Innovation

Podcast 20 Transcript: Lessons from Fortune Hunters

Written by Ian Portsmouth

Ian: Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the hot issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses.  I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of PROFIT Magazine.  And we’ve developed this Podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal.

There is a cool new show on CBC News World that explores hot business trends and the entrepreneurs who are chasing them and it’s called Fortune Hunters.  So what are some of these emerging opportunities and what lessons do the Fortune Hunters have to share with the rest of us?  Here to reveal the answers is Dianne Buckner, host and co-producer of Fortune Hunters.  Dianne, welcome to the Business Coach.

Dianne: Thank you very much Ian.

Ian: Well, let’s start for those people who have not seen Fortune Hunters, give us a pricy of the show. >

Dianne: Well, it’s a half hour program, the focus is definitely on business and trends and the ways that entrepreneurs are trying to exploit what they seek consumers doing in the market place.  And we have two taped items on all the shows as well as two experts.  So the first taped item is a Fortune hunter, a startup basically, someone who is just trying to get in on this trend and then we have the experts there to analyze what their prospects might be, talk about the trend in general, give them some advice possibly and at the end of the show we have a segment called “My first million”.  And it’s basically profiles of people who got in on the trend early and have been very successful and have made a lot money.  So we have the founder of GoodLife Fitness, Booster Juice, well, McCain is on the show, the man who built Ro-Nine to a national chain, Sandra Wilson from Roby’ Footwear, some very successful people who also are into trends and into business.

Ian: So why don’t you tell us what are some of these hot trends and how did you pick them? >

Dianne: Well, we basically just started out by doing a lot of research, you know, going to trend websites, there are several, there is a great book out right now called “Micro Trends” written by the CEO of a research company in the U.S., very interesting book.  And we just kind of went with our gut as well.  I host Dragon’s Den also and just from being in the Den and watching all these people pitching the Dragons for investment dollars, I could see that there were certain trends that kept coming up again and again where people thought there was opportunity and so sort of a combination of all those things informed us as to, you know, which trends we feature on the series which is twelve episodes, so we made it twelve trends.

Ian: Right, so among those twelve trends, which were the experts that you have on the show sort of the most keen on and were there any that they thought were sort of duds and that the entrepreneurs probably should not be bothered with? >

Dianne: Well we tried only to pick good trends.  You know we didn’t want people come, you know, what’s the point of watching this show if they are going to hear about a trend that is a complete loser. So most of the ones we picked are ones where there is potential, and so the experts are always pretty high on the trends where their opinion varied was on their view of sort of the prospects of the Fortune Hunters, of the way the business person was trying to cash in on the trend, or the way they set up their company, or the approach they were taking to grow their business.  So that’s where we had a lot of variation in terms of the experts’ opinions.

Ian: One of the big problems with hot trends is they’re hot trends, everybody wants to chase them.  So among the entrepreneurs that you profiled, these startup companies that you profiled on the show, did you see that they were really differentiating themselves from other people who might be pursuing the same opportunity? >

Dianne: In most cases, yes.

Ian: That’s good news.

Dianne: Yes, I mean I think most people realized that if they want to get any kind of a foothold in the market place, they’ve got to have something different.  If somebody else is offering the exact same thing, you know, why would anyone choose yours really.  So most of them had some point of differentiation.

For example, in the exotic food show, we had a woman who has a line of exotic Indian sauces, ready-to-eat sauces.  Well, hers are the only organic ones on the market.  So she had that sort of point of differentiation.  Same thing, another food one we had was relating to health and people wanting to have very healthy products and there was a woman with a type of cereal which again is the only one that is being advertised currently as a functional food.  The “rhino bag”, we have a show about the whole renovation trend and there is a fellow with a company called “Rhino bag” he is based in Belleville and sells these bags all over the country and it is basically a replacement for a dumpster, having a dumpster on your drive-way, or if you are doing renovations or getting ride of a lot of junk.  And he’s got these sort of collapsible bags you can purchase and he takes them away and they are a lot cheaper, and he is actually quite unique in the market place.  So almost everybody I would say had something that they were pointing out was different than their competitors.

Ian: Now I remember seeing the episode that you did on fast fashions which is the idea of having fashions that come to market almost as soon as they’re designed.  One of the entrepreneurs featured who was expanding in Toronto basically said, hey, women in Toronto don’t really know how to dress, we’re going to do great here.  So, you know, that’s a bold statement and a rather daring statement for an entrepreneur to make about his potential customers.  Did you see anything that characterized the entrepreneurs who your panelists thought would do well versus the ones that they thought might not do well?

