Doug Godkin may not be impervious to fire, but he’s ventured into the Dragons’ Den in search of riches and lived to tell the tale.
Godkin, general manager of Seaward Kayaks in Chemainus, spent Saturday, April 6, at the Canadian Broadcast Centre in Toronto taping an appearance for season eight of CBC’s Dragons’ Den.
The kayak sales guru isn’t at liberty to say how his pitch was received by Canada’s favourite celebrity business moguls, and he won’t know when his episode will air until a month before its broadcast date, but Godkin did say it was “an amazing experience.”
Godkin’s quest to appear on his “absolute number-one favourite show” began in late January with an audition for the show’s producers at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo.
A week later, on Feb. 5, Godkin discovered that out of the 4,000 ambitious entrepreneurs who auditioned for the show this year, he’d been selected to make an appearance on Dragons’ Den in April.
“I just about did a backflip off my desk,” Godkin says, grinning from behind that very same desk in an office flooded with kayaking magazines.
He accepted the invitation without a moment’s hesitation, knowing full well that Seaward would have to cover its own expenses for the trip to Toronto.
Two or three weeks prior to his studio appearance, CBC assigned a producer to help Godkin polish his pitch and fine tune his stage presence.
“Those guys, hats off, are amazing to work with,” Godkin adds. “They definitely treat you like a star.”
With a firm date set for their tête-à-tête with the Dragons, Seaward’s owners Steven and Jacquie Ree travelled east with Godkin, arriving at the studio at 6:45 a.m. the morning of the taping. Godkin and the Rees ventured backstage, joined by the day’s other hopefuls.
“They bring in the pitchers for that day,” Godkin says. “The neat thing is that you get to see who’s made it now from all over the country. Everybody’s practising their pitch. You get to know everybody that’s going to be presenting that day and see what they’re offering. It instantly becomes a quick, neat little family that way because everybody’s nervous backstage, crossing their fingers that they’re not going to get torn apart by Kevin O’Leary.”
O’Leary, the show’s most aggressive venture capitalist, has gone so far as to call guests on ABC’s Shark Tank “pigs” and has landed himself in hot water with CBC’s ombudsman on two separate occasions, most recently for referring to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges as “a nutbar” on The Lang and O’Leary Exchange in the fall of 2011.
When it came time for Seaward to face the fire, the Rees ventured to a sound-proof booth offstage as Godkin stepped into the den.
“It’s nerve-wracking. They’ve changed the set-up a little bit this year,” Godkin adds. “As soon as you come around the corner and [the Dragons] see you, they’re talking to you. I walked out and they’re talking to me and then the nerves set in, and I think there were a couple of seconds where I just stared blankly at them.”
But after a nerve-rattled first few minutes, Godkin “got into his groove” as he introduced the Dragons to the company’s line of boats.
“I can’t say how it went,” Godkin adds, “But I was very taken aback with how polite and nice they were to me. They really liked the product. And because we’ve been around for 25 years, they all knew the [brand]. So there was a little bit of a difference between us and someone who’s pitching a brand-new product that they’ve never seen before.”
Godkin’s vision for Seaward led him to the Dragons’ Den, he says, but until his appearance airs next season, he and the Rees are keeping the outcome of their pitch under wraps.
“Only the three of us know,” Godkin adds. “And it’s tough, because your friends, your family, your dog and your cat are all staring at you, wanting to know what happened. And you can’t say anything to anybody about what the results were. It’s tough, but it gets easier every day because you’ve told everybody ‘Here’s how it went and here’s what happened, but I can’t tell you anything,’ and people are being very respectful of that.”
In the interim, Godkin will glean as much as he can from the experience.
“These are guys I really look up to and whose books I’ve read,” he says. “To [pitch to them] and receive a bit of a peer evaluation from them was great.”
Season eight of Dragons’ Den airs later this year.