Serial entrepreneur Michele Romanow started five businesses before her 33rd birthday, earning spots on both Forbes’ Top 20 Most Disruptive “Millennials on a Mission” and the list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women, as well as being named the Canadian Innovation Awards’ Angel Investor of the Year in 2018. Maybe best known for her role on Dragons’ Den, the Clearbanc co-founder shares her story, advice, and encouragement for budding Canadian businesses.
Mediaplanet: What led you down the path of entrepreneurship and how did you find success?
Michele Romanow: My first business was a caviar fishery after undergrad. We knew nothing about fishing but there we were, my two business partners Anatoliy Melnichuk and Ryan Marien and I, with our belongings in a Toyota Camry, driving to New Brunswick — but giving up wasn’t an option. We were all in. My success never came from one “eureka!” moment. It came from constant iteration. I sold my company, SnapSaves, to Groupon in 2014. It seemed like an overnight success to many people, but what they didn’t realize was that SnapSaves was the result of eight long years of tough lessons and iteration.
What can we do to push young people toward entrepreneurship?
Young people always hear about the importance of getting traditional work experience before starting a company or joining a startup. But in my experience, rolling up your sleeves and teaching yourself what you don’t know is the best career accelerator out there.
Canada’s been ranked as the second-easiest country in the world to start a business. Why haven’t we produced as many unicorns as other countries?
We need more risk-taking and bigger thinking, and less fear and worry about failure. Canada’s tech scene has enormous potential and in order for us to reach that next level, entrepreneurs need to stop thinking of themselves as underdogs.
What’s the most critical element that startups must get right when they’re scaling up?
Resiliency is the most important thing in any startup. Building a business is hard and you’re going to be met with no’s and roadblocks most of the time. When I invest in entrepreneurs on Dragons’ Den, I’m looking for founders who are quick to bounce back from failure.