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Biz whiz and TV dragon Michele Romanow coming to Sarnia

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Cathy Dobson

When Michele Romanow was an engineering student at Queen’s University she had fun entering school competitions to win start-up capital for business concepts she dreamed up with a fellow student.

Thus began a meteoric rise in the business world that has made her one of Canada’s most accomplished and recognizable entrepreneurs.

Romanow will be the keynote speaker on Oct. 10 at Sarnia-Lambton Business Week, when she says she will share the story of her success.

“In university, Anatoliy Melnichuk and I spent all our time playing ‘What’s the next million dollar idea?’ and pitching them at the competitions once we thought they were good enough,” said Romanow who started five companies before her 33rd birthday.

She completed her engineering degree but was driven by an entrepreneurial spirit.

“I figured out I’d be a lot better at building businesses than building bridges, she told The Sarnia Journal.

Romanow, 34, is not only a business powerhouse – the only Canadian named to Forbes’ Millennial on a Mission list – she is also a TV celebrity.

This is her fifth season on CBC’s Dragons’ Den where she and her fellow Dragons size up business ideas and select those worthy of investment and support.

She estimates she’s invested in about 20 businesses on the show.

“I look for founders who have the ability to be persistent,” Romanow said. “You have to have the resiliency to try things so many times until they work.

“The tendency on Dragons’ Den is to focus on ideas, but I try not to be fixated on that. I want people who have what it takes to make a business work,” she said.

She also favours e-commerce and technology enterprises.

The competitions she and Melnichuk pitched business ideas at in university were really a lot like Dragons’ Den, she said, adding they continue to be business partners.

Their first venture involved an operation selling sturgeon caviar. It didn’t last long but long enough to bankroll their next project.

She co-founded a consumer deal site called Buytopia.ca, then SnapSaves, an online couponing venture sold to American tech giant Groupon in 2014.

Her latest venture is Clearbanc. It gave tech entrepreneurs more than $100 million in 2018 and is poised to invest $1 billion in 2,000 different companies this year.

Clearbanc was partially inspired by what she saw on Dragons’ Den, Romanow said.

“Such great pitches, such good ideas, and I remember that founders need capital.”

Romanow has made the WXN 100 Most Powerful in Canada list and was named Angel Investor of the Year.  She also co-founded the Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative with Richard Branson to encourage entrepreneurship.

TICKET INFO

Tickets to hear Michele Romanow’s keynote in Sarnia are on sale now. She will speak at the Dante Club during a luncheon Oct. 10 from 11:45 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Cost is $60 per person and includes a hot buffet lunch.  Cash bar. Available online only at www.eventbrite.ca.  Keyword is ‘Michele Romanow Sarnia.’

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