The Morning of the Show
It’s 4am. I’ve been waking up every hour since I went to bed at midnight - panicking that I might have slept through my alarm. It’s time to get dressed. Today is the day.
Dragons Den is filmed in Manchester at the old Granada Studios. I grew up in Manchester, so I know the city well. Past the Hilton Hotel, right at the Science and Industry Museum … I’m there. It’s super early, I park up on the side of the road and text Joe. Joe is the lovely Dragons Den researcher who has looked after me since I first auditioned over a year ago. He’s on his way.
It’s a dark, grey, rainy morning. I’d quite like the rain to stop, it’s taken a good twenty minutes to get these curls into my hair and I’d rather not go on national television looking a frizzy mess! 6:30 … I drive the last couple of hundred yards, past security and bear left. There’s a classic Bentley parked up right beside the building. Rumour has it that’s Peters (I had a chat to the crew about it when I dropped my products off yesterday).
Inside the building is a maze of rooms and corridors. It’s a layout that in reality is probably quite simple to navigate, but for someone with a terrible sense of direction and bad case of nerves it feels like a labyrinth. I’m shown to the green room and put straight into hair and makeup! So this is how pitchers look so polished on the show. My worries about looking like a drenched frizz ball disappear as make up artist Di begins to work her magic!
“Are you ready to come and set up your tableau?”, it’s Joe. Di is still refining the curls. I’d had to google the word ‘tableau’ before my audition - I thought it was just a posh way of saying ‘table’! I go through to what looks like a giant black warehouse. Crew are running around, I spot my shelving unit and boxes and begin to unpack and set up my skincare on the display. This felt fairly simple when I was arranging everything at home. Under pressure and with all eyes on me, it feels like a whole different ball game.
The Run Through
I’m introduced to members of the crew in a whirlwind. It all begins to feel very real. And it’s time for the run through. Somehow I wasn’t expecting to have to practice my pitch in front of anyone, but the exec producers want to see it. I step forward and begin. There must be thirty people all milling around getting on with their various jobs, as my pitch continues they begin to break away from what they’re doing to watch. It’s too much, this is too real and I’m really not ready. I’m recalling the moment my Doctor suggested chemo drugs to heal my skin and I can feel myself well up. Jeez girl, pull yourself together, it’s Dragons Den … not the X Factor. Too late, there are tears and I’m mortified. A lovely crew member comes flying over with a box of tissues. Di’s makeup, I can’t ruin Di’s makeup. Oh god, this is a disaster. Imagine actually crying in the Den. Deborah Meaden is going to look at me as though I’ve lost the plot. So much for being a strong and savvy business woman. The producers are reassuring me that it’s just overwhelming nerves and that I’ll be fine, but I can tell even they’re thinking ‘what the hell just happened’!!
What to Wear
I’m still in my combat pants and t-shirt. Choosing what to wear in the den was one of the toughest parts of planning my audition. I’m not really a massive fan of shopping and I don’t own piles of clothes - but deciding what to wear on national television is pretty important. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a suit and in fairness spend most of my days in leggings and hoodies - watching Peter Jone’s pull up pitchers on their lack of effort, I don’t think gym / casual is the way forward for me.
I’ve always found shopping quite a stressful experience. I think it goes back to hating my reflection under bright changing room lights and feeling limited to long trousers and sleeves to cover my skin. But there I am, Friday night, trawling every shop in the Trafford Centre for something suitable. All the dresses I like make me look as though I should be on a beach in California … I’m not sure that style will go down well with the power dressing dragons! Until … there it is. Sleeveless and not too short, low cut but not boobs-on-show low, fun but professional and the colour - the brightest, happiest, most vibrant blue, officially described as ‘ultra aqua marine’. That’s the dress.
Walking into the Den
The crew show me round to the Dragons Den corridor. You know that part on the show where you see contestants nervously pacing. They leave me there for a long time! I’m determined not to look nervous. I’m smiling and standing calmly, one minute, two minutes … this feels like an eternity. I’m pacing, my mind is trying to go through the pitch for the millionth time, I’m probably looking ridiculously nervous. The light goes green.
I’m walking towards the lift, trying to remember everything I’ve been told. Press the button. Wait. Step into the lift. I’m stood in there for what feels like an eternity, the doors open … I’m in the Den.
I can only describe walking out of that lift as a sort of surreal out of body experience. It’s like being plonked onto a television set (which obviously it is) but all I could think was ‘I’m in the Den’! And there, directly in front of me, in a bright red suit is Deborah Meaden. ‘I’m in the Den … and that’s Deborah!’.
The pitch itself is a bit of a blur, there are no second chances, no retakes, what you see on TV is exactly what happens. The bow on my dress comes undone, I’m trying to redo it as subtly as possible without losing track of where I’m up to or making a fuss! I don’t cry - that’s a bonus! I don’t drop the trays of skin care (I’d had genuine anxiety over that happening) … and the questioning begins.
This is the bit I feel more comfortable with. Non rehearsed, just answering the Dragons questions. The brand is such a massive part of me, talking about it is easy! “I’m going to make you an offer” … it’s Deborah. I’m smiling big time inside! If nothing else, this moment means I can go home to friends and family and say “Deborah Meaden offered me investment”. She’s offering the full amount in exchange for 20%.
What you see on TV is such a short highlight of my actual experience. I was in the Den for an hour and thirty minutes in total - although it flew by! One by one the Dragons matched Deborah’s offer. I’m not sure how blown away I look on TV - I was trying hard not to get too emotional - but that moment was amazing! All 5 Dragons offering me investment. Since I was pitching on my own in the Den, I’d vowed ahead of the show not to go and talk to the wall. I totally get it if there’s two of you, and you need a private conversation about what to do next, but I think it looks a bit pointless just standing there alone. “Do you want to go and talk to the wall?”, it’s Deborah. “Yes, yes I do!”. At that moment it’s just anything to get away from the glare of the Dragons and to somehow take a second to think. What I really wanted to do was phone a friend!!
Deciding on my Dragons
Deciding on my Dragons was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. Not because there’s any doubting that Peter and Tej are amazing - simply because all five Dragons could offer something incredible to my brand. Tej’s connections within the health and wellbeing industry, and Peter’s offer to help me crack America were my deciding factors. I’ll never forget Deborah glaring at me from her Dragon’s chair as I shook hands with Peter and Tej, stating ‘you picked the wrong Dragons’. I think we’re going to be a powerful little team, and I’m excited at the prospect of proving Deborah wrong!