Video: Dragon’s Den Arlene Dickinson talks about wine, women, business

Arlene Dickinson, in the video chat below, is best known as a judge on the hit TV show Dragons’ Den as well as advising struggling companies on The Big Decision.

She’s the owner and CEO of Venture Communications, a powerhouse agency focused on marketing strategy, has been inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Hall of Fame and is the mother of four children.

She recently published a book called Persuasion as well as a line of luxury products with the same brand name, including skin care, chocolate, coffee, and what we’re going to talk about today: wine…

Before we dive into your wine, let’s talk about your approach to Persuasion since it’s part of the blend in all that you do. How can you be persuasive without being aggressive?

Tell me about your three pillars of business: honesty, authenticity, reciprocity (win-win).

Do women tend to take this approach to persuasion more than men?

Why do many women in business and other fields underestimate themselves?

Best advice you give to young women heading into business?

Biggest inspiration for you in business, most influenced your work style?

You’re deluged with requests for advice, on Twitter alone someone seems to be tweeting at you every 10 seconds: how do you handle it?

With all your success and fame, how do you manage to stay grounded?

Let’s segue into wine: If you had a winery owner or proposing one on the Dragon’s Den and one on The Big Decision, tell me how the shows would be different and on which aspects of the business you’d focus.

You’re a big proponent of marketing to drive business results: How does the wine industry need to improve marketing overall? How about Canadian wine?



Natalie: Arlene Dickinson is best known as the judge on the hit TV show Dragon’s Den, as well as advising struggling companies on the ‘big decision’. She’s the owner and CEO of Venture Communication, a powerhouse agency focused on marketing strategy. She’s been inducted into Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Hall of Fame and she’s the mother of four children. With all of her spare time, she randomly published the book called Persuasion, as well as a line of luxury products with the same brand name, including skincare, chocolate, coffee and what we’re going to talk about today – wine, welcome Arlene.

Arlene: Hi!

Natalie: Great! I’m glad you could join me today, big fan of your book.  We’re going to focus on the wine but before we dive into that, I would love to hear a little bit from you about your approach to persuasion because I think it’s part of a blend, in all that you do. So how do you advise people to be persuasive without being aggressive?

Arlene: Well you know, I really believe that there’s three pillars to persuasion. Principle persuasion because a lot of people think about persuasion as something that’s either about manipulation, or coercion or somehow getting somebody to do something that they don’t want to do. And so I believe that Principle Persuasion is all about being genuine, like telling people exactly who you are and being exactly the person that you are. Showing up, same in business as in personal life and being authentic which is you know, being who you are, being honest, being exactly the person you say you are and believe you’re going to win-win. So if you believe in a win-win, if you are genuine about what you’re trying to do and you’re honest and you’re authentic and then I think people will absolutely follow you and do things like you.

Natalie: Excellent, and do you think women take a different approach to persuasion than men? I know that could lead to a big generalization. Have you noticed some differences?

Arlene: Yes, I think that women find… I actually want to characterize that as a yes and no. I think sometimes in life, I think women can be very authentic and very genuine and honest, but I think sometimes in business they feel they have to put on a mantle or something different. Whereas a man doesn’t seem to have that same challenge. They tend to show up exactly as they are expect you to accept them. In women in business sometimes we get in a rut, where we believe we have to be someone different than what we really are, which is too bad, I don’t think we do.

Natalie: Okay, and do you think that you know when it comes women in business, there’s some kind of poll or a conflict between self-doubt and success. Do you think women tend to struggle with that more?

Arlene: For sure, I mean we, you know I certainly think that most entrepreneurs in general struggle with doubt. I think that’s one of the drivers of an entrepreneur. Woman have a lot of self-doubt, we believe our opinions are as valid, we’re told often that we don’t have the same kind of voice or strength at the table. We’re told our emotions are a bad thing. I think that’s all so wrong, I think emotions are, in fact, exactly what we need in business, because people follow people that they can connect with. That they feel genuine about who they are, and unafraid to be leaders who are fallible and unafraid to be leaders who are connected, and I think that’s what women do in spades.

