Last night my 2 minute appearance on the Dragons Den aired. Below i'll talk about some of the preparation work that was involved before i made it to the studio.
The complete process from the phone call by the BBC researcher to the trip home was a challenging and fun experience where we learned a lot about our business.
The BBC got in contact with us in January about appearing on the show. We took a few days to think about it and decided investment from the Dragons would help us grow so we decided to go for it. To appear on the show you must be a UK company which we were not. We thought having a UK site at FunkyChristmasJumpers.co.uk was enough. We quickly setup a new company in the UK and got the all clear from the BBC. The first thing we had to do once we were accepted in the application process was to work on a pitch that we would pitch to a Dragons Den Executitive. We had about two weeks to work on it. We spent a lot of time recording ourselves/practicing in order to perfect it. We had decided that only one of us would pitch.
I (Fabio) flew over to Manchester to pitch in the BBC Studios. It was a nerve wrecking experience but it went well. I pitched in front of a researcher and 2 other BBC employees and it was recorded. I got plenty of takes to get it perfect. The best one was chosen and would be shown to the producer to see if it could take us through to the next stage.
On 20th February we got a message that we made it through to the next stage of the Dragons Den which was due diligence. At all times we were told we were not guaranteed to make it to the pitch in from of the Dragons, this was consistently repeated to us. The due diligence took some time to get together. Documents that we needed to pull together were:
- Incorporation details
- Consent letters from other directors allowing me to pitch on behalf of the company
- Intellectual property documents we have on any designs
- Info on any loans we have ever gotten (Director/Bank) • Accounts since we have been incorporated
- Breakdown on all our sales figures
- Proof of marketing partners we have worked with
- Website & social account data
- Manufacturer details & safety statements
- Info on all our manufacturer orders since incorporation
- Previous ventures the directors have been involved in
- Investment outline for the amount we pitch for
- Market research
The original pitch and business plan was naturally in Euro but I ended up having to transfer it into British Pound which was frustrating at the start but worked out well as i got to further fine tune our business plan. Once we had all this info together we sent it off to the BBC to review. During this time on February 27th we got message that we were lined up for a potential filming date but it still depended on the above. Its was never certain!!
- Filming was in 3 weeks so we were left with:
- Liaising with the BBC to arrange travel arrangement and accommodation
- Booking a van to rent to drive over to Manchester from Dublin
- Practicing the pitch with the new British Pound figure
- Making sure i know every figure possible and stat
- Building the set for the show
Our family helped put the set together which was awesome, greatly appreciated. We thought about getting models for the day but decided not to, mainly because of the cost.
The van was packed up with the set, loads of Christmas Jumpers and presents for the Dragons. We had picked a special jumper for each dragon. I got a ferry over to the UK, the BBC had arranged a convenient hotel for me and the other people pitching to stay in. I dropped my set over the Dragons Den BBC Studio and headed back to the hotel to sleep (And a few more dry runs of the pitch). Recording each pitch helped me fine tune and get it perfect, i couldn't recommend this enough from an early stage.
March 24th - D Day
Early the next morning we were escorted to the studio. Dragons Den is no longer set in a old warehouse but in the state of the art studio in Manchester. It was exciting to see the Dragons Den setup. Nerves were definitely there! I got help building my set back stage. There were five different companies pitching the same day. I ended up last on, it was a long day waiting around. I was running through the pitch all day in my head. It was quite hard to get a quiet area where i could speak it. Each company's pitch took about 2 hours in total to complete with setup, pitching and the Dragons tea breaks! I'd got a run though earlier in the morning showing me exactly how the pitch would go.
The time arrived, a tiny bit of makeup was applied, my microphone was set up and i was brought down to the studio. Nerves were firing but I felt good. The waiting area outside the elevator was strange, just me and the cameras hidden behind mirrors. Finally 10 minutes later the green light turns on and the fake elevator opens. Once in the elevator the door closed (which seemed like an eternity) the door opened and I remember the heat from all the lights-so HOT. The room was packed with camera crew and the Dragons were in place. I walked through to my mark while they had Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas" playing. Cringe!! I was ready. The Dragons were very nice and told me to proceed. The pitch came out well, I thought, probably my best attempt but I'll know more when I see it on TV!!
I was in the Den for just under an hour. The pitch only took 3 minutes so there was plenty of time for questions. The questions were quite straight forward and what i was expecting:
- Personal info
- How i got into the jumpers
- How we got the celebs to wear the jumpers
- Future projections
- Strategy moving forward
- Issues i see with the business
- Other ventures
Unfortunately i didn't get the investment. The main things the dragons were not interested in was the:
- Seasonality of the business
- The risk of having to guess/estimate stock with such a short selling window
All the dragons were nice, not as fiery as seen on other pitches. I did get plenty of encouragement & advice from them.
Overall I learned a lot throughout the whole experience. The main thing I learned was in the financial area of the business. I had spent a great deal of time with the business plan and then i had to go through it in GBP (£) again. I realised i had left out many small expenses but at the end of a year make a huge difference. I learned a lot about margins and how important they are. Knowing more about the margins and having better control of them will help me make better decisions moving forward.
The one thing I thought that may haunt me leaving the den was the dance I made on my entrance. It wasn't planned!! When i said above i walked through to my mark, i meant i danced through!! Check it out here!!