Marketing expert, Dragons’ Den star, venture capitalist, CEO of Venture Communications and YouInc.com, and best-selling author Arlene Dickinson needs no introduction. As one of the most well-known business women in Canada, Dickinson has been inspiring young entrepreneurs attempting to follow in the maverick’s footsteps long before she became one of our favourite TV personalities of all time. Fortunately for those of you wishing to get even more insight from Dickinson, the business mogul extraordinaire is hosting The Breakfast Table, an event celebrating entrepreneurship in Canada.
Taking place next week, on Wednesday, October 15th from 7am until 9:30am at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, The Breakfast Table will feature inspiring insight from some of Canada’s top entrepreneurs including Dickinson, Robert Deluce (Porter Airlines), and Christine Magee (Sleep Country), who will share their expert advice in an interactive forum. Intrigued? You can still purchase tickets to the event, which will be hosted in conjunction with Dickinson’s company, YouInc.com, and will also launch the premiere of Season 9 of CBC’s Dragons’ Den (airing at 8 p.m. that evening, October 15th), with a sneak peek of the hit series’ upcoming season. The Breakfast Table will also feature a not-to-be-missed Q&A session with host Dianne Buckner and Dragons’ Jim Treliving, David Chilton, and — of course — Dickinson. We caught up with Dickinson to find out more about the event, her best business advice for fledgling entrepreneurs, and why Kermit the Frog is one of her heroes…
If you had to sell The Breakfast Table in three sentences or less, what would you say?
The Breakfast Table event offers a great opportunity to learn from some of Canada’s top entrepreneurs in a candid conversation about what it takes to build a business. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, and sometimes you feel like you’re the only one going through what you are. Guests to the event will hear, over breakfast, that they aren’t eating at the business table alone.
You developed YouInc.com for entrepreneurs struggling to survive the early stages of building a business. What are the biggest critical mistakes entrepreneurs can make early on?
Underestimating the time, money, and energy it will take to get the business to be self-sustaining. And not focusing enough on their own personal health in the process of finding the time, energy, and money for the business.
What are a few of your key pieces of advice you always give to new business owners?
Perseverance and focus are the most underrated characteristics an entrepreneur will need. And, to learn to have a Teflon Will. You will face many naysayers and people who doubt your vision. You have to be unafraid to stand up and declare your intentions. As Kermit said: It’s not easy being green (unique).
What have been some of the biggest obstacles you’ve run into as an entrepreneur over the years and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacles have always been those I could not foresee. Floods and personal challenges interfering with business are just two examples. So the biggest hurdles are those you don’t know can hit, which means you have to build a business that can withstand the foreseeable while also being able to retrench through the unforeseeable.
What are some of the biggest business lessons you’ve learned through trial and error?
Money doesn’t solve your business problems. Or life’s problems. You do.
The social media era has definitely changed things for new businesses. What’s some of the best advice you have when it comes to approaching social media for new entrepreneurs?
Be honest. Be authentic. Be consistent. And, don’t degrade others in order to elevate yourself.
As an investor on Dragons’ Den, what do you look for in start-ups and what are some of your greatest investment success stories from the show?
I look for honesty, authenticity, and a win-win. A good idea is frankly a table stake. You have to have that in order to get me to listen. But if you have a good idea, and you are a great entrepreneur who demonstrates those other three ingredients, then I am all in.
Is there any insider info you can give us regarding the upcoming season of Dragons’ Den? Any cool surprises, conflicts, or interesting guests?
There are two new Dragons — so there are lots of surprises because it’s a whole new den! There are some pretty interesting dynamics between the Dragons that will keep people highly entertained. And as always, there are lots of really strong deals (I like to think I got all the good ones). Michael Wekerle, one of the new Dragons, is totally unpredictable, but when it comes to numbers he can predict things before I have even started to add. He is scary smart with numbers. But I think I have him beat on a few other fronts. So we compete a lot.