So instead of trying to be… it’s not that men are wrong and women are wrong or right. It’s not about that; this is about who you are.  And in this case, if you’re a woman, you should take advantage of the things that you have. I think women have a different emotional connection and a chance to have an emotional dialogue that men will never have, and in fact, that’s a huge advantage as far as I’m concerned.

Natalie: And it maybe part of what you’ve just said, but is there any particular advice that you give to a young woman heading in into business?

Arlene: Take yourself seriously; I think that I may sound very old when I say this and I don’t mean to. But I think the professionalism that women need to get back to a little bit. I think women have lost a little bit as young women in particular, are losing their self-respect. There needs to be a lot of self-respect.

You have to really to own the room, and you have to own the room because of your presence and your intelligence as much as your physical attributes; and I think sometimes, women young women now a days are losing sight of that and they’re gone too far the other way, in terms of just kind of not being as professionally dressed and professionally put out (inaudible), and by that I certainly don’t mean you need two or three suits. I mean you need to just take yourself very seriously.

Natalie: And who’s been your biggest influence when it comes to business? Who has most influenced your work style?

Arlene: You know, I think, I haven’t had one mentor in my life. My father probably had the biggest influence in my life. I would say I have many mentors in my life. I find that every time I talk to somebody and I spend real time with them and listen to what they have to tell me, they share with me their learning and their stories and I learn from them. So I think part of what I would say, the biggest mentors that I have, are people that were just willing to share their stories, their life’s adventures and from that I have figured out a way to be stronger myself. So I’m very grateful to… along the way, no matter if I’m sitting at a dinner at a restaurant and meet somebody new, or I’m at an advancement sitting beside a complete stranger, or I’m sitting at you know, a bus, next to somebody, although I have to admit I haven’t traveled in a bus for a while.

Natalie: Not until you deal with one of the bus companies in one of the shows maybe.

Arlene: I know, I don’t mean I just, I’m thinking I said that you are going to really ask when was the last time you sit in the bus next to somebody. But I have spoken to people on buses and you know… and everywhere and I find their stories to be really helpful and really informative.

Natalie: Okay and that leads me right into, you get so many requests for advice and tips and help. I mean I’m watching you on twitter recently and it seems like someone is twitting at you every ten seconds. How do you handle all of that incoming questions and requests?

Arlene: It’s really kind of a timely question because this morning, I was looking at twitter and I get a lot of people who send me such lovely, lovely notes. I mean, they send things like… I go ‘wow’, that was really very special, and I’m often…  it’s almost like I’m too embarrassed to write back and say thank you or re-tweet it because I think people will going to think that, you know, somehow braggy, but I honestly can tell you that I am very grateful for the things that people say to me. It bolsters my day and makes me feel good about, you know, the things that I am doing. It makes me feel blessed and so with the people who do send me those notes, who knows, if you’re watching this I want to thank them for that because I don’t often thank people enough because I’m a little bit embarrass for it, but it does mean something to me. It helps my day be better.

Natalie: Very inspiring, you have had such success, how is it that you stay still grounded? Are you just naturally neurotic or what? I mean…

Arlene: Yes.

Natalie: Oh you’re still so humble.

Arlene: A complicated bundle of neurosis I guess. You know what I never anticipated that I would be here in my life and I think I know that the success I’ve had has come through hard work and commitment to getting, you know, taking care of myself and my family. So I think it’s because its  been unexpected and I know I do have a lot of self-doubt and I do know that I’m not that special and I’m just, I just feel, how could you complain about this life?

You know we live… and I mean that for anybody who lives in our country, right? How can we complain about this life? We have so much opportunity and so I feel like I’ve just… I get up every morning and I go ‘thank you God for giving me this opportunity to do the things and have the opportunity to do’ and I… My dad taught me that, my dad taught me to be grateful and I think gratitude is something that is being missed by many people in life. There’s a lot of entitlement out there and I think gratitude goes on a long, long way.

Natalie: Wow! Okay, well I would love to stay on those topics all day but this is supposed to be about wine. So let’s segue in that, was wine on table in your family home when you were growing up?

Arlene: It was not. I was raised as a Mormon so it was not on the table at my home.

Natalie: Okay, can you remember the first time you had a taste of wine? Your first wine drinking experience?

