From Barber To Dragon

Want to be wealthy? Successful at pitching your invention on Dragons’ Den? How about free of holiday-debt in January? 

Now that the annual shopping season is underway, Ottawa’s über-shopper checks in with Canada’s voice of financial reason. He’s a TV personality who doesn’t hesitate to say “No!” to a hot new item. She’s a fashion and lifestyle blogger who’s apt to say “Yes! Yes! Yes!”


David Chilton and Loukia Zigoumis.

by Loukia Zigoumis

Shopaholic that I am, I don’t spend time perusing the books in the finance section of the book store; that’s why I never read Canada’s all-time best-selling book, The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton. A few years ago, however, I attended the Ottawa launch of his second book, The Wealthy Barber Returns. We chatted a bit, and after hearing him speak to his thousands of local fans, I decided to read The Wealthy Barber Returns. The book was hilarious and his language was down to earth as he gave people advice on being more responsible with their money. I could actually understand what I was reading! And since it was a page-turner, it was also a book I read in one night. 

Not that I had any plans to stop spending. Sadly, Chilton’s financial tips fell on ears with my hands over them. After all, reading is one activity; shopping is another. Actually, it’s one of my favourites, so my habits didn’t change much.  Still, with three of his books scattered around my house, I am often reminded of the advice that has helped millions of Canadians get a handle on their finances. And maybe, just maybe, I am starting to feel better when I say things like “I just cant afford it. 


If you’re not familiar with David Chilton from his books, surely you’ve seen him on Canada’s DragonsDen. The show has been on air for several years and he just wrapped up filming his third season. New episodes air on CBC each Wednesday night. 

Reconnecting with him recently, I learned that moving into the world of television was a natural transition for the charismatic moneyman. He stays busy not only during the taping of DragonsDen but also with speaking gigs across Canada throughout the year. 

I enjoy catching up with David because it’s funny to see how bewildered he looks when I tell him I truly do love to shop and spend money. I always follow up, though, with a question about how to get a handle on my finances; he laughs, knowing old habits endure. Here’s what he has to say:

I know its hard to answer this question in only a couple of sentences, but what is some basic financial advice you can give others needing help?  

People who live within their means are happier. Everything has to be done within the context of affordability. Focus on paying down your debt. Its really important to free up cash flow so that you can eventually start saving. Its important to live within your means. Saving should come before spending. This is key to financial success. 

More than a few Ottawa entrepreneurs have appeared on Dragon’s Den over the years. For instance, Almonte’s Al Howard has pitched the TipAlert® toilet-seat alarm and Nana Osei has presented Bôhten Eyeglasses, his line of socially responsible eyeglasses. 

What is some advice you would give people who want to be on the show? 

Know your math, at least the basic terms, and have a good marketing plan. If someone’s accounting knowledge is zero, I probably wont make a deal. Most good entrepreneurs have a good understanding of the basic math of the business. Be yourself; dont have too many props and dont be too gimmicky. Sometimes people put too much effort into the props and gimmicks. We want to know about your idea. We want to know why youre doing this and what youre doing. Establish and create demand.

What something about the show your viewers may not know? 

I love the due diligence that goes on after the show. Some of the deals made on the show dont work out, but the ones that do are really great to work on. I love actually closing the deal [and] being involved with the entrepreneurs. I really enjoy the partnerships made from the deals. There have been a lot of great success stories, from Awake chocolate bars to Steeped Tea, and Ugly Christmas Sweaters. 

 What is the best part about being on DragonsDen?

It sounds corny, but truthfully, the best part is the friendships that Ive formed with the other Dragons. Its unusual to form good friendships late in life. Its great hanging around outside of the show, too. The second thing I love about being on Dragons’ Den is the post-taping involvement with the people Ive made business deals with, and helping out. 

Whats next for you? 

Not sure yet. Id like to travel for work less [since] 200 days a year on the road is tough.  

Do you plan to write another book?

I dont think Ill write another book. I have a few ideas, and Im enjoying helping my children with their business plans and ideas right now. I have thought about writing play, though.

Whatever comes next for David, it’s sure to be a success story, even if it’s a play. In the meantime, you can catch him on Dragons’ Den as he makes deals and gets to see all sorts of new finds—without ever having to go to the mall.






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