Lion's Lair: Meet the Lions

One week to go until the Lion's Lair gala and the winning finalist is announced. CBC Hamilton gives you a peak inside the den.

One week to go.

Next Thursday, an innovative Hamilton company will emerge from the Lion's Lair (relatively) unscathed — stronger, more media savvy and a bit richer.

At a gala next week, the winner (or winners) of the Lion's Lair competition will be announced and will received a $100,000 prize, along with some street cred for outlasting the Lions.

The winner is chosen by five local entrepreneurs. In advance of the gala, CBC Hamilton asked the Lions one question: what was your number one criteria for selecting a winner? Why?

Here is what they had to say:

Sophia Aggelonitis

Sophia Aggelonitis is a local entrepreneur and former politician. Most Hamiltonians will remember her as Hamilton Mountain Liberal MPP from 2007 to 2011. During that time, she served as minister of revenue, minister responsible for seniors and minister of consumer services.

Aggelonitis is also a saucy lady, literally. Before entering into politics, she manufactured and distributed her own line of sauces, Sauces by Sophia, in Southern Ontario.

Sophia Aggelonitis

Sophia's criteria:

I would say I was looking for two things: passion and how well they knew their numbers.

Passion was definitely number one. The presenters had a lot of it (that's why it was a tough decision at the end, they were all amazing). I believe passion truly defines what is great about entrepreneurs.

The second criteria; did they know their numbers inside out? The numbers are the real deal of what is going on, if they knew their numbers inside out it made me believe in their pitch even more.

Nick Bontis

Dr. Nick Bontis is the man to ask about intellectual capital and business performance. He's a leading expert and known world-wide for his business management skills. Bontis is an award-winning professor at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business where he works with student entrepreneurs.

Bontis also owns his own consulting company based in Ancaster and a software company in Vancouver.

Nick Bontis

Nick's criteria:

Could this ever become a multi-million dollar enterprise?

PJ Mercanti

PJ Mercanti and his family are behind Carmen's, a household name in Hamilton  and destination for weddings, catering and major events. In fact, the Lion's Lair gala will be held at his family's Mountain facility.

Mercanti attended business school in the US and worked for ESPN before returning home to Hamilton. He founded the GenNext United Way and is involved with numerous community organizations. Carmen's was also just selected by city council to run the Hamilton Convention Centre, one of the HECFI facilities.

PJ Mercanti

PJ's criteria:

Many of the ideas were original however the difference between the good pitches and the great pitches came down to how well the entrepreneurs knew how their product would fill a void in the marketplace and how practical their expectations were. The more focused they were and the more likely they seemed able to execute their game plan, the better their score!

Mike Morreale

Mike Morreale is a former Hamilton Tiger-Cat and the recently-elected president of the CFL players' association. He played professional football for 12 years, eight of those with the hometown Ticats.

In 1999, Morreale was selected as the Grey Cup's Most Outstanding Canadian. He also lead the Ticats to a Grey Cup win that year. He won several other awards during his time as a player. Morreale also worked as a broadcaster for The Score and TSN.

Mike Morreale

Mike's criteria:

I would say that overall my number 1 criteria was the strength of the product/idea and how prepared the individual(s) were to execute on that idea from where they currently were and where they planned to be.

Rami Reda

Rami Reda is an award-winning entrepreneur. He's a grduate of McMaster's DeGroote School of Business (with honours). After a two-year run with Imperial Oil, Reda returned to Hamilton and started CanGlobal Traders Inc. which runs 57 locations of Big Bee Convenience, Subway restaurants and Deliverizer.

Reda has a strong interest in real estate and owns his own portfolio for commercial, residential and retail developments in Southern Ontario.

Rami Reda

Rami's criteria:

I was looking for market feasibility and scalability. These two factors dictate the overall business impact for revenue, profits and employment.