When I was researching for Dragons' Den I read a lot of articles form other entrepreneurs about their experiences and I must say they were all very positive and no one regretted doing it, whatever the outcome. So if you're feeling brave and love paperwork, step this way...
It all happened quite quickly for us, and given it was Covid year, I couldn't help but think some of the other companies may have dropped out, and there were spaces to fill.
Round 1: the application form and video pitch
We had one weekend to put them both together, and as it turned out it was a heatwave.
“Hello Dragons, I’m Kate and this is my husband Graham…” again and again as we sweated cobs in the kitchen whilst being filmed by our son Charlie who also manned the autocue. No time to learn the script.
We thought it was ok at the time, but when I reviewed the footage on Monday morning ahead of submission the reality said otherwise. Too vain to wear our reading glasses meant that we were both squinting at the camera trying to read the script throughout the entire performance. We’d also fallen foul of the classic infant school nativity play error of mouthing each others lines when we weren’t talking. Horrific.
No time to reshoot. I asked Charlie which one we should submit, and he replied ‘you’ll have to go with version 2, as Graham looks high in the other one’. Excellent. Thank you for your feedback.
At least if we didn’t get through we wouldn’t have to pitch to the Dragons.
So imagine my surprise when we were somehow through to the next round! The BBC must have thought “Wow, look how much they’re sweating in their own kitchen, this is going to be carnage!”
Round 2: the Zoom interview
This was actually fine, it’s much easier to just talk than stick to a script.
And we’re through to the next round.
Round 3: Due Diligence
Finally I’m in my comfort zone of dotting i’s and crossing t’s. I like nothing better than proving a relatively simple point with an over-complicated spreadsheet, this was like a trip to the spa.
As with a normal funding round, the BBC carry out full Due Diligence on every company that enters the Den, making sure that everything they claim is 100% true. So if you said in your pitch “Coffee is enjoyed by 53.7% of the population in the whole wide world”, you’d need to answer the following in the Due-Dil section:
1. Prove 53.7% of the population enjoy coffee.
2. Prove the world is wide.
So it’s a whole ring binder full of admin by the time you get through this bit.
Ding Ding Round 4! And we’ve been given a filming date! Bloody hell!
Filming Day: Luckily we had a 4 hour drive to Manchester to learn the pitch.
M25… Hello Dragons… M40… Hello Dragons… M6… Hello Dragons… you get the idea.
It was Covid year, so on arrival everyone is masked-up and social distancing. We’re shown in and start prepping the display table.
We piled on more and more boxes, glasses, fake ice, real fruit, fake drinks and real garnishes until the table was groaning with approval.
We’re shown to a dressing room and camp out there for a while practicing the pitch. Then are called for round 1 of table approval, so we meet more of the production team and join them in over-analysing a bunch of mint. They make some changes, it looks better for it.
Back to the dressing room, change into our pitching togs and we’re ready for make-up!
“Would you like some help with your make-up?” “Yes please, all of it!”
Even Graham has a turn in the make-up chair and emerges 5 years younger.
Back for table approval round 2, with some more senior members of the production team. They make more changes, it looks more better.
Then we’re called for the pre-pitch interview and lift-walk filming. This bit was great.
May I extend a huge thanks to the production team for letting us walk out of the lift and stand in the exact spot that we’d be pitching to the Dragons and look out at the five empty chairs. I can’t tell you how huge this was for steadying the nerves, knowing what’s behind the lift doors and having already experienced the walking out of it was absolute gold dust. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Back to the dressing room, a few more Hello Dragons, a couple of Hale Mary’s and it’s pitch time!
We exit the lift and there sat the Dragons, strangely sparklier and more colourful than on the telly, but no less fearsome.
Here's how it went…
(fast-forward 15 minutes in for our bit)