Kevin O’Leary of Dragon’s Den fame is actually quite nice, according to Blake Smith-Daniels.
It would be fair to wonder how the 12-year-old from Oak Bay comes by that information and the answer is simple, Blake, along with the rest of the band, Endurance, were part of a recent pitch to CBC’s Dragon’s Den – an episode that airs Oct. 31 at 8 p.m.
Blake is the youngest member of the rock and roll/blues band, but it’s not as though the other members of the band, Blake’s brother Brett, 17, Michael Tessier, 16, and Trevor Kidd, 17, are old-timers. All of them are still in school and live in the Greater Victoria area. All but Trevor attend either Oak Bay High or Monterey Middle school in Oak Bay. Trevor, a proud Saanich resident attends Mount Doug.
The group is well-known in the Victoria area and are regulars at venues like the Fernwood Inn and Lucky Bar – in 2012 they won the CRD’s Battle of the Bands.
Beyond its youthful success, Endurance has always been a band with a difference. The teens believe that their talent should be used to help others. That commitment to helping others also led them to audition to appear on Dragon’s Den.
“We were terrified,” said Kidd. “We got up at 5 a.m. and were literally shaking as we got ready to perform for the Dragons. We were confident about the music, but the business pitch was a lot tougher.”
The band’s pitch to the dragons would see Endurance establish their own ethical record label. That label that would handle not only their own music but would also seek to promote other young Canadian talent.
“There are lots of talented kids out there,” said Brett. “It would be great to open doors for other young musicians and create a bigger, different music scene. There are a lot of like-minded kids out there.”
The ethical part of the band’s plan would see the label structured as a social enterprise with a portion of profits going to help charities like Free the Children or SOS Children’s Villages Canada.
Both the Smith-Daniels brothers have a strong commitment to charitable movements, even outside the band. Blake is a member of Monterey school’s We to Me group and Brett has been actively involved in fund raising for Cops for Cancer and Free the Children.
Entering the Dragon’s Den was a far more frightening experience than any they’d ever endured, and they weren’t sure that their good intentions would carry the day.
“He was not at all what I expected,” said Blake of their encounter with O’Leary. “He’s actually sort of a tame dragon. At the end of taping he came out and jammed with us. He’s a pretty decent musician.”
Although the band is contractually restricted from releasing any information about the outcome of their proposal to the dragons, the experience has both energized the group and reinforced their commitment to use their talent for something other than making money.
“I want to be a musician,” said Blake. “But I also want to make a difference.”