Dianne: Yes, almost all the entrepreneurs that we profiled are very ambitious.  Like they all had big plans, I would say, whether it was for national distribution or franchise their idea across the country or become a global brand was one of them.  So they all had these, I would say, very big visions.  And the ones that the experts seem to like the best were the people who had what I would call realistic expansion plans.  Like for example, we have an episode coming up about franchising.  And this fellow who lives just outside Toronto in Oxbridge has a fabulous business idea, he’s got high-end camp for dogs. So instead of sending to a kennel for $15, spend $40 and your dog is out in the country side, can swim in the pound if it’s warm and takes hike in the country, you know, it’s like this very high quality care.  And he wants to franchise right across the country.  The experts were very keen on his idea because this whole pet thing is just a huge trend as well.  People, North Americans are spending so much money on their pets, but they were critical of him in the sense that he was trying to go too big too fast.

Our expert was Mac Voisin from M&M Meat shops and he said, you know, when you’re franchising, you really have to expand concentrically, like sort of build out from your center.  And he took ten years for example before he expanded outside of Ontario.  And so, when he looked at our Fortune Hunters plan of, you know, going national within two years with forty locations, he was saying, you know, that’s not a good strategy, that you really need to sort of build out and just start to expand slowly where you can be close to your franchisees, etcetera.  And so, we did have some other Fortune Hunters that had sort of more, I would say, reasonable goals of proceeding sort of a one small step at a time.  And those are the people who seemed to get the best marks from the experts.

Ian: Great, now somewhere near the end of the show, you have a cool little segment where you tell us about hot new products and trends from around the world and ask the panelists whether they think those products are going to succeed.  What would be, you know, the one product that you’ve seen that is super cool, that’s going to do well and what would be the dumbest idea you’ve seen?

Dianne: Well, you know what, that’s a tough one Ian, because we devil just of that little exercises that we try blitz through as many as we can in two minutes.  And we sort of pick whatever the trend may be, what are some of businesses from around the world that are trying to get in on it and it’s been all over the map from a product that you can carry around called “Mom’s bet” which is like a soapless waterless cleaning product which we thought was just a terrible name for it though, “Mom’s bet” to just all kinds of really unusual looking products.  The fashion show you were mentioning had these weird looking shoes that actually look like gloves, you know, had a separate thing for each toe.

But I have to say that there has been almost too many for me to say, you know, what was the most fabulous idea, we€˜ve chosen just really for sort of quirkiness and a little bit for entertainment factor, but also to see the great range of business ideas that are out there all over the world inside these different trends.  And we call it hit or miss and I have to tell you one of the things we’ve discovered from doing some focus groups is that, that’s segment is a little bit of a mess.  They think we’re rushing through them and not giving enough context, so we’re actually going to change the game so that there are just one hit, one miss, can the experts figure out which is which, we won’t reveal, it will still be kind of unusual.  So in terms of what’s hot and what’s not, I would say, for us, as the producers of the show, what’s hot has been listening to our customers, listening to our viewers, and sort of adjusting the show to make it to their needs.,

Ian: Well definitely successful entrepreneurs like to deliberate over any idea that is put in front of them.  Now, Fortune Hunters, it’s a great concept, when we can tune in?

Dianne: Well it’s on Newsworld which is CBC’s  all news channel, it’s Saturdays at 6:30pm Eastern time and then it is rebroadcasted on Sundays at 1:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon also Eastern time.  But we have started putting these shows online as well.  So you could see full episodes by going to CBC.ca/fortunehunters and we’re finding that entrepreneurs are very busy people and they are not always sitting in front of a TV on Saturday at 6:30pm or those times on Sunday.  So it means if it’s convenient to watch them on TV that’s great, but it’s also online.

Ian: Absolutely, thanks very much for telling us about Fortune Hunters.

Dianne: Thank you Ian.

Ian: Dianne Buckner is the host and co-producer of Fortune Hunters on CBC Newsworld.

That’s it for another episode of the Business Coach Podcast.  You can download other installments in this series from BMO.com, profitguide.com or iTunes.  And as always, I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions for future topics.  You can send them to feedback@bmo.com.

Until next time, I am Ian Portsmouth, the Editor at the PROFIT Magazine, and I wish you continued success.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com