Puresweet Dragons' Den Experience
Thank you for showing interest in the Puresweet brand and for coming here to find out more about my Dragons' Den experience! (season 18 episode 9)
Below I will be sharing my full experience on Dragons' Den to give you an insight on all the ins and outs of the show, from application to closure. Due to the pandemic, the full journey has taken more than 1.5 years!
I have always been business minded and constantly looked out for business opportunities throughout my childhood and early adulthood. This made Dragons' Den an amazing TV show for me, it gave me good insight into the minds of people who have been running successful businesses for many years, providing me with invaluable knowledge, whilst being extremely entertaining at the same time.
Over the years there have been times that I was screaming at the screen, either when an investment went through that I thought was a bad investment or when an investment didn't go through and I thought that the dragons should have invested.
One particular pitch that sticks in my head that didn't go through was when Shaun Pulfrey came into the Den asking for investment in his Tangle Teezer hair brush company. Shaun was rejected investment on the basis that if no one had thought of using a brush used for horses tails on girls hair before, it must be a bad idea, the other reason for rejection was because he had no proper patent protection.
To me the fact that no one had thought of using the same brush that's used for horses tails on girls hair was not a good enough argument to reject the investment, because if it works it works, as demonstrated in the Den. In fact I think it makes the idea even more investable if no one had thought of it before. Furthermore, no proper patent protection also didn't faze me, because I know that when a company is first to market they always stand above the copycats.
Tangle Teezer have now become a massive international brand, with their products being sold in over 90 countries worldwide, turning over more than 27million pounds a year!
I enjoyed watching the show so much, I always said that one day I will be on there.
For many years this was just an fantasy, but after turning my journey of finding the greatest sugar alternative into a business it has become the reality!
Back in September 2019, long before the pandemic was thought of, Puresweet had grown to a size where I thought would benefit from an investment by the big boys who would help me take the business to the next level.
Thursday morning the 19th September 2019 I plucked up the courage and applied for the show. I filled out all the necessary forms and sent it off. Shortly following the application I received an automatic email response thanking me for applying and telling me when the applications for the 18th Series was closing, it also stated that I should not resend the application, unless there had been significant changes in circumstances.
Four months on, it was January 2020, and I had still not heard anything back from the BBC, but since our sales had doubled from the time of the initial application, I resent the form, updating the equity I was willing to give away for the amount of money I was asking for.
Finally on the 11 March 2020 I received the long awaited phone call from a BBC representative who later became my mentor. She asked me many questions about the business, why I had applied, what I was expecting out of the show, and told me what I should expect too.
I was asked by my mentor to come in for an audition at the BBC broadcast centre in White City, London, on the 17th March 2020. She asked me to bring along a selection of the products we sell and prepare a short speech about the benefit of the products and the amount of investment I was looking for.
At 10am I arrived at the BBC broadcast centre, I was prompted by security, who then escorted me to the main desk. Initially the attendant could not find my appointment on the system, which worried me and made me doubt if I had turned up on the right day!
After showing my email confirmation and a quick call to my mentor all was good. I was asked to wait on the couch until someone would call me.
After waiting roughly 40 minutes a girl came out and called my name. She introduced herself as my mentor, this was my first time meeting her. She asked me to follow her to where we were going to have the audition.
At this point the offices were already desolate due to the impending pandemic, with lockdown on the horizon. We entered one room but then left for another room on the floor above, this room my mentor said will be where the audition will take place. She then started arranging the room for filming. After several minutes of organising she left to get a plinth to put my products on. When she reentered she was accompanied by her colleague who started setting up his tripod and mounted a small camcorder upon it.
At this point I was really nervous because I was about to be filmed (I am camera shy) and I would have to recite my pitch off memory. The film was to be shown by my mentor to the producers at a later date to decide if they are willing to take me into the real Den.
Once everything was in place filming started. Luckily, unlike in the real Den, at the audition stage you are allowed more than one take.
Take 1 started and I messed up, urgh, I was frustrated, but I tried to calm myself, took a minute to revise my lines and we started take 2. Weirdly out of the blue we got interrupted by a TV licensing supervisor who said that we were not allowed to film because we did not have a filming permit!
This baffled me, because we were in a BBC building being filmed by BBC crew, but somehow he wasn't aware of their filming permit which apparently has to be issued for any filming that goes on in the building. My mentor said to him, 'What do you mean?, We are filming for Dragons' Den, we have a permit, if you want you can call my manager'.
Anyway, long story short, after a some backwards and forwards and several minutes of calls to the manager/producers the guy was satisfied and allowed the audition to resume, but only as a one off. He warned my mentor to make sure that she has a permit next time she films.
After several takes, my mentor was happy with the filming, we wrapped everything up and I left, with my fingers crossed hoping that the producers will accept the audition.
The Producers Verdict
On the 23rd March 2020 I received an email from my mentor stating that although it hadn't been confirmed whether I was accepted to feature on Dragons' Den just yet, due to the pandemic, filming for this series had been pushed off from May 2020 to September 2020. In the meantime I had to fill out lots of due diligence, provide proof of turn over, profit, and provide proof of the benefits of our products, this is all to make sure they don't have inaccurate information being aired on national television and to ensure that I am not making up figures.
Finally after all the due diligence and checks came back ok, I received confirmation of acceptance and was given a Den date of the 23rd September 2020.
This was now becoming really real!
I had to make sure I had my pitch up to scratch, prepare myself and arrange the logistics of getting the props for the presentation up to Manchester (where the Den is located).
