Posts Tagged "Robert Tang"

On Wednesday, September 15th at 8:00 p.m., CBC will air the “Dragons’ Den Season 3 Special”, in which danceScape will be included as part of the lessons learned from the Den.  There have been times where I thought, “Why, oh why, did we put ourselves through that experience?”  The irony, however, is that we weren’t actually supposed to be on the show.

What had happened was that one of the producers, who was also a producer of CBC Television’s other business show, “Fortune Hunters”, emailed us, as danceScape was one of the companies that they had profiled a few months ago.  The focus of that show was on Baby Boomers, and how Beverley, myself, and our instructor team were teaching Baby Boomer women and couples to dance and keep fit through our Ballroom, Latin, Salsa and danceTONE programs.  They sent a Canadian film crew to shoot in Burlington, and even arranged an American crew to follow us to Menlo Park in California where we were pitching the famous venture capitalist, Tim Draper, about investment funding.  I’ll have more to share in a future blog about our experiences on Fortune Hunters, but for now, back to the Den …

Dragons’ Den Season 3 was in production and they were in the process of casting for a new Dragon to join the team.  Laurence Lewin, co-founder of La Senza and one of the original Dragons, was very ill at the time, battling lung cancer.

Robert Tang on Dragons' Den with Beverley Cayton-Tang

The producers asked if we were interested in practising our pitch at one of these Dragon auditions.  They made it very clear that we would NOT be in the show.  Initially, we were unavailable to do this, as we were in the midst of preparing for our Spring workshop season.

A few months later, they contacted us again.  

This time, we were available, although still a bit hesitant because we had seen Seasons 1 and 2, and how vicious some of the personal attacks were from the Dragons.  “Why would anyone subject themselves to a fate seemingly worse than death?”, we said to ourselves. 

The producers emphasized again that it would never go to air, so we thought, “Why not?”  If anything, it would be an interesting once-in-a-lifetime experience that would enable us to further develop and practice our business pitch.  As well, it would provide the perfect excuse to drive into downtown Toronto for some shopping!

We arrived at the CBC studios mid-morning on a Wednesday with our notes and copies of our “For Absolute Beginners” Ballroom Dancing instructional DVD set in hand.  We had done some practising the night before, but because we weren’t the ones being auditioned, we didn’t feel any pressure.  Maybe some nervousness, but not really pressure. After all, it was the potential new Dragons who were in the hot seat.

There were about eight other entrepreneurs invited to pitch, but as we introduced ourselves, we realized some of them were actually auditioning to be on the real show.  As we sat in the waiting area, we noticed a few people who had that “deer-in-headlights” look. 

The producer that had worked with us on Fortune Hunters came up to say hello, gave us a quick briefing, and reassured us again that we were there only to help them out with the auditioning process of four potential new Dragons.  She added that Kevin O’Leary (yes, THE infamous “Kevin O’Leary” … the Dragon who makes wannabe entrepreneurs and babies cry with a single glance) would be part of the panel. 

There was a moment of stunned silence between Beverley and myself.   “OK, then,” I thought, “This is going to be interesting.”

The first victim was called to the set.  About ten minutes later, the next victim.  Five minutes after that, it was our turn.  It was not looking good, especially after seeing the glazed look on the other two as they passed us. 

Beverley and I took a deep breath and followed the producer onto the set.  It was pitch dark, except for an area where lights were positioned around a lineup of chairs. As we scanned the chairs, my eye caught the dreaded Dragon, Kevin O’Leary, in the centre.  At least, he was smiling.  Or was that sneering? 

We immediately recognized one of the other Dragon hopefuls, who was a guest panelist on a few episodes of Fortune Hunters.  We also recognized the Lady Dragon hopeful, a winner of many business awards including top entrepreneur of the year.  We didn’t recognize the last two hopefuls, however. 

Kevin made a comment to the Director, “OK, are you going to give us some REAL businesses?”  He was unaware that Beverley and I were only a few feet away, and seconds from making our pitch. 

The Director then positioned us in front of the Dragons, beside a small table where we placed our DVDs.  The Dragon hopeful from Fortune Hunters smiled at us and said, “Hey, I recognize you guys!”  We smiled back and said that we enjoyed watching him on Fortune Hunters, and that we knew two of his employees who happened to be students at the studio.  Whew, that broke the ice!

After some lighting adjustments and sound checks, the director indicated that we could start whenever we were ready.  And so, our pitch began. 

“Hello Dragons, my name is Robert Tang and this is Beverley Cayton-Tang and we are the founders of danceScape, a dance learning and entertainment company based in Burlington, Ontario.  We are here today to seek investment funding of ….”  OK, got through that part without stumbling.

The Lady Dragon immediately started to ask questions.  Then the others chimed in.  Kevin was quiet.  It was as much about each of the Dragon hopefuls trying to get “air time” as it was about our business pitch.  Because there was no pressure on us, we felt very natural and could respond to their intense grilling. 

We were there for business advice and mentoring, and we can honestly say that Kevin, the one dragon that we feared, actually included in his exchange some business tips for us.  It then went into the final round, where the Dragons started to indicate if they would invest or not.  The other two Dragons who were the least vocal of the group indicated that they would not invest. 

