Jim Treliving on becoming an entrepreneur and leaving Dragons' Den
'My goal was to be, first, a hockey player,' said the Boston Pizza owner
After 15 years of making deals, entrepreneur Jim Treliving is saying goodbye to the Dragons' Den.
The Boston Pizza owner recently announced that Season 15 of the hit CBC-TV show was his last.
As part of Cross Country Checkup's Ask Me Anything series, Treliving joined host Ian Hanomansing to take calls and questions from listeners.
Here is part of that conversation.
Let's start with your reason for leaving the den. Why after 15 years have you done that?
The biggest thing is that it was 15 years. I've learned a lot and it's time for a change. I think it'll refresh the show a little bit with the new person coming on. And I just think it was time for me.
Today's messages have meant lots. I'll still watch Dragons Den as an enthusiastic fan and I'll miss the <a href="https://twitter.com/CBC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBC</a> team.This decision will allow me to spend more time in my role <a href="https://twitter.com/bostonpizza?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@bostonpizza</a> , work with <a href="https://twitter.com/sanditreliving?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sanditreliving</a> to support organizations like <a href="https://twitter.com/camh?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CAMH</a> and still advise new businesses—@JTreliving
What do you hope the legacy of your time on Dragons' Den will be?
I think the biggest legacy is the entrepreneurs and the people who have come on there, and how the world has changed with entrepreneurs since the first show.
The first time we were on, it was about an idea more than a business. And as it grew into businesses and numbers and all the things that we asked for on the show, that's where it became a real show in our mind — a business show.
And I know with the people that were on at the time, and when we started, each one of us had a talent of asking how we get to run this business — it's not just an idea. And that's what's changed over the years.
When you were a kid, would you have ever thought of yourself ... as an entrepreneur?
I don't think I knew anything about that word, and that was probably the last thing I wanted to do.
My goal was to be, first, a hockey player. My dad said there was no money in that so let's move on and get a good job with a pension. And he said, "You've always talked about joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."
In my hometown of Virden, Man., there was a detachment there that I knew. The boys went to school with me, and their father was one of the local members.
So I had that in my mind for a career the rest of my life.
And then how did you become an entrepreneur?
I was in Edmonton ... and my partner and I went out for dinner one night. He suggested we go for a pizza. I said I'd never eaten a pizza in my life. I had spaghetti and meatballs — the only Italian food that I thought I had eaten and was close.
So we went to this place, and we drove along at 118th Avenue, just off 124th Street in Edmonton, and I looked up at the sign as I was walking in and it said, Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House. And I thought, what is an American company doing up here and what is this thing?
We went in and ... I had my first pizza delivered to me at the table and I'm looking for a knife and fork to eat with and [the server] said, "Read the menu," and it said "Eat with your fingers."
So I ate my first pizza that night.
Caller Steven Desjardins in Quebec City asked: If Jim could cast his mind back to when he started Boston Pizza, if Dragons' Den had existed at that time and he was a contestant, would he, in his own opinion, have passed — or would the judges have rejected is his pitch?
Steven, I think I would've passed because my dad tried to do the same thing with me when I had to borrow some money to get into the business.
He actually fulfilled the money I needed the next day, but that night he looked at me and he said, "Let me get this straight. You want to leave a good paying job? You want to get into business with a bunch of Greeks selling Italian food in a small town in British Columbia, and you want me to lend you money?" And I said, "Yes Dad, I need a hand."
He said, "No, you'd need a psychiatrist," and with that, he went up and got to bed, and I think I would have done the same thing if it had come on Dragons' Den.
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.