Hi, I’m John Evans, a Canadian entrepreneur who has focused on legitimizing and expanding businesses within traditionally ‘underdeveloped’ industries by utilizing advanced business development strategies.
I have experience running or being a part of small businesses growing up in Brockville, Ontario – however my journey really began as a student painting franchise owner while attending the University of Calgary. As a College Pro franchise owner at the age of 21, I entered the contracting world and saw initial success by including my signature ‘stir the pot’ methods with an emphasis on marketing, sales strategy, and internal people development within my company. I won every major internal award within the franchise company and in 2012 I decided to branch out on my own. Using my experience in the painting industry, I saw what a professionally branded and business-development focused company could do in the untouched parking lot services industry.
It was not always that straight forward. Let’s rewind the clock back to my second year of University. Much like many university students, I was unsure of where my path would take me. It was frustrating to have so many ideas, energy and confidence to make some magic happen with my life – but I did not know where to start. I remember watching Dragons’ Den for the first time back in 2008. It was an immediate lightbulb moment. I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I became a huge fan of Dragons’ Den and would often cite the show for inspiration from not only the Dragons’ but also the entrepreneurs brave enough to put it all out on the line on national television for a chance to bring their business to the next level.
Flash forward 10 years from that moment to November 2018. EverLine has been growing not only in our home branch in Calgary to a seven figure plus business, but our franchise system is growing fast across Canada with franchisees making big waves in their respective markets. I was in expansion mode. One weekend morning I caught a rerun of the show while I was thinking about our next steps in how we would promote our business as a franchise opportunity. The idea came across after watching another franchise company successfully pitch in the Den – I thought, this could be a great opportunity for us. I patiently waited for the announcement of Season 14 audition dates and checked their website every week.
Finally at the beginning of February, the website was updated to allow for a written application, and dates that in-person auditions would be happening in Calgary. It was go-time. I filled out a rock-star application, then a couple of weeks later I appeared downtown Calgary for their in-person auditions. That was a really fun experience – there were great people from all over Southern Alberta eager to make their dream come true – all with their own opinions of the show and with different shapes and sizes of businesses. I gave the audition my all – the Producers would mimic questions as you would see on the show – they are looking for someone who will be entertaining and will provide a great segment. I focused my pitch on what our segment would look like and how it would be fun to have the Dragons’ painting lines on set.
A couple of months later, I received a phone call from the show that we were being invited to film in front of the Dragons’ in Toronto. I was absolutely over the moon excited that out of 2500+ applications – we made it through. Then it hit me, I have to prepare for the most important pitch of my life and deliver it smack dab in the middle of our busiest season at EverLine- May. The pitch did not leave my mind at all – like an athlete beginning training for the big game. I had to come up with a segment that would be a lot of fun for the Dragons to get engaged in our business, for viewers to enjoy watching it, and to get across the nitty-gritty of asking for an investment from Canada’s top business leaders. It took several drafts but I was able to get the pitch down to a 60- second spiel, that included a demonstration of the line painting work and capture the ‘feeling’ of EverLine and what we were about.
Then came the week of filming. I opted to fly to Toronto several days in advance to become comfortable, well-rested and to give ample time to prepare my pitch, memorize the financials of 3 different companies over a past/present/future timeline. I was pacing around the hotel room, reciting the pitch at different speeds, interruptions and other variables to simulate the Den as much as possible. Failure was not an option.
Filming Day. I woke up early, got a good workout in, listened to inspirational songs to get me totally pumped and headed to the CBC Studios downtown Toronto. Our Edmonton and Saskatoon franchise owners, Dylan McCann and Nigel Baxter, the first two owners who took a leap of faith our brand, were proud participants and were part of the pitch so that I could show the Dragons’ that we are providing results across Canada as a team. I was supported by our close friends and partners, Cameron Aiton and Alex Aselstyne who came with us to set to provide support and be a part of this journey together.
We were scheduled to film at the end of the day. It was a long wait. I kept my heart rate going, light jogs/jumping jacks – then the call came – “EverLine is on deck”. I walked up the stairs in Studio 40 and saw the Dragons’ Den set through the windows. As I waited .. I took some deep breaths and heard “3.. 2…1…” and off I went.
Walking down the famous Dragons’ Den stairs was surreal. It was absolutely an out of body experience. When I got to the bottom, I saw all six Dragons – Jim, Michelle, Vincenzo, Arlene, Lane and Manjit – all staring at me – waiting for me to make my move. The days of being an armchair quarterback were gone – I was in the game. The pitch began …. This is it. Adrenaline took over.
I have been in some tough and stressful meetings in my career – but none were like that. Coming at me was rapid fire question after question, each trying to poke holes in our business model. Funny moments, frustrating moments – moments of true entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur connection between a group of successful Canadian business people looking to invest their hard earned money into a small company looking for a break. It was a beautiful dance of people getting to know each other and I am so glad to have experienced it. The Dragons’ are all very nice people. They are fair but firm. When you go to them with a pitch, you better have substance. They are experienced enough to figure out what will work and what is BS right away. All you can do is give it everything you got – hold nothing back.
After filming, it was an agonizing wait to hear if we would air. Even after filming, it is competitive to get on air. As the producers prepared for the season, the pitchers are not updated until it is 100% confirmed that they will be on air. It was a good sign that 1 second of our pitch was showcased in the Season 14 trailer – however I tried not to get my hopes up – things can change. The wait was even more painful as the season started – I was not told anything even after 5 episodes into the first season. Finally, I received the email – we would be featured in the 2-hour season finale that showcases companies that are industry disruptors – a phrase that was included in my opening pitch. The feeling of making it all the way from being in my small condo in University dreaming of being a business owner – to successfully having a pitch aired in such a special episode was euphoric. It will always be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
EverLine will take the Dragons’ Den experience and utilize it to continue our path of consistent success. We are a better company as a result of it and we will continue the trailblazing paths into parts unknown as we expand the business for our valued clients, franchise owners and staff – as we continue seeing the company act as a vehicle for our own personal and professional growth.