Discount mulberry group Outlet Arlene Dickinson heads home to Calgary with a dragon
She rents an office building and owns a condo in Toronto and a 19th century farmhouse on 25 acres north of the city. Toronto has been good to her. CBC Television made her famous, and some of the companies in which she invested as a dragon have proven quite successful. But now Dickinson says she ready to spend more time in her home town: Calgary.
In July, the inaugural tenants will move into District Ventures Accelerator, a space for startups in the health care and food sectors that she will open in a building she co owns in Calgary Kensington neighbourhood.
about it as a space in a community where you get early stage companies together and help them through mentoring and leadership, plus investment. It a combination of giving people investment and programming and sharing space, says Dickinson. pouring water on the seed. a heck of a time to return to Alberta the oil price plunge has sparked mass layoffs, and the province just elected its first New Democrat government. Her fellow ex dragon, Kevin O last week called the NDP victory in Alberta horror movie unfolding. It a disaster. she did so many times on TV, Dickinson is quick to refute O views.
frightens me when Kevin says the things he saying, she says. him to say, the lights out, dismisses the entrepreneurial spirit of Alberta. We have been through hard times before. And I don think we can dismiss the premier [Rachel Notley]. She ran a really tight, well run campaign.
Dickinson plans to keep this office open, but sublet some of the space, as she sets sail on new adventures, aided by the profile she earned via the CBC.
opened doors for me that in my wildest dreams I didn think I would have opened, she says.
I called Venture and said, ‘This phone call might change your life’Still, Dickinson earned her success the hard way.
Born in South Africa, Dickinson grew up in Calgary. As she recounts in her lively first book, Persuasion (HarperCollins, 2011), she flunked math several times, and has no formal education beyond high school. She married at 19 and divorced at 30; since she had no job and no home, a judge told her she could see their four kids every other weekend. She parlayed a job selling TV ads into a share of a Calgary marketing firm, Venture Communications. Later she bought out her partners and became Venture chief executive. And her kids moved in with her.
A dozen years ago, Dickinson expanded Venture to Toronto. Still, she was largely unknown in 2007 when Mike Armitage, a young TV producer who sought talent for Dragons’ Den, (then just a year old) flipped through a Profit magazine article on women entrepreneurs and landed on Dickinson.
was really hard to find a dragon at that stage, he recalls. top ones, like Heather Reisman, had already told us to f off. I called Venture and said, phone call might change your life. She was the first person we called who ever heard of Dragons’ Den. We went to see her. We just sat quiet across the boardroom table and we said, might be the one. She had done her hair out all straight. recalls her ambivalence about the TV gig.
wasn sure. I went home and told my kids and they said, Mom, you should do it, because, really, who watches that show anyway? went from no TV to TV superstarIn the end, Dickinson made great TV; her sparring with Kevin O particularly hooked the viewers.
went from no TV to TV superstar, says Armitage. was nobody when she started, and by the time she left she was the queen. She relished it, she owned it. And she from Calgary, which is major underdog status. She brought that easygoing Prairie niceness. top of the exposure, she made money.
total, I am far ahead on my investments. I haven had very many that I have lost money on, says Dickinson. She is wearing a grey dress and a silver Chanel necklace interspersed with pearls, and matching silver hoop earrings.