In the Den of Dragons: Lights, camera, action… it’s sink or swim for Palapa Tours

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Let’s do this.

We arrived in Toronto on May 8 and delivered our booth to CBC Studios. Because we were unable to bring our boats, our tiki builder managed to get, on loan for us, a tiki bar that he built for a client. He was tall. All of our attachments required the rental of a 24ft cube truck. We were told to be in the studio at 7am the next day. All of our props would be ready for us and our producer would walk us through some last minute details.

Once in the studio, we were given a small walk-in closet with curtains and encouraged to stay there (again due to COVID). We were told that we would be the third to film so be ready around 11am. There was a lot of noise outside our waiting area.

Once everyone settled in that day (four companies), we were rounded up by the production team and given some basic pointers on what to expect. After that, each producer had the opportunity to review their portfolio with CBC’s technical team, directors and cameramen. Our assigned producer gave a presentation of our presentation and questions were asked, props were changed. We were ready to go! Then we waited and practiced our lines.

Our biggest challenge was always being able to explain that while we have strong revenue numbers with Ottawa Palapa Tours, our demand for dragons was going to be part of the national expansion with Palapa Tours International, which has yet to generate any income. Unlike a franchise with paid royalties, our expansion model derives revenue from licensing vessels through an operator agreement. Realistically, a request for $250,000 for 15% of the business is not something we really needed. A $250,000 investment would add three to four boats to the company’s fleet, but would still require a hands-on operator. We knew the dragons would be too busy for that kind of business investment.

We raised our concerns with our producer that we hadn’t set a pitch angle for the finances yet. He suggested that we keep it simple and bundle everything into one request. To have Palapa Tours International own and operate Ottawa Palapa Tours as a flagship business. This bolstered our numbers and eliminated being reprimanded for a $1.5 million appraisal. We agreed to go this route.

It was time to review our script and make the appropriate changes to the numbers. We knew any exhibit would be amazing to Dragons’ Den audiences. We have an amazing business concept with Palapa Tours and hundreds of five star ratings. Our biggest fear was to stay strong on our revenue model and not stumble under the scrutiny of the dragons’ cross-examination on our finances. Ultimately, not knowing your numbers is the biggest downfall of many pitches. Having a dragon investing but reassessing the whole value of your business, in our opinion, is rather embarrassing.

“Gaby, Mike, we’ll hook you up with the mics, you’re up in 10 minutes.”

We have that! Where do we do? Now the nerves are really starting to take their toll and your heart is beating a few beats faster.

We are led to a backstage area and given instructions on where to stand and how to enter the den. Surprisingly, we were told that we were going to enter the den twice. The first time there would be cameras behind the dragons. We would walk in, stay on our mark and smile, then wait for the director to say cut and go again. It helped with the nerves since we had time to digest the lights and the cameras and the dragons before entering a second time.

Light, camera, action…

“Aloha, my name is Gaby Saucedo and I’m from Ottawa, Ontario.”

“And I’m Mike Karpishka, also from Ottawa, Ontario, and we’re Palapa Tours. We are here today to request an investment of $250,000 for a 15% stake in the business…”

So how did it go? We are under the seal of non-disclosure of results. But what we can say is that we are not disappointed with how it turned out. Fifty minutes in the studio and we know it will be reduced to seven or eight minutes for the CBC audience. But we can share a few highlights and we hope they get out there:

  • The dragons were extremely busy at the moment discussing tiki boats. Most notable was Robert Herjavec (also on Shark Tank) who has smaller tiki boats cruising past his waterfront property in California.
  • The dragons had to be stopped from endlessly discussing the freshness of the idea and asked, “Can we discuss the numbers now?” It was kind of funny considering most of the time dragons focus almost immediately on finances.
  • Two of the dragons said it was “the best lifestyle company” they had ever seen.

Gaby and I will share our thoughts on the episode on social media after it airs. We are very curious to know what the dragons said about us after we left the lair. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and palapa.tours and read our reactions and thoughts on obj.ca.

Check us out with the dragons on CBC Dragons’ Den October 20 at 8 p.m. For a taste, look here: https://youtu.be/SYQQfUMoyUI

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