Founder Matt gives us a behind the scenes on all things Dragons' Den.
July 7th 2021. I’d just spent the night in hospital trying to be helpful during the birth of Fleur, our first child, and Eddie had just fallen down the stairs and broken his leg. But bleary-eyed and hobbling, we made our way up to BBC Manchester armed with 50 boxes of deodorant, a giant wheelie bin and whole lotta nerves. We were about to put our deodorant to the ultimate test...in the fiery belly of the Dragons’ Den. But first things first…
What’s The Bin All About?
About a month before filming we took a call from a producer at the BBC offering us the chance to be on the Den. Truth be told it was too soon; we hadn’t even launched the business yet, but to save the world we need to tell the world, and this was a brilliant opportunity to do just that…I also had a score to settle after once failing a screen test for Come Dine With Me.
The producer explained that although we might get on the show, there was no guarantee our pitch would make the final cut for TV. So it was quickly decided that surely the only way to guarantee our spot on TV was for me to hide in a bin. The producer of course agreed.
People did express some concern at our idea. Nigel the health and safety rep was one, but others too who thought we might be devaluing our brand and message by looking like idiots. To us though that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of our core values at Fussy is to take the work we do seriously but not ourselves. The bin was the perfect demonstration of this value. Why communicate a serious message in a serious way? If anything that will just wash over people. The bin it was.
And don't worry, the bin lives on. It was rightly made good after the show and put to good use at the BBC.
The Night Before
The BBC put us up in a very pleasant (functional) hotel and after grabbing a sandwich from Tesco Metro and pulling the beds apart a bit, we got to work practising our pitch and playing Dragon for the night firing questions at each other. In hindsight maybe I should have spent the same amount of time ironing my shirt as we did practising. But I thought the Dragons might excuse a crinkled collar over a forgotten margin. To that end, we memorised every number of the business to the penny, with VAT, without VAT and as percentages.
The VIP Treatment
Powered by a double dose of coffee and adrenaline, at 6am we bundled straight into a cab to the studio where we were promptly shown to our dressing room and set about practising…again. We had a rehearsal at 10am where I got to try the bin out, shiny red and smelling of bleach. This was quite some upgrade to the black bin outside my flat that we used for our audition tape.
We were due to be set at 12pm but first, there was a quick meeting with the Executive Producer who asked us to consider re-evaluating our valuation. The 1.5% we were willing to give away apparently wouldn’t go down well and wouldn’t make ‘great TV’ as all the conversation would revolve entirely around that. We quickly refuted that, asking the Exec if she had yet had a chance to review our sales to date and projections on which we based the valuation. Of course, they hadn’t and so ‘great TV’ was left in the bin and we were left to the numbers. Namaste.
It's Almost All Real
Everything we said in the Den is true. It all has to go through lengthy due diligence before even pitching and post show all our answers to their questions are again checked. But guess what isn’t real? THE LIFT IS A FAKE. The ‘lift’ doors are powered by a man pulling a rope. In fact the whole place is a giant set made of wood and paper that would burn to the ground should a Dragon dare even burp a fireball.
What is very much real though is the pitch. We were there for 2 hours being questioned by the Dragons. It was by far one of the most nerve-racking pitches we’d ever experienced and at one point my left leg started shaking uncontrollably. The lights, the camera, the thought of everything we said being cut and recut and ending up on national TV. But this was what we signed up for.
Say That Again Please Steven
The Dragons stayed poker face throughout the pitch. I don’t think Peter and Steven even looked up, maybe not wanting to engage seriously with a man in a bin asking for £50,000 of their hard earned cash or maybe not wanting to be distracted. Either way, when we got to presenting our financials, the click of pens echoed throughout the den and they began writing so furiously I’m surprised they didn’t burn through their notepads.
After our introductory pitch, we were put immediately at ease as the compliments on the product and brand flooded in. Looking back, that could have been a very clever negotiation tactic, a way of disarming us and luring us into a false sense of security. Clever Dragons. Either way, we lapped it up and particularly enjoyed Steven leaping to our defence and putting Touka in his place during a fiery exchange. As the ultimate Steven fanboys we were loving it, even more so when a shout came from the wings that Steven’s mic had fallen off and they wanted him to re-enact it all again. Oh go on then Steven, if you must.
To The Wall?
This was one part of the Den I didn’t enjoy. Here you are faced with giving away part of your business and you have to decide on the spot without being able to fully understand the finer details of the deal and the value addition of the Dragons. I think in the end we went to the wall four times to discuss our options and questioned the Dragons on specifically how they would be able to help us. We accepted a deal of 5% from Deborah and Peter. Five times our original ask of 1% but with the promise from Peter to half our fulfilment costs overnight…worth very much more to the business than what we gave away.
Six Months Later
The deal with Peter and Deborah was struck about 6 months post-den...after a little bit of re-negotiation 😉. They have been a fantastic addition to the team. Of course, looking back there are so many questions we would have answered differently but at the time, a week after launching the business and with everything else we had going on, I think we did alright. We were honest, true to ourselves and now have two great Dragons on board helping us on our mission to banish single-use plastic from bathrooms worldwide.