A BBC representative who was in charge of arranging transportation and accommodation contacted me asking if I would like accommodation the night before the show, with which I replied that I would. I was then sent confirmation of the hotel I was going to stay at. It was arranged so that I would be able to turn up at the allotted time for filming without having to come in tired driving up from London.
The Day Has Come!
On the morning of filming I woke up early, I double checked that I had all that I needed for filming, I went through the pitch repeating it time and time again in the mirror. I also had to go through my numbers many times over, making sure that I am fluent with the turn over, profits etc.
Furthermore I thought of questions the dragons may ask and prepared the answers in my head so that I would not be stumped and potentially mess up my pitch. This is where being a fan of the show really comes handy!
At around 11am I was called by one of the BBC logistics representatives to make sure that I knew where I had to go to drop off the props and told me where I can park near the studio.
At the Studio
I arrived at the studio at 12pm, dropped off the props, and checked in with my mentor who had also travelled to Manchester in order to see me through the filming process. From there she ran through with me everything I should expect, showed me my dressing room and told me the Covid guidelines, which included me staying in my dressing room unless I had to leave for refreshments or a bathroom break, not handing out my products to the Dragons' (it was left in a box next to their chairs) and not shaking the Dragons' hands if I were to get investment.
Waiting in my dressing room was one of the longest waits of my life!
Furthermore due to Peter Jones hitting his head on a low fitting in the studio earlier on in the day (I didn't realise he was that tall), he had been rushed in to A & E and had to spend a couple of hours there, which delayed filming drastically.
My mentor arranged for a bed to be put into my dressing room so that I could rest, but due to my nerves this was unfortunately not something that had much benefit.
Finally at 8pm the crew radioed in to my mentor to say it was now my time to enter the Den! At this point I was exhausted from waiting, worrying and rehearsing. My nerves are through the roof, my heart is racing, the level of anxiety I was experiencing is difficult to describe.
I will shortly be facing 5 wealthy people whom I have been watching on the screens for years! The concept of being in the Den was so nerve-racking, especially knowing that it will be aired to millions of viewers and it will be available digitally forever.
What if I mess up, what if I make a mistake, what if they rip me apart, what if I don't get investment, so many questions that were whirling through my head.
I got in the lift and just before the doors opened I overheard the Dragons' discussing/predicting what I was pitching to them, overhearing them didn't help matters at all, it threw me off totally...
I walked into the Den to the small x on the floor that I was shown ahead of the filming which was the place I was meant to stand for the duration of my pitch. I looked all the Dragons in the eyes, this was surreal! My dream was finally playing out, I was awe struck, all my rehearsals didn't mean anything anymore because my mind was overwhelmed, I never present in front of anyone, let alone in front of business people I aspire to and millions of viewers like you that will eventually see my pitch.
Omitted or Edited scenes
I was in the Den for over an hour, you only get to see roughly 10 minutes of it.
I started off my pitch but I forgot to mention the amount of money I was asking for the amount of equity of my business. Peter said 'you forgot to mention how much you are asking for and for what equity', with which I said 'sorry, the nerves must have got the better of me', Peter then said 'are you offering the business for free?', we all had a good laugh! I then said that I was asking for 75,000 in exchange for 5% of my business. Strangely this wasn't put into the episode, the editors cut the part from after that mistake and put it at the beginning of my pitch. If you go back and watch it you will notice the cut.
Later on in filming Deborah Meaden said she really liked the Puresweet Hunee® we were expecting this to feature in the show, so we stocked up a lot on that product, but instead they put in the part where Peter Jones said that he liked the watermelon sherbet, which was only in the development stages at that time, we had no idea that it would feature in the show because we got to see the episode at the same time as you did, the BBC does not send the entrepreneurs a preview.
There was also a lot of discussion regarding what the product costs to produce, where I want to take the business moving forward (besides being the next Tate and Lyle) and how we operate.
The editors cut out a part where Sara Davies said that she can't come to terms with the valuation of my business, with which Deborah Meaden came to my rescue right away and said 'In fact I think 1x turnover is a fair evaluation'.
Furthermore you may have noticed how underwhelmed I was when Touker Suleyman made his offer, I was taken aback that someone who didn't have any experience in taking food companies to market would offer the same percentage as what Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani had offered, I was unsure how he thought I would accept his offer on that basis.
When Deborah Meaden said that my product does not look like a retail brand, it shocked me because that goes against how well we are doing as a company and the feedback we have received from market research, but it was nice to receive a good reception when I said that the packaging is fully recyclable due to Deborah's eco credentials.
It was really nice to have a squabble in the Den which lasted longer than what you got to see. Also I went to the wall twice and I tried to negotiate the Dragons down in equity but these parts were all cut from the final episode.
The reason why some of the bags are turned around or lying down was due to the producers saying that there are new rules that don't allow you to show more than one of each product, it's because they don't want companies abusing the advertisement space they have being on Dragons' Den, this rule was only mentioned when we were setting up the table at the studio, so we had to find innovative ways to dress the table without showing more than one of each product. At that point we did't have our Brown Shuga® or our Mayple® Syrup so that meant we only had 3 products on the table. This gave us very little to play with.
Please keep a look out for more exciting products. We will have Shuga® Cubes available by August 2021, Puresweet Sherbet will be available shortly and we are looking into dessert syrups. For any other suggestions we would love to hear from you, please send it into firstname.lastname@example.org,
Ps. I have uploaded a separate blog on Dragons' Den spoilers that may interest you too.