As we wait for the new batch of entrepreneurs to appear on the next 16th series of The BBC Two Dragons’ Den, surviving the Dragons’ intense questioning is not an easy feat.
We ask these two previous winners of the Dragons’ Den, who had combined winnings of over £100k, to share their experience of successfully pitching their businesses to the Dragons’.
Adelle Smith, 36, is the founder of BKD – a creative kids baking company helping children to learn through play, creativity and foods. She received offers of £80,000 investment from both Peter Jones CBE and Jenny Campbell, for 35% and 30% equity stakes. Adelle decided to accept Peter Jones’ higher offer of 35%.
“I caught the baking bug while baking with my children for fun, and I saw a gap in the market for baking craft kits for kids. I quit my day job of 10 years and launched BKD in Summer 2014 from my kitchen in Shoreditch, East London.
In the beginning, I ran children’s baking workshops and quickly started working with brands such as Nintendo, Toca Boca, Universal Studios and Fortnum & Mason, hosting private birthday parties and making bespoke biscuits.
Within a year, I moved BKD out of my home, launched the collection of baking kits and set up a bakery. Three months later, BKD was launched.
Since the launch, the business has won multiple designs and parenting awards and 7 Great Taste Awards to date. I came second in the finals of the Virgin Foodpreneur competition and went on to sign with management company Essential Lifestyle Media at the beginning of 2015.
A year later, I released my first recipe book ‘BAKED’ in July 2016 and decided that Dragons Den was my next big challenge.
I had to pull a business plan together and go through a process called due diligence, which basically meant I needed to evidence every fact and figured I would provide to the BBC about my business.
I then wrote my 3-minute pitch and planned how I wanted to display all my products to the Dragons.
Thereafter, it was practice, practice, practice. I have a shocking memory, so remembering all the figures and pitch word-for-word was the hardest. My husband spent a lot of nights listening to me running through it all.
I was incredibly nervous and barely slept the night before, which is bizarre as I’ve gone up in front of hundreds of people at baking demonstrations without batting an eyelid.
Putting myself and BKD out there, to be scrutinised on national TV, was a very scary prospect. What if they hated what I was doing? The self-doubt definitely crept in.
There was quite a bit of waiting on the day itself. I went over my figures and my pitch several times, but due to the nerves, I would forget an important figure, which made me even more nervous.
It felt like a rollercoaster pitch – from feeling the nerves at the beginning to hearing the Dragons’ being really complimentary about BKD journey, then seeing a few Dragons’ dropped out.
Nevertheless, it ended well with me receiving two offers and it was a massively surreal experience. I was elated when I got the offers and I’m so proud that I went through it, and came out with an investor.
I received offers of investment from Peter Jones CBE and Jenny Campbell, with both offering the full amount of £80,000 for 35% and 30% equity stakes respectively.
It was a difficult decision to make, but I decided to go with Peter’s higher 35% offer due to the investments he had made in several food businesses, including Levi Roots and for his connections with key UK retailers.
We have already started putting the investment to good use. We have refined our products and are now concentrating on customer acquisition, and scaling our subscription side of the business.”
James Dawson, 33, is the founder of T Plus, which is a new generation of vitamin enriched ‘super teas’. James won £75,000 equity for his product, which was inspired by the need to disrupt the ‘healthy tea’ market and make them taste better, and more healthy.
“We created an industry first range of nutritious teas that blends functional herbs, green tea, natural fruit flavours and 50% RDA in 9 daily essential vitamins in every smart tea bag.
Every smart tea bag also includes vitamin C, B6, B12 and folic acid.
The idea for T Plus came out of the desire to create a challenger brand and disrupt an established category within the food & drink space.
I disliked the taste of and lacked trust in the claims of green, herbal or fruit teas and felt that there must be a better option.
After studying the market and seeing the green/ herbal tea market growing, and the innovation brought to vitamin-enriched drinks, I felt that ‘healthy teas’ could do with an upgrade.
We then set out to make something better tasting and more healthy than anything available on the market.
It was certainly a nerve-wracking experience taking on the Dragons, both on the day itself and in the weeks of preparation, as we had to learn every single thing about the business. This includes things you would normally have on a spreadsheet.
We were thrilled to get on the show and I’ve always been a huge fan, so the chance to take the new business to the Dragons’ and test myself in the Den was something I couldn’t turn down.
My pitch went pretty well and I got across all the key points I was keen to summarise about the business and its success to date, including the market opportunity for the Dragons.
All went well in the beginning but I started to have some doubts about whether things were going to plan. Both Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Touker Suleyman withdrew despite their positive feedbacks.
But I remained optimistic as Tej Lalvani still showed interest, which later resulted in an offer of £75,000 for a 50% equity share.
The 50% was way above what I perceived to even entertain a discussion on, however the opportunity to link with the biggest vitamin company in the country gave me significant food for thought.
It’s tough to weigh up a monumental decision like that on the spot, but I’m a big believer in following your gut and trusting your instinct.
Having confidence in your product and yourself, as well as being articulate and knowing everything about your product, your numbers, your competitors and your plan, will give an investor a lot of confidence.
If you can assure an investor that you are credible and measured in how you conduct yourself and your business, it will give them the confidence to work with you and trust their investment with you.”