Dragon’s Den hears pitches at DC

Michelle and Jason Murray auditioning for Dragon's Den at DC. Photo credit: Tracey Bowers-Lee

Before the world as we know it changed, CBC reality show Dragon’s Den was on tour holding auditions for its upcoming 15th season.

The show made a stop at Durham College (DC) Oshawa campus March 11, their last one in Ontario for live auditions.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of all non-essential businesses, the show has cancelled all remaining live auditions and switched to screening by video and phone calls.

At the DC auditions, Pickering resident Michelle Murray made a pitch for the show, calling it an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

Michelle and Jason Murray present for Dragon's Den reps at DC
Michelle and Jason Murray present for Dragon's Den reps at DC. Photo credit: Tracey Bowers-Lee

“When I looked to see where they were holding auditions, I saw it as fate that they were holding one so close to home, and on the anniversary of Tyler’s death,” said Murray.

Her inspiration came from her own loss, in 2006, when she lost her first son Tyler at two months old, to hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

“He was born with half a heart, he had no left side of a heart,” said Murray.

She said they weighed their options and decided to do heart surgery to reconfigure Tyler’s, little heart. Tyler had surgery right after birth.

“He flew through the surgery everything was textbook,” said Murray.

After four weeks of care at SickKids hospital, she was able to take Tyler home. His next surgery wouldn’t be until six months old, followed by a final surgery at the age of three.

“It was just one Saturday morning at home he stopped breathing in my arms, we called 911 they came, they rushed him to the hospital but there was nothing they could do. He passed away basically in my arms,” said Murray.

After Tyler’s passing, Murray went on to have three children – Kendra, 12, Joseline, 10 and Trent, 7.

One day while filling out her daughter’s baby book “like all mothers tend to do,” Murray realized she didn’t have one for Tyler.

Murray looked for a book to chronicle Tyler’s short life but couldn’t find anything appropriate.

“I found funeral pamphlets, sombre looking books that lacked creativity,” said Murray.

Michelle Murray holding her product. A book to hold memories of children who have passed away.
Michelle Murray holding her product - a book to hold memories of children who have passed away. Photo credit: Tracey Bowers-Lee

This led her to self-publish ‘I Will Hold You In My Heart Forever, A baby book for little angels.’

“This book is for anyone who’s had a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss,” said Murray.

“Infant loss was not something that was comfortable for a parent to talk about, but these days they feel more comfortable. If you don’t mention the child that passed away, it’s even more heartbreaking,” she said.

When Murray started the business, she invested a lot of time learning about prenatal loss. She also took out a loan and invested $25,000 in the production of the book.

Murray said it costs $17 to make a book and retailers sell it for $39.99. She has sold 1,000 copies.

Her pitch was one of many the Dragon’s Den reps saw at DC. There were entrepreneurs with innovative spins on a vast array of products and services – from a self-warming baby bottle to a vape pen with a high-grade filter so no one can know when you are smoking.

Michelle Ellu, program assistant for reality show Dragon's Den at DC
Michelle Ellu, program assistant for reality show Dragon's Den at DC Photo credit: Tracey Bowers-Lee

Program assistant Meagan Ellul says depending on the city, the show can see up to 250 people. At DC there were more than 50.

“Somewhere like Oshawa we expect to see about 50 people,” said Ellul.

She said when they have completed the tour, the producers and reps will come together and share what they saw across the country. They then decide who they will contact to move on to the next steps.

Ellul said last auditions were to take place on March 28, and prospects would be notified by mid-April, but due to COVID-19 it may take longer.

After the audition, Murray was pleased with how things went.

“I think it went well. I think I got across everything I wanted to say. All the key points kept floating in my head and I think I got them out. Jason helped for when I paused for a second, but I think I recovered I think it was OK,” said Murray.

Murray’s husband Jason said if the book isn’t chosen by the show, it’s not because of anything Murray did or didn’t say.

“Well, I don’t think if they don’t take us it’s not because of anything you forgot or didn’t do, right? They have hundreds of ideas to look at. You left it all in there,” Jason said to his wife.