had two super cute little brothers as well as ice cream. And who doesn’t love ice cream?”
J.R. is right.
Feeding the producers could go a long way. But what you should really take away from this is that passion drives a pitch. Just like the Dragons, the producers are listening to countless entrepreneurs every day, so amp up the excitement in your presentation and make it something the producers won’t forget.
Former Dragon David Chilton gave you guys a bit of a financial grilling. Dawson didn’t even flinch. How did you prepare for that?
Answer: “Do your homework and do it well! Know your business numbers inside and out. Also, get to know the Dragons; their investment history, interests, strengths and personalities.”
Take a hint from the Wikkerink brothers, it’s going to be worth the effort when it comes to making deals and fielding questions. Practice answering difficult questions and prepare for pushback on your ideas. If you’re expecting it, you won’t be surprised or make a mistake.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you pitched?
Answer: “We wish we knew it wasn’t going to be as scary as we thought.”
So maybe it’s just a myth. Maybe the Dragons don’t really breathe fire. And you’ve got to be asking yourself at this point, “if a bunch of kids can do it, what’s my excuse?”
Some people think it could be risky going on 'Dragons’ Den' and letting the Dragons evaluate your business. What would you say to that?
Answer: “Being on Dragons’ Den was an experience of a lifetime! The show’s popularity exposed our business to people we would have never reached otherwise. As a result, it boosted sales and gave us an incredible start as small business owners.”
Now, listed in over 700 retailers across Canada, the Wikkerink brothers have proven entrepreneurs can be successful if they’re focused and driven — age doesn’t matter at all.
So what are you waiting for? You can audition for Dragons’ Den now! Click here for full audition details»
Jane Chupick has been a producer on Dragons’ Den for eight seasons. She’s witnessed magical acts, exotic wildlife, and just about any toilet attachment you can imagine. She’s also helped some of your favourite entrepreneurs get their pitch ready for the Den.