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'Dragons' Den' auditions in St. John’s Saturday drew entrepreneurs from near and far

Fairy Door Tours is a partnership between Tina White and her daughter, Samantha Gaulton, which offers the popular tours of 'fairy doors' in Pippy Park and Manuels River. The pair came to the Dragon's Den auditions on Saturday to pitch an idea to expand their business to other places across the country.
Fairy Door Tours is a partnership between Tina White and her daughter, Samantha Gaulton, which offers the popular tours of 'fairy doors' in Pippy Park and Manuels River. The pair came to the "Dragons' Den" audition on Saturday to pitch an idea to expand their business to other places across the country. - Juanita Mercer

The Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s hosted this province’s only “Dragons’ Den” auditions for the cross-Canada search for entrepreneurs for the show’s next season.

The reality show has entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a panel of investors, and drama ensues as viewers wonder if the 'dragons', or investors, will bite.

About ten groups showed up to pitch their business ideas Saturday morning, and while most of the entrepreneurs were from the province, there was one man who came from out of province.

“We’re here today because we want this model to spread so that more kids can be affected, and get them off the phones and the gadgets and get them out and having some fun in nature.” -Tina White, owner and operator of Fairy Door Tours 

Max Legault is an Albertan in St. John’s under unfortunate circumstances – his young cousin died and he flew here for the funeral, arriving to the city at 2 a.m Saturday.

He was asked to read the eulogy, so he was out for a jog later Saturday morning trying to gather his thoughts before writing it. When he came back to the hotel, sweaty and in workout attire, he saw the sign for auditions.

“I thought, let’s try and switch up the mindset and go for it, and see what happens.”

Legault ran up to his hotel room and quickly got ready to audition.

Legault and his wife run Mighty Owls Childcare in Sylvan Lake, Alta.

“We’re one of the leading childcare providers in Alberta. We’re currently undergoing an expansion where we will be the largest childcare provider in Alberta, and it started as an idea on a restaurant napkin a couple of years ago.”

At that time, Legault was working as a mental health counsellor, his wife was pregnant, and they were looking around at daycares to plan for their child’s future.

“Both of us were quite concerned about the state of daycare, and the business of daycare as a whole, so the more we looked into it, the more that we thought this is worth taking a jump into.”

Today, the couple employs 32 people and serves 175 families per month. In 2014, Mighty Owls Childcare was recognized in Sylvan Lake with the “Start-Up Entrepreneur Award”. This year, they were nominated for a "Young Entrepreneur Award of Distinction" at the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction.

“It’s been quite the ride,” said Legault of the four-year journey that brought him to where he is today, pitching an idea to expand the business to a “Dragons’ Den” producer.

“I would love to expand and build future childcare facilities…and so my pitch to them was investment into our company, and I build two childcare facilities in return for a stake.”

One local business that pitched an idea on Saturday was Fairy Door Tours, a mother-daughter team who organize tours in Pippy Park, and occasionally at Manuels River, which feature miniature fairy doors on the trees.

The goal of Tina White and Samantha Gaulton’s business is to get children exploring the outdoors and using their imaginations with the whimsical fairy doors.

The tours proved to be an instant hit in St. John’s – White said they’ve been completely booked ever since they started.

“We’re here today because we want this model to spread so that more kids can be affected, and get them off the phones and the gadgets and get them out and having some fun in nature,” said White.

Gaulton said she sees children show up with their various gadgets in hand, but they quickly want their parents to take them because they’re having so much fun on the tour enjoying the outdoors.

White said their purpose for auditioning was to try to get the show’s ‘dragons’ to help them expand.

“We want their help to turn it into a licensee, franchise type of operation, so we’d like to see them pop up across the country,” said White.

Good On Ya is another Newfoundland and Labrador business that’s run by a mother and daughter team. The pair run a natural skincare company based on the Burin Peninsula, but sell their wares at retailers such as Opal & Onyx and Civic Duty in St. John’s. In an Instagram post, they said they travelled five hours and 20 minutes to audition.

Over the years, several entrepreneurs from the province have appeared on the show, including most recently Ed Barrett, from Goulds, who partnered with his stepbrothers in a company that manufactures and sells an attachment that turns a regular toilet into a bidet.

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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