We Chat With Brampton Entrepreneur That Got a Deal on Dragons Den
IB: First and foremost, congratulations on a very successful appearance on Dragon’s Den. How are you feeling at this very moment?
Balbir Sohi: Thank you. I am very happy to see that my business idea has been recognized and accepted by established business personal. This exposure at a national level has brought the mobile hygiene practice and moreover Independence dental hygiene clinics in the forefront.
IB: What do you think was it about your pitch for “Smiles on Wheels” that really got the dragons interested?
Balbir Sohi: The Dragons, who themselves are successful business persons, got interested as Smiles on Wheels is an innovative way of delivering the dental hygiene care to the clients. The busy lifestyle of the millennials is a reason for them to ignore their oral hygiene. The seniors with mobility issue also find it hard to get their regular dental hygiene care needs met. Smiles on Wheels, by attending their home or business helps them overcome this excuse. Mobile health care service delivery is the future as the lifestyle is getting busier.
IB: “Smiles on Wheels” is truly an innovative way of bringing healthcare services directly to patients. Why do you feel this method is important and do you see more health services adopting this model?
Balbir Sohi: As I mentioned earlier, the millennials, seniors and people with mobility and ride issues find it difficult to visit a health care professional, specially for preventative care. The mobile delivery model helps them to be proactive about preventative care. It is harder for people with busy schedules, shiftwork or families with young children to find time for dental hygiene needs and smiles on wheel provides the solution for this problem.
IB: Before Dragon’s Den, what local resources did you utilize to help get your business off the ground?
Balbir Sohi: I used my own funds for the start of the first vehicle, advertisement and other expenses. I got loan from TD bank for the second vehicle for the retrofitting but continue to use my own funds for other expenses.
IB: Ultimately Jim Trellving offered you a deal of $240,000 for 25 per cent, which would allow you to six of these vehicles on the road serving patients across the country. What do you admire most about Jim and what did your experience with him teach you about investors?
Balbir Sohi: Jim Trevling is a successful business person, with expertise in franchise business and has several such businesses like Boston pizza and Mr. Lube. His experience fits my vision of franchising the business all over Canada. He will be a perfect match and guide for attaining my goal of owning a fleet across Canada.
IB: What’s been the response from fellow Brampton residents regarding your business and the success you’ve gained on Dragon’s Den?
Balbir Sohi: I have received an overwhelming response from family, friends and even strangers congratulating me on this creative business idea. The Canadian and Ontario Dental Hygiene associations have also sent me congratulatory messages. There have been numerous inquiries from other hygienists wishing to start a mobile hygiene practice and be part of Smiles on Wheel. I have also received calls from prospective clients for their dental hygiene care needs.
IB: What are your thoughts on the entrepreneurial culture here in Brampton? It seems that city and its officials really want to foster homegrown businesses. Do you feel this is the case?
Balbir Sohi: I have received a very mixed response from the city to assist me in my business. The Brampton entrepreneur centre have guided me in the initial stages of my business. The mayor's office has been encouraging and provided support in my business.
IB: What’s next for “Smiles on Wheels” and Balbir Sohi?
Balbir Sohi: The encouragement and positive response because of the airing of Smiles on Wheels on dragon's den has opened several doors for the expansion of Smiles on Wheels. The progress of the business has shifted into next gear and I am working towards expansion and start franchising in the near future.
IB: What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to somebody pitching a business idea?
Balbir Sohi: Be prepared. Ready to answer questions from the Dragons, they may and will ask questions about the finances, profits, costs and how long the business has been running. The evaluation of the company at the time of pitching should be right, not over valued. They are established business persons and will know from the discussion if your business is worth spending money in.
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