Socially minded entrepreneur feels confident about Dragons’ Den audition

"(Kelowna) is actually comparable to our Vancouver and Calgary auditions… you have some good entrepreneurs here and some good ideas here."

Donnie Ungaro of Culinary Ink is hoping the Dragons will buy into his ethical food bike business model.

Donnie Ungaro walked away from his audition with the producers of the CBC program Dragons Den Wednesday, feeling pretty confident.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” said the socially minded entrepreneur behind Culinary Ink at the open-call the national broadcaster annually holds in Kelowna.

“I hit the targets I wanted to hit—I feel really good.”

The amount of time the Dragons’ “gate keepers” spent with him indicated they had similarly positive feelings.

After Ungaro made his argument for $50,000 in exchange for 10 per cent ownership of his food bike business, he and two producers left the curtained-off audition space at Okanagan College  to take a look at the bike he parked in the common area. There, producers went quite a bit over the standard five-minute interview, asking questions and checking things out.

If that time out front translates to Dragon approval down the road, Ungaro could be soon rolling his food bikes across North America, helping those most in need along the way.

The thrust of the business model is to help non profit organizations start their own mini social ventures, so they can decrease their reliance on government funding and grants.

“We work with them to provide a business in a box so they can buy and generate their own income from a minimal investment,” he said.

Ungaro says there are no other food bikes in North America, only food trucks.  And, if it isn’t already obvious, the environmental benefits to literally  pedalling one’s wares are significant.

“You save approximately 100 pounds of CO2 emissions over a food truck, daily,” he said, adding that the bikes use biodegradable materials and are powered by battery, propane and  human strength.

Although Ungaro felt good about the interview, there were more than 30 other Kelowna entrepreneurs vying for business support, said Dragons’ Den producer Nicole MacKay.

On average, each year producers send anywhere from 10 to 15 Kelowna residents to Toronto to make their pitch to the real Dragons, said producer

Whether any of them will make it beyond the cutting room floor, however, remains to be seen. Only 100 of the 200 chosen from across the country ever do.

“Chances are OK, but it’s all about the passion and how great the idea is,” said MacKay.

And, chances are,  the great ideas from Kelowna will likely have an Okanagan flavour.

“Every city you go to, you see a different kind of market that people are targeting,” said MacKay. “So I’ve seen a lot of outdoor activities, a lot of golf, boating and that sort of thing… all the fun stuff that people like to do in the Okanagan.”

There were plenty of people with those kinds of ideas, to boot.

“For Kelowna we do really well, considering the size of the city,” she said. “It’s actually comparable to our Vancouver and Calgary auditions… you have some good entrepreneurs here and some good ideas here.”

Those chosen to go to Toronto to pitch with to the Dragons are expecting a call in the next two weeks.

If you or someone you know have been selected, call or email the Capital News and share with us your story.



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