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Popular TV show makes casting call in Penticton

Dragons
Dragons' Den producers chat among themselves on Saturday while Paul Clissold makes his pitch for the MVP Men's Salon franchise. About 50 presenters were expected at the casting call in Penticton.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Hair salons exclusively for men and cartoonish throw pillows were among the products pitched Saturday in Penticton during an audition for Dragons’ Den.

Producers of the popular CBC TV show, which sees entrepreneurs sell their ideas to a panel of wealthy investors, are travelling the country to find the next big things to appear on the program.

Saturday’s stop at Okanagan College was expected to draw about 50 people. Among the first to present was Paul Clissold, who owns the MVP Men’s Salon franchise.

He opened the first salon in Calgary in 2004, then expanded to Kelowna in 2006. Additional locations have since been added in Calgary and Surrey.

Clissold is hoping to win a spot on the show to ask the dragons for $1 million in exchange for 50 per cent of the company. He wants to use the cash to fund an ambitious expansion campaign to help lock up the market for salons that cater to men with add-ons like a TV at every chair.

“It seemed like it went by really quick,” he said following his five-minute pitch. “I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Hopefully it went well.”

Having been in the franchising game for years, Clissold said he was well-prepared to make his presentation, which was accompanied by photos of the inside of some MVP salons.

“I’ve been pitching this idea long enough that it’s sort of natural. I just made sure I knew my numbers and made sure I knew what I wanted to accomplish and how I’d use (the dragons’) money.”

Michelle MacMillan, one of the two producers who stand in for the dragons at the casting calls, said just about any pitch is welcome, so long as the presenter has some spunk that will make for good TV.

“It could be anything from a good idea to a strong business with sales, as long as you have the passion and energy behind it,” she said.

About 2,000 people from across Canada are expected to present at the casting calls, and she expects “maybe just a handful” of people from the Penticton stop will be among the 250 presenters invited to Toronto to go on the show.

MacMillan added that anyone who didn’t make it out Saturday can still visit one of the other auditions scheduled through March in other cities.

One sleepless night was enough for Susannah Diemer.

She and her husband travelled to Penticton from their home in Vernon on Friday and checked into a hotel just in case they had to beat a stampede to the casting call.

“We were worried there was going to be a large lineup so my husband was checking throughout the night to see if there was,” Diemer said after her presentation.

She wanted to be among the first in line with her Mr. Hoots line of pillows.

The plush pillows have owlish features sewn onto them and resemble something from the Hello Kitty franchise. Diemer began making them to pass the time while her husband worked 18-hour days as welder near Fort St. John.

After they moved south, she began selling them at craft shows throughout the Okanagan and soon found herself unable to keep up with demand.

“There’s something whimsical about them, there’s something very fun,” she said of the pillows’ appeal.

Now Diemer is hoping the dragons will spot her $35,000 for an unspecified piece of the company to help fund mass production of Mr. Hoots in Asia that will allow her to sell the pillows in retail stores. If the dragons don’t call, she’ll try to make her own connections with manufacturers.

Those who pitched Saturday were told they’ll find out in March if they’ve been chosen for the show. CBC says Dragons’ Den, which is going into its eight season, is the highest-rated, unscripted Canadian show on TV with an average weekly audience of 1.4 million viewers.

 

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