The Lions descend on Hamilton

Watch CBC Hamilton each week for a new story on the Lion's Lair business pitch competition.

Business pitch competion begins for the second year

Weever Apps won last year's Lion's Lair competition. (Reg Baudry)

The Lions are coming.

Lion's Lair, a pitch competition for small businesses run by the Innovation Factory and Hamilton's Chamber of Commerce, is on for the second year.

Ten finalists will have to face the five Lions, experienced business professionals from Hamilton, who will decide who wins the $100,000 grand prize to expand their business.

Watch CBC Hamilton each Thursday for a new story about Lion's Lair.

This week, you'll see the finalists in media training. Starting July 19, watch for profiles of each of the ten finalists leading up to the winner's gala on Oct. 4.

Coming up on top in this competition can give a small business a big-time boost. For last year's winner, Weever Apps, the business started to roll in the moment their name was announced.

"Literally after we won, from the table at the Gala, a company emailed us," said Tim Richard, Weever Apps vice-president of operations.

Weever Apps, who work our of McMaster's Innovation Park, develop custom smartphone apps for clients.

Next month, Weever Apps will roll out a new application for the company who contacted them from the gala.

While he won't give many details, Richard said the company who emailed at last October's gala is a large company with many locations throughout Ontario, and their app is doing something no app has done before.

Richard said after the Lion's Lair competition, Weever Apps picked up several local clients including the Dundas BIA, Mohawk College, United Way and Habitat for Humanity.

"It snowballed from there," he said.

Weever Apps has clients in 50 countries worldwide and uses the money it won from Lion's Lair to hire more staff.

His advice for this year's finalists?

"The effort is worth it," said Richard. "Winning the top prize isn't critical. The training is great… and it's a lot of fun."

CBC Hamilton asked a famous Dragon to offer advice for contestants stepping into the Lion's Lair.

Here are some tips from the CBC's Dragons Den's Kevin O'Leary:

  1. Keep it simple. Make sure you can explain your business to an eight-year-old. Dragons can be impatient.  

  2. Keep it lively. You must find creative and entertaining ways to demonstrate your business, or you will not make the cut. Think back to The Gong Show in the 1970's and the Lions are holding the gongs while you're pitching. 

  3. Watch the show. You'd be surprised at how many people vying to be on Dragons Den have only ever heard of the show, and decided to audition upon their family or friends urging. Very dumb. Watch and learn. 

  4. Keep Props to a Minimum. Props can be distracting. It's you and your idea the Lions are interested in.  

  5. All Numbers on the Table. Nothing bothers me more than when entrepreneurs want to keep some of their numbers off the record. You must be prepared to disclose all relevant information, no matter how succulent the margins, how big the profits, or how many competitors you fear might be paying attention.