Vincenzo Guzzo – Montrealer Vincenzo Guzzo certainly knows how to breathe fire when it comes to becoming a successful businessman in Canada.
Exactly 20 years ago, Guzzo took his budding movie theatre business and decided to challenge his much bigger competitor in court for the right to show first-run movie releases in his chain of theatres. Guzzo won his case, and ever since that victory, has built Cinemas Guzzo into a Canadian entertainment empire, with 141 screens, nine IMAX theatres and a total of 10 locations with three more on the way to opening its doors later this year.
And that’s not all. From that foundation, Guzzo has expanded his empire with a general construction contracting business, as well as a chain of Italian pork sandwich shops called Porchetta and two successful fine dining establishments, with a third one set to open in the near future.
On top of his success in the business world, Guzzo and his wife Maria has given back to their community as respected philanthropists. They have established the Guzzo Family Foundation in 2007, and have donated to a number of hospitals, including the Jewish General Hospital and its research efforts into cancer nanotechnology.
And now Guzzo will get the chance to share his dynamic business acumen and the secrets of his success as the newest member of the CBC hit series “Dragons’ Den”, which begins its 13th season on September 20 at 8 p.m. Guzzo, along with Lane Merrifield, will join veteran Dragons Jim Treliving (who has been with the show since day one) and Arlene Dickinson, plus current Dragons Manjit Minhas and Michele Romanow in the Den, as they hear countless pitches from aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs to decide which of their products or services will be good enough to invest their own money in, and help to build successful business ventures of their own as a result.
“On a personal level, I found being part of Dragons’ Den quite a gratifying learning experience,” said Guzzo during a recent phone interview. “It gave me the chance to find out what the other Dragons were all about, and learn what they do and why they do it. And I also learned that although we all have heart, we also have our own differences. Sometimes it can get nasty. For example, there was one pitch we heard that I loved, but the other Dragons hated, and they thought I was crazy because I like it so much.”
“Socially, all six of us get along just fine; it’s just at times we don’t have the same vision business-wise,” he added.
Guzzo, who got his business degree from the University of Western Ontario and his law degree from the Universite de Quebec a Montreal (UQAM), signed on to join “Dragons’ Den” earlier this year and has already taped the 20 broadcasts that make up season 13. “I have a developed a newfound respect for TV and movie actors as a result of being part of the show,” he said. “I always wondered why actors only do one movie a year, and now I know why. Taping the show was fun, but quite time-consuming and hard on the system. I spent 12-hour days from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and never left the CBC studios; it left me asking myself what happened to the day?”
Although he admits that there are certain products and services that he would be reluctant to invest his money as a member of the Den such as those relating to marijuana growing (“It’s like starting at a negative”) and online apps (“How can you ask $15 million for an app or what maybe the next Facebook if they only have 2 ½ followers?”), Guzzo has his own set of criteria for a Dragons’ Den pitch that would catch his interest and make him an investor.
“I’m pretty well open minded when it comes to investing time and money to a future entrepreneur, but being business partners is like a marriage; there has to be a sense of compatibility between both parties,” he said. “If you want me to be your business partner, it has to be with something that I can work with and in turn, it has to teach me something, too.”
And if you think you have that certain product or idea that would be perfect to pitch for Guzzo and the other Dragons to invest their time, money and business knowledge in? Guzzo has the following recommendations.
“You have to come into the Den with a lot of business savvy and a very hungry feeling,” he said. “You also need to be transparent, know from A to Z how you hope to accomplish your goals, and know all of your business numbers and facts – such as salaries, profit margins and how you plan to live off your business – as if you were going to a meeting with the president of a bank.”
Feature image: CBC Dragons 2018