By Debbie Hernandez
Arlene Dickinson turned up the heat on hundreds of Ryerson students last Tuesday.
The Ryerson Marketing Association (RMA) Presents: “Arlene Dickinson – Why bother with marketing?” conference sold out in 24 hours, and still drew a large crowd outside the Sheraton Centre on Queen Street West.
Best known for her role on the hit CBC show Dragon’s Den, Dickinson is also owner and CEO of the marketing firm Venture Communication, and one of the main investors behind Balzac’s Coffee Roasters.
“You have a high chance of success, but you have to be willing to take the risk,” said Dickinson, who added that she believes technology is making it easier than ever for startups to get their products on the market.
Jasmitaa Chhabra, president of the RMA said, “One of my key take-aways from [Dickinson’s] talk was to think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
She gives me hope because she’s a woman and a CEO who’s made it big with a marketing background.” Dan Donlon, vice president of internal relations at the RMA, said he follows Dickinson’s mantra, “Before you spend a cent, have a strategy.”
The RMA’s strategy in planning the event was to place several clocks throughout the Ted Rogers School of Management that counted down the seconds until the start of the event. Dickinson’s attendance was kept secret to build up curiosity and suspense.
“Marketing is not a hundred per cent science,” Dickinson said. “It’s some science and a hell of a lot of art. You get too hung up on research and you can’t make decisions. You have to be a keen observer of humans – human nature, human behavior, human interaction.”
Chhabra agrees that understanding a consumer is about applying business knowledge as well as sociology and psychology.
Dickinson refuses to invest in any idea or product unless she’s truly passionate about it.
“Think of yourself as a brand,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to be who you are.
That’s how I think you should market yourself.” Chhabra feels this attitude is transferable to all aspects of life and business.
“Do what you want because you love to,” Chhabra said, “and not because it’ll return on investment financially or because you’ll make a profit. Because you won’t be successful unless you love it.”
“If it’s not something you want to wake up to and give one hundred per cent to, work ten to twelve hour days for, and make sacrifices professionally and personally for, you’re not going to make returns and rewards.”
Donlon said the event turned out to be one of the biggest and most rewarding projects for him during his five years at Ryerson.
“Fear of failure is fear of living,” Dickinson said. “I don’t know any entrepreneurs who haven’t failed several times.
“I’ve failed so many times that I’ve written books about it.”