Arlene: I can, I can. It was towards… in grade twelve, towards my graduation year, believe it or not. So I was a late drinker if that characterizes a late drinker, and from there I just started to really like wine.

Natalie: I hear there was a baby duck incident?
Arlene: Yes, you know there’s some things that I’m not going to put on this chat.

Natalie: Okay, okay I do understand about branding, alright, fine.

Arlene:  I’ve already got people mad at me because I’m saying that they don’t dress right. I just want to go back, I’m not saying that girls are not dressing right.

Natalie: Or that it’s not okay to take the bus.

Arlene: Or that it’s not okay to take the bus. Maybe I want to do this little thing again.

Natalie: No way! Okay, so if you were to have a winery or be a winery owner or someone pitching a wine business on the Dragon’s Den versus on The Big Decision, how would those two shows be different? What would you be talking about on the Dragon’s Den when it comes to a wine business? And what would it be on The Big Decision?

Arlene: On the Dragon’s Den they’ll be coming in, they probably would have gotten their wine started and their label is going and their sales were just beginning. And they were trying to get into the next level. Or they have the idea that they want to buy a winery or they would be saying, you know, now that we’ve done the red wine, we want to do another couple of different blends of wines.

On The Big decision they would come on and say we’ve been running a winery for a long time, and our sales were really good; and then we made a mistake because we acquired another winery and we couldn’t run them well together. And now our business is staring to suffer as a result, can you help?

So one is more mid-stage or later-stage of the business where they have found themselves in a turnaround, or in a situation where they’re in trouble and their business isn’t successful as it used to be. And the other one  more of a startup, you know, we’re just getting going, we need some help to take it to the next level.

Natalie: Okay and I know you’re a big proponent of marketing, it’s the focus of your agency among other things, drive business results, what do you think that a wine industry, as a whole, needs to do better when it comes to marketing?

Arlene: You know, I think they do many things well. I do want to say that I think the wine industry does many things well. I think the laws that are being… there are some laws that need to be changed in Canada. In particular, you know, date back to prohibition in terms of how wineries are able to market themselves and how, what their geography is; they’re limited too, because of the challenges they face.

I do think that, you know, the challenge that in Canada the wineries have, is that they are not doing a great job of talking about their point (inaudible)  their Canadian wines.

There are some great Canadian wines being made and I would actually say that’s true every where. That the region itself needs to do a better job of talking about the value of the industry to the country. The value of the industry to what they are actually producing. In the US, I think they’ve done a great job with that, and we know about the Napa Valley and we know about Sonoma, we know about what’s happening there, we understand (inaudible) and how they’ve been involved, because they do a great job of marketing them and I don’t think that’s happening here yet.

Natalie: That’s interesting, I’m going to wrap this part of our conversation up now Arlene, but I want to come back of course and talk more about your wine Persuasion and the blend and we’ll do a little bit of tasting together too.

Arlene: Yay! It’s four o’clock, right¬?

Natalie: Exactly!


Here’s part two of our conversation: Building a Persuasive Wine Brand: Arlene Dickinson talks about launching her own brand of wine called Persuasion

You can watch more celebrity wine video interviews.

Find Arlene on Twitter, her company Venture Communications and her Persuasion products.





2010 Persuasion Dragon Blend, California

Arlene Dickinson, the marketing maven on the television show Dragon’s Den, used her business savvy to launch a Sonoma blend of cabernet and merlot called Persuasion last year. She says that some vintages are aggressive and come on strong (presumably like her co-host Kevin O’Leary), while others are smoother, more balanced, more confident of their worth.

I wasn’t convinced that Persuasion was anything more than a cash cow extension of Dickinson’s other products such as coffee, chocolate and skin care. Then I tried it. The business case is in the bottle. This robust red is balanced, complex and rich—like Arlene herself. Food matches: prime rib, filet mignon, grilled pork chops, lamb with rosemary. Drink: 2012 – 2017 Product number: 736211413314  Alcohol level: 14.4% Dry  750 ml $40.00 Score 93/100.

Persuasion is sold in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at select liquor retailers and throughout Canada via the agency Fluid Imports 403-873-1615, [email protected]. The wine is made by Thomas George Estates in the Russian River region of California.



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Dragon’s Den Logo posted with permission of CBC




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