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Would you appear on Dragons’ Den?

Diane Hall


Dragons Den studio at media city

The show has been on our screen for eighteen series and it’s still going strong. Though various Dragons have come and gone, there’s still one of the originals in the hot seats, Peter Jones, who has been with the programme since the beginning. Fellow Dragon Deborah Meaden is almost as longstanding, having joined the Den in the third series.

To pitch to these titans of the business world may be a dream for some entrepreneurs—not just to get their financial backing, but also the faith that you, as founder/creator, have found a new, potentially lucrative idea or a gap in the market.

However, that’s not to say the Dragons always get it right. They have backed some fantastic businesses, but they’ve also missed out on some huge successes. There are plenty of stories out there that feature entrepreneurs who were turned down in the Den but who went on to smash markets on their own afterwards.

BrewDog is one such business. Their pitch to offer 20% of their fledgling enterprise for a £100,000 investment was never seen by the Dragons, as the producers of the programme didn’t even think their business worthy of being featured. Fast forward a few years, and the BrewDog brand is worth a tidy £1.8 billion. I’m sure every Dragon would have liked a piece of that.

Though Levi Roots was a winner in the Den, following his collaboration with Peter Jones, it seems food and drink pitches aren’t as appetising as some of the other opportunities. Take ‘Granny Cool’. The friends behind the brand, which was called ‘Granny Marmalade’ at the time of pitching, Nikki Frith and Lindsey Oldroyd, received a good deal of criticism from the business gurus on the programme. None of them saw the potential of the opportunity, despite the product being stocked in more than 80 stores within six months of launch. After the ladies left the Den, they rebranded and wasted no time in getting their curds and marmalades into retailers such as Selfridges. They branched out even further with international stockists.

Levi Roots

Levi Roots

Levi Roots - Winner with Reggae Reggae Sauce

A self-balancing dog bowl that allows pets to replenish their fluids when travelling seemed to be one of those ‘why has this not been invented before?’ ideas. However, when creator Natalie Ellis went before the Dragons with her plan to expand into America, she found none of them wanted a bite of her business. Dogged determination saw Natalie turn over a million in sales within a year of their refusal to invest, with 40% of purchases coming from buyers in the States.

Perhaps one of the more famous rejections, Trunki, is definite proof that the Dragons don’t know everything, as they certainly didn’t spot the potential of this fab product. A child-sized suitcase that can also be used as a ride-along has saved many parents from carrying their children around airports. The Dragons saw Trunkis as a solution for a non-existent problem and failed to invest. Luckily for Trunki creator Rob Law, the public didn’t agree. A decade after the show aired, Rob has sold more than three million of his unique suitcases across 100 countries, which netted a turnover of £9.5 million.

Belief in your product when those around you think you’re wasting your time and money is key when getting it off the ground. Hairdresser Shaun Pulfrey, creator of the Tangle Teezer hairbrush, invested almost £100,000 of his own money into his business when the Dragons passed on his pitch. His instincts were spot on—the brand is now worth £65 million.

Regular viewers of the programme will know that the Dragons have spotted as many good deals over the years as they have turned away, if not more so. They undoubtedly have business acumen to have achieved as much with their own companies and brands as they have. Whilst it would be a dream for many entrepreneurs to hear the Dragons’ thoughts on their business idea, the sad fact is that the pitch just has to make good TV; a lot of successful businesses would not be deemed showy or unique enough to appear—but that doesn’t make them any less worthy.

Luckily, there are plenty of Dragon-style angel investors away from the telly who aren’t as bothered about the glamour surrounding an opportunity…just its ability to make them their money back and more.

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