Much to our delight, the Lady Dragon hopeful indicated that she was interested in investing!  The other Dragon hopeful from Fortune Hunters indicated we were not a fit with the type of company that he was looking for, but felt we had a solid viable business concept.  Kevin was also out, but he advised us to hire someone who could quickly and easily pull together a more formal business plan.  We thanked the panel and handed each of them a copy of our DVD. 

To the Lady Dragon, I was so excited that I said, “Could I have your business card,” to which all the other Dragons laughed.  Oops, breach of protocol! We then headed back to the waiting area. 

The producer who escorted us to the set came up excitedly behind us and said that the director and other producers were very impressed with our performance.  And that they wanted us to be on the real show which would be taping in a few months.  She started to fill us in on what would happen next.

We were, of course, extremely flattered! And the fact that we broke through to one of the auditioning Dragons gave us hope.  After all, she was no light-weight business person even if she was the only person on the panel who could appreciate the business of dance.  Her reputation and success had been reported in all the top tier business publications.    

I’ll have more to share about the actual taping of the show in a subsequent blog, but for now, here is the “least painful” part of the excerpt:

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Welcome to my official blog!

Welcome to my official blog!

Posted By on Sep 8, 2009

It’s hard to imagine that it has been almost 10 years since I first contemplated leaving the corporate world to become a “Ballroom Dance Instructor” with Beverley, the love of my life.

It sounds crazy in hindsight.  

But those inner voices – or maybe it was just innocent blind faith – said that it was the right time to do it.  Just as those voices are saying now that it’s the right time to start this blog.

Just who is Robert Tang?  Also known as Terence (Terry) Tang. Or Lit-Meng Tang. 

Well, my official resume states that I am a former 3-time Canadian and 2-time North American Undefeated Amateur Standard Ballroom Champion.  Yes, like in “Dancing with the Stars”.

It also states that I graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton with a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics, as well as from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto with a Masters in Business Administration.  (I still have nightmares about writing exams during that period.)

Robert TangIf you search on Google, you might find some vague reference to how shortly after my birthday in September of 2000, two “Angels” from Seattle, Washington, granted Beverley and I a once-in-a-lifetime-“wish” to be able to quit our jobs – myself, as a Marketing-Communications Manager for a software company, and Beverley as a Manager of Interlibrary Loan Services at a government agency – to start up a company that could possibly change the dance industry.  How cool that I could call myself “President and CEO”, even though I really didn’t feel ready at the time.  Nor that I earned that title.  The “Internet Bust” happened shortly after that.

You might also find how that “wish” later became the invisible “dot” in our life line that connected us to the legendary Tim Draper, the father of “Viral Marketing”.  Now, there’s someone with an impressive resume!  And how this was all documented on CBC Television’s “Fortune Hunters”.  

If you dig a little deeper, you might come across another reference how we were selected to participate on CBC Television’s “Dragons’ Den”.  If ever there were a “Hell”, I have lived it (any sadists out there can view the repeat of our episode of appearance in the finale Dragons Den Special episode coming up in September).  Upon further reflection, I can honestly say that this show more accurately represents my purgatory, as it has propelled me to start dealing with personal demons of acute shyness and dyslexia that have plagued me for most of my life.

And, if you happened to tune in to VIVA Television in August, you might have seen Beverley and me on “Healthy Gourmet”.  That experience has restored my faith that there could be a God after all! 

But this is only part of my life story.

Chinese astrology states that there are two major fate cycles for people: one is the 10-year cycle, the other is the annual cycle.  And these cycles can foretell the rise and fall of our destiny, as represented by Stems and Branches, or through the five elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. 

Not that I believe entirely in Chinese astrology, mind you.  But having emigrated from Malaysia to Canada in 1969 with my mom, Judy (Lynita Mun Pin), and my dad, Aaron (and no, he’s not Jewish!  His Cantonese name is Kok-Chew), there are many aspects of their spirituality and faith that I and my sister, Selina (Kwai Lan), have now come to appreciate.  I’ll have more to say on this subject later.

Beyond Chinese astrology, scientific research about passion and performance in sport does reveal that performance at an “Expert” level in activities such as  chess and music (e.g., Ericsson et al., 1993; Ericsson& Lehmann, 1996), as well as sports (Baker, Côté et al., 2003; Starkes, 2001) necessitates a sustained involvement in deliberate practice for at least 10 years!  In other words, if you work at something you love long enough, you might actually become good at it.

So, by way of this blog, I have set as a personal mission to reflect on my trials and tribulations over the past decade’s cycle, as well as to take time to capture life’s experiences and lessons as they happen during the next 10 years! 

I recently came across this video from someone who has always inspired me:

It will indeed be challenging to trace all the “dots” from my life path to (from) those of family, friends, and associates.  But it will be interesting and perhaps one day insightful to discover how today’s dots will connect to the dots of tomorrow.  As Steve Jobs states in his speech, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward.” 

For those of you who may be passing by on your online journey through the web, and momentarily stopping by this blog, I hope that you will share how you are transcending your own temporary trials and tribulations, or pursuing your passions.  I also hope that this blog may inspire you to connect the dots in your life.  If it does, drop me a line at [email protected] or post your link and comments here, as I’d love to hear from you.

If a video could sum up my life’s philosophy, it would be this: 

 So, let’s DANCE!  Or get off the floor!!! 😉

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