6 week before
We got approached to go on the Dragons' Den when a researcher got in touch back in April 2018 who tried one of our chocolate bars and loved the story and ethos.
The first stage was to do a quick 1-minute audition in London which was speaking into a camera. I had a few attempts at it before finally producing a good one which our researcher liked. This was sent to the production executive to give the thumbs up.
With filming having already started for the season, the turn around was very quick between the audition and the actual pitch with it being only 3-4 weeks.
The night before
The production set is in Salford and I arrived the afternoon before on the train from London. With it being the first sunshine of the year I decided to have a quick drink outside with Maria before going to a Chinese restaurant in Manchester's Chinatown.
With my alarm set to 5.30am I was in bed for 11pm, however, had a dreadful sleep waking up numerous times!
I was up at 5.30am and down in the hotel lobby by 5.45am ready to go. There were a few people around and they were all very quiet and looking nervous. A taxi came and all the people in the lobby got in. The studios were only 5 minutes away and we arrived for 6am.
We then set up our stands for half an hour before being told to wait in the kitchen area of the building and it was the first chance to speak with others. Everyone was nervous and excited and it was great to be able to speak with other entrepreneurs.
It was 10am before the Dragons' arrived and soon after the producers picked someone to go first. I thought it was great that it wasn't me as allowed extra time to perfect my pitch. I must have practised it 100's of times in front of the mirror as well as in front of other contestants. There was a really good vibe between everyone helping each other. As the day went by contestants kept getting called by the producers and I was still waiting around. After 10 hours waiting around I knew I was going to be last on with the 5th entrepreneurs going to pitch to the Dragons.
It was 6pm before I was told it was my time and as soon as they gave me the nod, my heart started to beat a lot quicker! As I was waiting to go into the lift, I wanted to practice my pitch one last time before going on and suddenly my mind went blank. I couldn't remember much more than my name.
I was then whisked into the lift and it seemed like an eternity in there with it being very hot and I was frantically trying to recall my pitch. The door then flung open and I remember seeing all the Dragons smiling and this gave me great confidence. I took my spot which was marked on the floor with an X, composed myself and started to present my pitch. After 2-3minutes my time was up and the Dragons' soon wanted samples to try and started to ask questions.
I have watched the show many times before so knew what to expect and ensured I got my figures out very quickly when answering something which has little to do with them. Deborah said "You've watched this before haven't you!" and that was me done with the Sales forecasts. The questions soon turned to my background and what inspired me to setup Love Cocoa. Tej having asked a few questions soon made me an offer for 20% however I only wanted to give away 5% of the business. Soon other Dragons started asking more questions and a few said the famous "I'm Out" over concerns with the direction I was taking (Deborah) and IP (Jenny, Tukar).
Peter Jones who had patiently waited suddenly started speaking and for the first 20 seconds wasn't sure if he was backing me or not, with him disagreeing with Jenny and Tej. He suddenly said he loved the chocolate and the packaging, having eaten most of the bars! He loved that we supported the Rainforest Foundation and thought our new partnership with John Lewis was great. He then made an offer asking for the same 20% as Tej.
Having consulted the "wall" twice I was still unsure what to do as I didn't want to give away that much of the business. Both Tej and Peter offered me additional help as well as the money and then finally Tej said he would reduce to 15% if I paid him back. It was this that convinced me to go with Tej over Peter and I left the Den with a deal. We briefly chatted after filming and was told one of his helpers would be in touch. I then met up with Maria and we got the train back to London.
We then had a follow-up meeting the month after filming however during this time it was apparent that some of the points mentioned within the negotiation in the Den were not clear and we decided the deal wasn't right for us and we walked away from the deal. Tej was super supportive and a gentleman to deal with however we couldn't quite come to an agreement.
Since the Den, we have tripled revenue and it turned out to be the right decision not to accept the deal!
Check out our chocolate products here