Suppose you took a risk. You heard producers of the CBC show Dragons’ Den were in town, and you went for it.
Your business is less than a year old, but you’ve got big plans – dreams even. You present your pitch. You can see the producers like you. They’re imagining you on the show – a serious contender. It works. They invite you for a taping in Toronto. You leave the audition. You resist the impulse to jump in the air – arms waving, heals clicking – but you can feel it. This will change your life.
You call your 19-year-old son in Ottawa and tell him to pack his bags. He meets you in Victoria. The two of you take a 9-day trip across the country – towing your treasure behind you. You present your pitch to the Dragons. It works. You get a deal.
Now you have to keep quiet – totally tight-lipped, tell-no-one quiet, for 5-months, until the show airs. Your customers ask, “How’d it go?” You respond, “good”, “went well” – the sort of expressions non-disclosure agreements permit.
The show airs, September 22, 2010. You gather 120 people to watch at the local community centre. Finally, word is out. It travels fast. You receive 700 emails that night, 1500 by Monday morning. Overwhelmed is an understatement.
Customers line up out the door for days. Folks all across the country want to franchise your product. Your life changes overnight.
This is the story of Renaat Marchand and the authentic Belgian waffle business he built, with his family, from scratch, in Victoria, BC– wannawafel.
In the end, Renaat decided not to do the deal with the Dragons. No hard feelings, just didn’t pan out. That hasn’t stopped him.
This winter saw a flurry of activity – meeting, planning, organizing, establishing processes, buying, distribution, lawyers – and the list goes on. In short, it’s a whole lot of work.
Renaat hopes that a recent partnership with business coach, Richard Larkin, is just the thing to help wannawafel hit a franchising homerun – scattering waffle carts across the country.
Life Lessons from a Dragon Slayer
Pay attention. Renaat has an eye for details. A visual artist by trade, he has a knack for noticing. He built his business from scratch because he could. His attention to detail made it possible to create the wannawafel dough in 2009, despite never having baked a waffle in his life.
Be honest. Renaat is a refreshingly straightforward guy. If he has something to say, he’ll say it. If he has trouble, he’ll tell you about it. He doesn’t like surface talk, or searching for ways to say things gently. He’s direct. Sure, it gets him in trouble sometimes, but it’s also the quickest route to the truth. Our reactions are often our most honest responses.
Be passionate about people. You can find Renaat tweeting away on Twitter, or posting to his Facebook wall, but what he really likes, is face-to-face interaction with people. Much of this past winter found him in an office, on a phone, in a meeting, or otherwise away from the shop. Feeling out of touch, he recently rearranged his schedule to spend one day a week back in the shop, connecting with his customers.
Follow your instincts. These days, Renaat goes by instinct. He meets a lot of people, and makes a lot of decisions. In everything he does, he follows his gut feeling. He trusts it. You can too.
There is a solution for everything. As long as you talk to the right people, you can find the right answers. If someone tells you “no”, ask someone else. If something sounds unreasonable, it probably is – ask someone else. If something sounds reasonable, get it in writing. Learn from other people, other businesses, and don’t assume anything. Always go to the source.
You only get one life. Be bold. Renaat’s father died when he was 14. This had a profound impact on his life. There are no second chances. Renaat dreams big. He embraces challenge. And he doesn’t let struggle overcome him.
It’s not about the money (don’t tell Kevin O’Leary): A wannawafel cart goes for about $50,000 – $25,000 for the franchising fee, and $25,000 for the equipment. Renaat could sell a dozen of these to the fastest bidders and be on his merry way with a fistful of cash. But he hasn’t. He won’t. He’d rather sell one cart to a family with a good heart. People he can trust to do business in the same way he does business.
What’s The Best Thing About All of This?
Being a good example. Encouraging other people to follow their dreams – to make goals, and go after them. Too many people give up too soon. Be tenacious.
Renaat doesn’t always recognize the clean-shaven, button-down-shirt wearing guy he sees in the mirror these days. He still expects the reflection of a longhaired artist, a wood-carver who lives in Sooke with his family.
Change happens fast. It’s hard to keep up with ourselves in the face of it. But taking risks, making change, that’s where you find the good stuff – the stuff that dreams are made of.
You can watch Renaat, and his son Arno, awe the Dragons with their waffles, below. Or, better yet, stop by the wannawafel shop in Market Square and taste for yourself. Let me know what you think.