Manjit Minhas and Michele Romanow join Dragons’ Den, Vikram Vij leaving

CBC demonstrates a major shift in the Dragons’ Den focus Wednesday, revealing the addition of two young Canadian businesswomen to the show and the departure of Vikram Vij.

Changes represent show’s new focus on young businesswomen

New Dragons' Den personalities Manjit Minhas and Michele Romanow are joining the show as food magnate Vikram Vij departs the show. (Manjit Minhas/Sian Richards Photography/CBC)

Major changes are underway at CBC’s Dragons' Den as the broadcaster revealed the addition of two young female entrepreneurs to its roster of venture capitalists, and announced the departure of Vikram Vij.

Calgary-born distillery and brewery owner Manjit Minhas and Toronto-born Buytopia.ca co-founder Michele Romanow are joining the hit reality TV show in season 10, the broadcaster announced Wednesday.

Vij, the celebrated Vancouver chef and restaurant magnate, has said he is leaving the den after only one season to spend more time building his own businesses, including his frozen food line.

Trouble in the den?

Wednesday’s announcement comes during a time of upheaval for Dragons’ Den.

Communications and marketing maven Arlene Dickinson, left, and personal finance guru David Chilton both announced they were leaving Dragons' Den in February. (CBC)
The departure of two popular dragons last month made some fans question the future of the series, while others have expressed concern about
the most-recent addition of Joe Fresh founder Joe Mimran, as he was heading the company during a deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh.  

It is yet to be seen whether the same fans who tuned in for seasoned media communications mogul Arlene Dickinson, or The Wealthy Barber publishing powerhouse David Chilton will continue to connect with a refreshed panel featuring two virtual unknowns.

CBC executive Jennifer Dettman says the core of the show remains the same.

"We change the show year over year," said Dettman, who is executive director, unscripted content at CBC.  

"The dragons are really critical absolutely to the show, but it's bigger than that. The core of the show is really about making people's dreams come true and that's a story that doesn't grow old for viewers."

Despite recent changes, Dettman says viewership has remained strong, with about 1 million viewers tuning in each week. She also said changing dragons is actually good for the show.

"When that happens, it changes the dynamic in the den, you get new personalities, you get new business backgrounds."

Focus on young women

The award-winning CBC show centres on Canadian entrepreneurs pitching business proposals and ideas to a panel of celebrity venture capitalists, who must then decide whether or not to invest in the projects.

In the show’s nine year history, only two dragons have been women. The average age of the panel in the current season is 57.

Bringing Minhas, 34, and Romanow, 29, into the den represents a concerted effort by producers to draw a younger audience to the show.

But don’t let their ages fool you; both Minhas and Romanow have a dizzying number of achievements on their resumes.

34-year-old Manjit Minhas is the co-founder and co-owner of Minhas Breweries and Distillery. (CBC handout)
a trained petroleum engineer, became one of the world’s youngest brewers when she co-founded Alberta’s Minhas Breweries and Distillery with her brother at age 19.

Their brewery in Wisconsin is now the tenth largest in North America. As a brand, they produce more than 90 beers, spirits, liqueurs and wines that ship across Canada and the U.S., and 15 countries overseas.

But the mother of two young children wants you to know that’s not all she can do.

"A lot of people only know me as the beer and spirit owner," Minhas told CBC News. "But I have a number of businesses from production to construction to retail to marketing to design, so I know about a lot of other businesses not just the alcohol business.

"I think people would be surprised to know that."

Digital expertise

Also surprising is the number of businesses new dragon Michele Romanow has started.

By the age of 29, Michele Romanow already had four companies under her belt. (Sian Richards Photography)
The Queen’s University alum has built four companies, including the e-commerce site Buytopia.ca, and Evandale Caviar, a fishery that distributed high-end sturgeon caviar to luxury hotels and restaurants.

In addition to being named to a list of 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada and listed on Forbes magazine’s top 20 "Millennials on a Mission", one of Romanow's biggest draws for the show’s producers is her mastery of the online realm, on a level which no dragon has possessed before.

"I have a ton of expertise in digital and e-commerce which is really the growth engine for many companies today," says Romanow, "and the good thing about digital is you can grow fast — you can grow really fast."

Fans of Next Gen Den, the Dragons' Den of the online world, will also recognize Romanow as a dragon on that series.

Dragons confirmed for season 10:

  • Manjit Minhas, 34, co-founder and co-owner of Minhas Breweries and Distillery

  • Michele Romanow, 29, co-founder of Buytopia.ca

  • Joe Mimran, 62, Canadian retail fashion mogul and Joe Fresh founder

  • Michael Wekerle, 52, Canadian “rock star” of finance

  • Jim Treliving, 73, franchise baron and Boston Pizza Restaurants founder

Season 10 of Dragons' Den starts shooting next month, kicking off an intense shooting schedule.

Twenty episodes are filmed in 20 days, with the dragons hearing as many as 250 pitches.

The current ninth season of Dragons’ Den, Hosted by CBC broadcaster Dianne Buckner, airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC Television.

Full episodes are available online here.


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