Things have been so hectic, I can only apologise that it has been considerably more than a week since I published the first installment of our Dragons’ Den experience blog. So, as a reminder, we’d applied for the Den, been successful and done LOTs of preparation….
We eventually filmed our episode in May 2016. Originally for that series they had planned to do a 'Gogglebox' style feature for some of the pitches, where friends/family watch the pitch from a TV in a separate room and their reactions are filmed. Hence we ended up trotting off for filming with both our husbands in tow. We had really mixed feelings about them being there, we were worried it would put us off! In the end, although they never got shown on TV (the BBC dropped that part of the show I think), we were incredibly glad they were there to share the whole experience with us. The four of us stayed in a hotel and had dinner together the night before, trying not to get too nervous and the whole thing felt like quite an event. Chris and Chris (yes, both our husbands are called Chris) got to sit with us during the long wait and to see the whole pitch in its entirety. It’s an experience that would have been really hard to describe to them and having them there really helped them to understand what it was like and just how amazing it felt at the end.
You start really early in the morning (7.30am) with discussions about your display and initial interviews etc, then you go the 'Green Room' with the other entrepreneurs pitching that day. It is then a long old wait to see when they will be ready for you. Every time someone walked in the room Rachel and I would leap up, hearts in mouths, poised for the signal. It wasn't until almost 5pm that we eventually went in.
I would be wary of anyone that says it isn't nerve-wracking walking in to the Den. It is undeniably exciting but you know that you've only got one shot, that the Dragons are all very bright, experienced people and that there is a very real danger you could embarrass yourself and let your business down on national television. Many times I have watched the show and seen capable people with seemingly good ideas, come unstuck over some technicality that neither I, nor clearly they, had even thought of. That was the fear, some rabbit hole of a question revealing a huge poo-trap that we had never even considered. Thankfully that was not to be our fate!
The questions went on for an hour and 20 minutes. You see such a tiny part of it on the final TV show. Once we got through the 'set piece' pitch and in to the questions we relaxed a bit, knowing that we hadn't fluffed any 'lines'. The Dragons were all very reasonable, but asked some very probing and thoughtful questions. I think the fact that our initial answers were all very well rehearsed and precise (figures to the penny etc), gave the Dragons (and us!) confidence and it began to go better than we could have dared hope for.
Both Rachel and I had worn absolutely killer heels and by the time we were an hour in we were regretting that wardrobe choice. Once the offers started coming in our relief was immense, made even better by the fact we were getting closer to the point when we could take the darn shoes off! We had talked about so many scenarios if we were lucky enough to get any offers. The one and only scenario we hadn't considered was getting multiple offers on exactly the terms we had asked for. At one point it even looked like Peter Jones was going to offer us the money for LESS equity. It was such an amazing feeling.
We had always admired Deborah Meaden and had spent a lot of time researching her and her investments. We had also heard that she is a really hands on mentor, and that is very much something we wanted. The fact that she came straight in with an offer was just what we wanted. So we accepted Deborah's offer, and bounced/hobbled out of the Den, flooded with relief. The second we were off camera the shoes came off - I don't think either of us has worn them since!
Then the next part of the hard work starts. Obviously there is a huge amount of due diligence and legal work that has to be done, but we got through it and by summer 2016 we had Deborah Meaden as our business partner. Now we’re just going onwards and upwards.
So what do you need to think about before going in to Dragons' Den? I cannot stress enough to anyone thinking of going on that preparation is the key. Watch the show, make sure you can answer any question they ask of any entrepreneur. List the questions, write your answers and rehearse them. Of course having a good business model helps!
The whole experience has been wonderfully validating. We've worked so incredibly hard to get where we are now and getting such fantastic feedback from the Den was an amazing way to reflect on that. Many thanks to the whole team at Dragons’ Den!
Merry and Rachel x