How did you apply to be on Dragons’ Den?
I got ‘The Call’ from a producer in January last year. Dragons’ Den had received my application and I had been provisionally shortlisted.
The next-stage interview was taking place then and there over the phone. It had been over 6 months since I filled in the forms at the end of the last series. I had forgotten all about it, but when opportunity knocks, you go for it!
Luckily, they liked my phone interview and invited me to audition in the studios. It was getting real. I had one week to prepare a pitch for the producers – pretending they were the Dragons. They said it would be a good idea to bring a baby, so I scouted around friends. Luckily, Mandy agreed to come along with her son, Cameron.
I did my pitch, but I fluffed it… My worst fear come true! Fortunately, the producers were very understanding. “We just want to see if you can do it with some prep,” they explained. The second time, I got my point across.
They had 125 people to see and some serious competition, so when the producer phoned a month later to say I had been selected for filming, I squealed down the phone! It was a sign – a turning point in the business… Something I felt I deserved. I knew the enormity of it. From that day on, everything became focused on making sure I smashed it on Dragons’ Den!
A long period of due diligence followed. Everything I had written on my application had to be verified – from my finances and customer numbers to our intellectual property. I couldn’t shut my evidence binder, it was so full!
“It was a sign – a turning point in the business… Something I felt I deserved. I knew the enormity of it. From that day on, everything became focused on making sure I smashed it on Dragons’ Den!”.
– Helen Davies, EasyTots Founder
How is Dragons’ Den filmed?
I arrived at the studios at 12noon on filming day, but it wasn’t until 7pm that I got to pitch to the Dragons. In the meantime, due to Covid, we all had to stay in separate dressing rooms – including the twins with their mummy and daddy.
I was in and out all day – doing little bits of filming and having my makeup touched up. Every time someone knocked on the door, I thought: I’m up… It’s me!
Lottie was going through a screeching phase, so we switched to Ollie for filming. He was so tired by 7pm he fell asleep in the lift! Stood waiting for the green light to enter the Den, I was having serious fight or flight. It was great to have Lyndsay’s support. Just as the lift doors opened, Ollie woke up, so it all came good in the end!
What is it like to pitch on Dragons’ Den?
I walked into the Den, stood on my predefined spot and launched into my pitch whilst Lyndsey sat Ollie in his highchair near Peter Jones. It is as real as you see on TV. There’s no stopping and no second chances. Get through it, get through it, get through it… I kept telling myself; then, at the penultimate moment, an epic prop fail! I reached over to the highchair, grabbed the EasyMat Mini Max™ and said: “As you can see, this product has unparalleled suction.” Only when I yanked the mat, it ripped straight off! As Deborah Meaden’s jaw dropped, the world swallowed me up.
Straight away, I knew why it had happened. The studio team had adjusted the display just before filming. They had forgotten to push the suction cups back down when they replaced the mat on the highchair. It was the worst thing that could have happened at my moment of truth. I could never get those seconds back, so I just pressed the suction pads down, demonstrated it again and ploughed on.
What questions do they ask on Dragons’ Den?
The most off-putting part of the questions is that you don’t get a drink of water. I know my business inside out but, after 40 minutes, my mouth felt like I’d been to the dentist and had all the moisture sucked out of it!
Due to his existing business interests, I thought Touker Suleyman was the Dragon for me. If anything, he was rather brutal and the first to say: “I’m out”. Peter and Deborah were next to declare themselves out after Peter picked over my financials and profitability. That left Tej Lalvani and Sara Davies, who was super-smiley and my go-to person for eye contact.
Sara said: “Sell this to me,” which was the lifeline I needed. I told her: “You need to invest in me, and this is why.” Sara offered me an £80,000 investment in return for a 30% equity stake. Tej said that he felt Sara had made an excellent offer that he couldn’t beat. I didn’t need to go and talk to the wall. It was an absolute no-brainer. Of course, I said: “Yes!”
Afterwards, I was in a daze. Had all that really just happened? With no time to process anything, I had to go straight through to the post-pitch interview to capture my reaction. I still have no clue what I said!
Sara Davies MBE a British businesswoman, entrepreneur, and television personality