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Photo: Raina + Wilson

Please, help yourself!” Michele Romanow cries, seeing me eye the coffee table overflowing with swag. It’s the first day of taping Season 11 of Dragons’ Den, and food was a prominent theme: Samples of exotic trail mix and a box of Sweets on Demand peek out from under a pair of bright blue spandex pants (from a pitch for a “soccer lifestyle brand”).

Now, 13 hours into a day that started at 6:30 a.m. with two hours of makeup and hair fluffing, she’s finally kicking back in her dressing room, on-air black leather pants swapped for jeans and a T-shirt. Tired? Ha. Even in downtime mode, the woman radiates energy, her thoughts flowing out in rapid, breathless streams that occasionally end in, “Does that make sense?”

At 30, Romanow is the youngest Dragon ever, and she’s made youthful vitality something of a trademark. Bubbly, thought her business partner Anatoliy Melnichuk when he first met her at Queen’s University—and he didn’t know the half of it yet. She’s launched four businesses, three of them with the same two partners, but that doesn’t really sum up her entrepreneurial knowledge.

On her fourth day of shooting last season, the show’s producers approached her warily to ask if she was getting notes from the presenting entrepreneurs, because she knew a surprising amount about each industry. “No,” she told them. “I’ve tried to start half of these businesses.” Biodegradable packaging, bespoke suits made overseas, subscription beauty boxes and hundreds of other ideas—Romanow and her partners brainstormed, researched and started or rejected them all. “For every business we tried that people might know, there were five that didn’t work,” she says.

In 2014, she left the best known of those businesses, Toronto-based daily deals website Buytopia, to join Groupon after it bought her Buytopia spinoff. Now Romanow is getting ready to start her fifth business, in fintech. She knows little about financial services, but then she also knew nothing about running a café, making caviar, managing websites or peddling rebates when she pressed on with previous startups.

That’s one thing to know about Romanow: She has unshakable confidence—no, certainty—that she can figure out anything. She admits to having something to prove. “I don’t know where I get that from,” she muses, fiddling with a blingy earring left over from her Den outfit. “Maybe thinking I’d never be as successful as my dad.” (That would be Marvin Romanow, the former CEO of oilpatch giant Nexen.)

Her worries seem unfounded. Over the past decade, she’s learned that success demands refusing rejection and not waiting for permission. “Michele is a person who skips the line,” says Nicole Verkindt, founder of online aerospace marketplace OMX and one of Romanow’s best friends. “‘No’—she doesn’t even hear the word.”

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