By Erica Stirpe
Ali de Bold was anything but ready for her wedding day.
The fourth-year radio and television arts student was in panic mode, looking for a hair salon that could handle her many demands.
De Bold decided to search online for reviews of specific hair salons she had in mind, but she couldn’t find any.
Her fiancé, Alex de Bold, suggested in passing they build a website that offers advice and reviews on services and products for women like her.
But it got her thinking, and in September 2006, Chickadvisor.com was born. Ali de Bold hasn’t looked back since.
Last Saturday, de Bold’s website was featured on Fortune Hunters, a new CBC show developed by the producers of the popular Dragon’s Den.
The program is Canada’s only business show on the trail of hot trends, profiling entrepreneurs on the forefront of Canadian business.
A panel of experts judge whether the business will succeed. The website was designed by the pair to help women across North America make better purchasing decisions on products and services typically unique to women.
Users (there are 3,500 and growing, and in fact 25 per cent are men) may post items that they like, write reviews, rate the products others post and even purchase them online directly from the manufacturer.
The site currently boasts more than 4,000 reviews, 1,500 products and 750 services. De Bold says her idea didn’t initially garner as much praise as she thought it might — especially from male investors.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was told by male investors that they would prefer not to invest in me because they thought I didn’t have enough experience,” she said. “They had a million excuses, but at the end of the day I knew they just had more confidence investing in a man,” she said. “So I took it as a personal challenge to prove them wrong.”
And on Fortune Hunters, de Bold proved her detractors wrong by wowing the judges with her website.
“She’s in a winning space … the social network thing is hot right now,” said Dianne Buckner, the show’s creator and host.
Buckner, a Ryerson graduate, admires de Bold’s ambition but said her success is not guaranteed. She does see a lot of potential in de Bold.
More people are spending time on their computers, she said, so the website has a solid chance at survival.
“She needs to get more traffic on her site,” she said. “It’s hard to predict if it will last. Will she be able to adapt to the next big thing?”
Meanwhile, de Bold has managed to spin her recent success into a show, Where’d You Get That?, on the Slice Network.
Alliance Atlantis hired de Bold to produce the show and she just signed up for a second season. She describes the concept as “the opposite of What Not to Wear.”
The show features de Bold walking the streets of Toronto, asking women who catch her eye where they bought something that looks stylish.
While she’s enjoying her sudden success, managing school, Chick Advisor, her television program and her busy life isn’t a slice of pie, she said.
“I don’t sleep very much and I have no social life. You have to sacrifice a lot,” she said. “It’s changed my life in that I have no life, but it’s also been really exciting.”