Dragons’ Den is a show that many entrepreneurs, current and aspiring, dream about. Landing the opportunity to pitch to the Dragons, including the franchising guru, Jim Treliving, and fashion pioneer, Joe Mimran, is an achievement in itself. Ensuring your pitch is worthy of scoring you a spot on the show is one thing, but how about one that will land you a deal with one of the Dragons?
We chatted with two Futurpreneur-supported entrepreneurs, Lee of Lee’s Ghee and Matthew of Chimney Stax Baking Co., both of which found themselves pitching their businesses on Dragons’ Den. We wanted to know how the experience all went down and their biggest tips for other entrepreneurs looking to walk in their shoes.
Matthew Lindzon, together with his business partner, Zach Fiksel walked onto the Dragons’ Den set asking for 125K for 25% of their business. The business partners were hoping for the investment from a Dragon to help them franchise into mall kiosks. After their pitch of their Eastern European inspired bread, they received three offers from the Dragons and walked away with a deal with Joe Mimran. Here’s what Matthew had to say about the experience:
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I have watched every episode since the show aired and to take a walk across the set and stand in front of the Dragons was a bit of a dream come true. As soon as the lights hit and the cameras were rolling it was all business. We had a prepared script, outlining our business, experience, figures and future plans, but by the time we introduced our product, the Dragons were already firing questions at us.
The Dragons often talk over each other (which is usually edited out of the show), which made answering questions very difficult, but we kept our cool and answered as best we could. Everything seemed to be a bit of blur, until they started making offers. That was an extremely validating moment for Zach and I. We had worked so hard for two years leading up to the show, and for us to be able to portray to these savvy business men and women, that we had a model and that they would conceivably invest in, was truly one of the best moments of my life.
Lee Dares of Lee’s Ghee was hoping to land a deal with a Dragon of 50K for 20% of her business so she could grow her business both online and out of province. Lee ended up with two Dragons interested in making her an offer, however, she also walked away with a deal from Joe Mimran. Lee shared a bit about her experience:
It’s an understatement to say I was a bit nervous going into the Den. Although I was looking for capital and a strategic partner, I figured that regardless of the outcome, it would be an amazing personal growth experience that would get the business great exposure, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Overall I had a very positive experience and would highly recommend it to other entrepreneurs.
We asked Matthew and Lee a few other questions about their experiences to give you a better idea of how behind the scenes of the show goes, and their biggest tips to help you land a spot in front of the Dragons.
What was your preparation like before going on the show?
We prepared a script for our initial audition in February. We were told that we had made it to ‘stand by’ but were not given an exact date, only that we would be given two hours’ notice. We received a call on Monday morning, and were on the set within two hours ready to go, however had not had time to practice the pitch much since the audition a few months prior. We had spent time working on our business plan over the previous few weeks so we were very familiar with the metrics that the Dragons were asking for. But other than knowing our numbers and having a rough idea of how we wanted our pitch to go, we had pretty much winged it.
I consulted with a couple of advisors (including my Futurpreneur mentor) to develop my strategy. I also worked with my accountant to nail down my numbers and “ask”, and with my producer to fine tune my pitch. I only had two weeks to prepare before filming so it was very intense. I rehearsed my pitch almost every day in front of friends and family and it really helped to have a live audience.
How did you know your business was ready to pitch to the Dragons?
Our business had completed two solid years of operations where we learned a lot, made money some months, and lost money others. We knew what formula worked for us and knew that we had a solid plan for the future of the business, but needed some outside expertise. We were looking for an investor and were fortunate to obtain one like Joe Mimran.
I knew my business was ready to pitch to the Dragons because I had proven there was a market for my products and I had good brand recognition at a local level. But in order to scale up my production to meet the growing demand, I needed capital and a strategic partner.
What is your biggest tip(s) for other entrepreneurs looking to ace their pitch to the Dragons?
Get outside, non-biased advice and know your numbers COLD. As an entrepreneur, especially in the start-up years, you spend so much time on the front lines of your business and in the trenches; it is hard to see the business from an objective perspective. We ran our pitch by our Futurpreneur mentor a few times as we fine-tuned the pitch, and he helped fill in the holes.
Don’t over-evaluate your company. Be sure to do your research beforehand so you know the value each Dragon could offer your company but be open minded when it comes to making a deal—you can’t predict the outcome and each Dragon has something valuable to offer.
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada