In the Dragons’ Den: Lights, camera, action … it’s sink or swim for Palapa Tours

Editor's Note

Ottawa entrepreneurs Mike Karpishka and Gaby Saucedo made the cut for this season of CBC’s Dragons’ Den. OBJ asked them to recount what it was like to prepare for and pitch their business, Palapa Tours, in front of the fearsome dragons! You’ll be able to see how they fared when the episode airs on Oct. 20. In this third segment, Mike and Gaby finally face the dragons.


Let’s do this. 

We arrived in Toronto on May 8 and delivered our booth to the CBC studios. Because we were unable to bring our boats, our tiki builder managed to secure, on loan for us, a tiki bar that he built for a client. It was big. All our props required the rental of a 24-foot cube truck. We were told to be in studio at 7 am the following day. All our props would be ready for us and our producer would walk us through some last-minute details.

Once in studio, we were given a small, curtained dressing area and were encouraged to stay there (still due to COVID). We were told that we would be the third to film so to be ready around 11 am. There was lots of buzz going on outside our holding area. 

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

Once everyone pitching that day (four companies) got settled, we were assembled by the production crew and given some basic pointers of what to expect. After that, each producer had a chance to review their portfolio with CBC’s technical team, directors and the camera guys. Our assigned producer did a walkthrough of our pitch and questions were asked, props were modified. We were good to go! Then we waited and practiced our lines. 

Our biggest challenge was still being able to articulate that, although we have solid revenue numbers with Ottawa Palapa Tours, our ask to the dragons was going to be part of the nationwide expansion with Palapa Tours International, which has yet to generate revenue. Unlike a franchise with royalties being paid, our expansion model derives revenue from licensing the vessels through an operator’s agreement. Realistically, a $250,000 ask for 15 per cent of the company is not something we really needed. A $250,000 investment would add three to four boats to the corporate fleet, but would still require a hands-on operator. We knew the dragons would be too busy for that kind of business investment. 

We voiced our concerns to our producer that we had yet to settle on a pitch angle for the financials. He suggested that we keep it simple and lump everything together in one ask. Have Palapa Tours International own and operate Ottawa Palapa Tours as its flagship business. This strengthened our numbers and eliminated being scolded for a $1.5-million valuation. We agreed to go that route. 

It was time to revisit our script and make the appropriate modifications for the numbers. We knew that all exposure would be amazing across the Dragons’ Den audience. We have an amazing business concept with Palapa Tours and hundreds of five-star rating reviews. Our biggest fear was to stand solid on our revenue model and not stumble under the scrutiny of the dragons’ cross-examination of our financials. Ultimately, not knowing your numbers is the number-one downfall of many pitches. Having a dragon invest but re-evaluate your company’s entire worth, in our opinion, is kind of embarrassing.

“Gaby, Mike, let’s get you hooked up with the microphones, you are up in 10 minutes.”

We’ve got this! Or do we? Now the nerves really start to play havoc and your heart is beating a few beats faster.

We are led into a back area of the stage and instructions are given on where to stand and how to walk into the den. Surprisingly, we were told that we would enter the den twice. The first time, there would be cameras behind the dragons. We would walk in, stand on our mark and smile, then wait for the director to say cut and walk back out. This helped with the nerves since we were given time to digest the lights and cameras and the dragons before walking in a second time. 

Lights … Camera … Action … 

“Aloha, my name is Gaby Saucedo and I am from Ottawa, Ontario.”

“And I am Mike Karpishka, also from Ottawa, Ontario and we are Palapa Tours. We are here today asking for a $250,000 investment for a 15 per cent stake in the business …” 

So how did it go? We are under a non-disclosure about the results. But what we can say is that we are not disappointed with how it went. Fifty minutes in the studio and we know it will be edited down to seven or eight minutes for CBC’s viewing audience. But we can share some highlights and we hope that these do make it on air: 

  • The dragons were extremely caught up in the moment chatting about tiki boats. Most notably was Robert Herjavec (also on Shark Tank) who has smaller tiki boats cruising in front of his waterfront property in California.
  • The dragons had to be stopped from endlessly chatting about how cool the idea was and asked, “Can we discuss numbers now?” This was quite funny given that, most of the time, the dragons almost immediately focus on the financials. 
  • Two of the dragons commented that this was “the best lifestyle business” they had ever seen.

Gaby and I will be sharing our thoughts about the episode on social media after it airs. We’re very curious to know what the dragons said about us after we left the den. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and at and read about our reactions and thoughts at

Check us out with the dragons on CBC Dragons’ Den on Oct. 20 at 8 pm. For a sneak preview, watch here:

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