BBC Dragons Den – Series 3 – Episode 7
Paul’s Dragons’ Den mini-blog (c)2006 Paul Marshall
Yes it’s true, I was brave (foolish) enough to put myself and my business bingbangbong.com in front of the infamous ‘Dragons’ in an effort to raise investment and gain partnership. I participated in series 3.
Having been a big fan of the show through series 1 and 2, I submitted an online application, went through a lengthy phone interview, a longer ‘on camera’ audition and various stages of detailed vetting and screening before being accepted to appear in front of the notorious Dragons. If you apply and get to face the Dragons you know that you and your business have been under the microscope.
In Series III there are three of the Dragons remaining from Series II, Peter Jones, Theo Paphtis and Duncan Bannatyne. In addition there were two new Dragons, Richard Farleigh and Deborah Meaden who replaced Doug Richard and Rachel Elnaugh. I had an idea what to expect from Peter, Theo and Duncan but Richard and Deborah were unknown quantities. I did buy Richard’s book though which let me know quickly that he’s a shrewd, strategic investor with an original perspective on risk, he is also a chess master which seems to fit well.
I made the decision to apply because although have built the business single handed from scratch I have reached the point where I needed to scale up the function and output to meet demand. The basic premise of my pitch therefore was to seek investment to increase my manufacturing capabilities in order that I could provide sound products to suppliers and to integrate elements into manufacturers own play & sensory equipment. I would continue to serve individual clients and maintain the custom design & consulting arm of the business, all still under bingbangbong.
To present the business properly, I had reviewed, updated and learned my Business Plan. I believed strongly that I had a viable investment proposition in bingbangbong which is an established and functioning business. I also believed that my future creativity in this field would be of value. My mind generates new and fresh ideas continually, that is of great intrinsic value to myself and the business. It’s inconvenient when trying to sleep but if I can’t stop it then I may as well use it, which is how bingbangbong got started in the first place.
Standing at the bottom of those infamous stairs, waiting for the signal to enter the Den and the time spent delivering my pitch were probably five of the most stressful minutes of my entire life. If you’ve not done it, you can only imagine it. I’m afraid that as a result, my pitch wasn’t as smooth as I had planned however the rest of my Den-time was comparatively more comfortable as I was speaking of things about which I am passionate.
As an example of ‘there’s more to come’, I mentioned at one stage that there were potential future patentable items that I had designed. In hindsight I would have done better to have not mentioned this at all. Despite having identified a specific, sizeable market and proven demand which I have been servicing for a number of years, the inability to discuss specific intellectual property on camera seemed to put off Deborah. It is understandable from an potential investor’s perspective but under a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement I would have been able to have shared more detail.
Peter’s comment about the business being based around me is fair insofar as it reflects my central critical role in designing products and shaping the business, however the areas intended for expansion such as marketing and manufacturing are those not requiring my individual input. I suspect that I could have presented in such a way as to have made this clearer but it was what it was on the day.
Overall though, the Dragons really liked my ideas, as the broadcast commentary said, “the Dragons loved it”. Peter said “this is great, children all over will really go for this” Richard and Duncan said they would have considered investing just for the fun of it if the investment amounts were smaller, all were complimentary.
They did individually offer me some very relevant business advice for which I am very grateful, Peter Jones particularly, who advised me to work with individual play equipment manufacturers to create new and innovative sound play items and license those designs to them. Individually they wished me well with my business and asked for my website address.
The edit, I imagine for reasons of brevity, said that ‘the pitch fell flat when I was quizzed on my cashflow’ respectfully I disagree with that presentation, the small turnover reflects the fact that I am one person doing all the functions – to quote another dragon’s previous advice “do as much as you can, with as little as you can, for as long as you can.” I was there primarily because of that exact reason, the need to move forward and scale up.
Having now seen the first number of programmes of series 3, I believe that the Dragons are being much tougher and more candid than they were in previous series, if that is possible. I felt that I personally came away with more positives than negatives and I definitely feel that I got a supportive boost, I now know that others who were at my day of filming did not fare so well.
Am I glad that I did it? Yes, absolutely. I once walked barefoot through fire for real and I did it again here, feeling the same sense of baptism. It has been one of my life’s enriching experiences and certainly forced me to become intimate with every aspect of my business. Would I recommend it to others? Yes in terms of the potential gains but I’d advise that you know your business and your market inside out, upside down & backwards and that you are prepared for them to poke holes in your business in unexpected places.
If this wee blog is read by any of the Dragons themselves then I thank you for your positivity and your encouragement. It does make a difference! I’ll be happy to place sound in all your premises, at a discount naturally, but not too much, after all this is business
At least I wasn’t toasted!
I also want to say a big thank you to the Dragons Den production teams in Manchester and London. The people you see credited at the end of the programme, and some who aren’t, all do a tremendous job. I had lots of fun with researchers Janine and Charlie in the preparation period and Charlie who worked most closely with me on the day itself was amazing, thank you. I’d also like to say a big thank you and hey to Stu, Sue, Serge, Julian, Ronald, Ian and others.