Carmel Valley production company to hold auditions for TV show ‘So You Think You Can Sell?’

By Rob LeDonne

A couple of years ago, Ken Gora woke up in the middle of the night with an idea running through his head. “At the time, the economy was very bad and there were a lot of talented people out there either not having work, or not having the jobs they deserve,” Gora remembers. “The idea was to put together a sales and marketing contest that not only gets people jobs and makes them money, but supports small businesses as well, then film it.” That idea manifested itself into the local reality TV show “So You Think You Can Sell,” which Gora calls a cross between “American Idol” and “The Apprentice,” and is premiering for the very first time on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m. on San Diego’s Channel Four, through both Cox and Time Warner Cable providers.

Gora, a Chicago native who runs Next Productions out of Carmel Valley, put his nose to the grindstone after that fist night with merely the basic idea in his head.

“My background is that I have a doctorate in psychology, and I’ve been a headhunter or recruiter for many years.” In the past, companies have hired Gora to “find them great talent and great people, primarily in the sales and managing arena,” which naturally makes him a perfect fit to produce a TV show that’s designed to do just that. “I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of the people I’ve interviewed over the years, like that of an Iraq war veteran who no one will give a job interview to but can lead a brigade of men into war.”

It’s those stories, about hard-working people with diverse and interesting backgrounds who haven’t found their niche yet, which led Gora into creating a show that caters specifically to them. “So You Think You Can Sell” will air over eight episodes and, along with helping individual people, it’s also designed to aide local small businesses.

“Each installment will focus on a small business and how people deal with the challenges we give them,” says Gora. For example, one episode will feature Fit in 60, a workout studio based in both Carmel Valley and Carlsbad that contestants have to sell memberships for, and Smart Energy USA, a Vista company that offers solar energy solutions.

Gora and the show found themselves in a plum slot on San Diego’s Channel Four thanks to a connection to the channel’s Director of Programming. “He agreed to watch the first episode, and within the first 20 minutes he said, “I love this. It’s current, and it’s fun, and it’s going to help our economy.”

Each episode will be filmed and edited and broadcast within two weeks, an accomplishment in itself since many shows can be in production for months. Says Gora: “It’s meant to be a live, fluid contest. My vision is that there’s a way to make businesses money, give people jobs and provide good entertainment.” The TV viewing audience can also be in on the fun: the fifth episode will be a viewer’s choice of which small business to feature.

As for what the winner receives, Gora says, “It’ll be a grand prize choice of either my company hiring them for a $100,000 position, or a $7,000 cash payout, depending on whether or not they want or need the job.” The first winner of “So You Think You Can Sell” was Kristen Baldwin, a 44 year-old single mom who chose the payout since she was offered a higher paying job from CUBA beverage, a business that was also featured on the show.

With all of the positive factors at play, it’s no wonder why Gora is excited about “So You Think You Can Sell.” Overall, he sums everything up simply: “The companies get sales revenue, people get jobs, and the economy is stimulated.” What could be better than that?

If you’d like to audition for “So You Think You Can Sell,” email with a resume, LinkedIn, or anything else that would demonstrate your interest in the contest. Auditions will then be held on Jan. 25 and Jan. 29 at the Grand Del Mar Resort.

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