Helen Davies, EasyTots.

Road to Dragons’ Den

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

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How did Covid impact upon the filming of Dragons’ Den?

It wasn’t until March 2020 that I got the final go-ahead. I was supposed to be pitching in May, but filming was stopped due to the Covid restrictions. There was no certainty when, or if, the series would happen. A carrot had been dangled, then pulled away from me; however, there were far worse casualties of Covid than that. In September 2020, everything happened at once… With lockdown restrictions easing, I got the call that filming for Dragons’ Den would resume. In just three weeks, I found some brilliant local warehouse space; built an office and moved in; took on my first full-time employee; and launched our new Unicorn Collection – all whilst rehearsing my pitch to the Dragons!

What makes a good pitch on Dragons’ Den?

I practised my two-minute pitch over Zoom with friends and family. Nearer to the time, I set up a display in my living room as I imagined it would be in the Den; then I practised 20-30 times a day. I don’t like public speaking and I was petrified of losing my thread and going under. It was so important to me to nail it.

I wanted to demonstrate our EasyMat Mini Max™ in the Den, which is the only suction plate with five points of suction. Whilst I raced to get enough samples together, I had another problem… The baby from my first audition had grown up too much since March! Luckily, my friend Lyndsay had nine-month-old twins, Ollie and Lottie. Being able to pick whichever baby was in the best mood on the day felt like a bonus!

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

Sara Davies MBE a British businesswoman, entrepreneur, and television personality

What happens after you get an investment on Dragons’ Den?

Since filming, things are moving forward in a very positive direction! The legal and due diligence work is nearly complete and, with Sara’s support, I’ve launched EasyTots on Amazon US. I feel so lucky that she is my Dragon.

For this series, Dragons’ Den has moved to BBC1 – broadcasting to a mainstream audience on Thursday evenings, which is amazing! With only three weeks’ notice to the programme airing, I booked a room at our local social club for friends and family to watch the show on the big screen. The best thing? Our Dragons’ Den success story is only beginning… Look out for our next blog, which will reveal what happened on the night the show aired and in the weeks that followed!

Bundle with minimax shop

A Dragons’ Den Success Story

How did you spend your week before Dragons’ Den aired on national TV?

The level of support we received during the seven-day build-up before the show aired blew me away! Our customers, affiliates and social media followers were SO excited for us. Their brand loyalty to EasyTots is amazing. They very much felt part of our journey to the Den.

I wanted to encourage everyone to join in the celebrations, so we mailed gift boxes crammed full of goodies to our supporters. I enclosed a special thank-you card from me, as well as branded flags to wave on the night and share on social that they were supporting EasyTots on Dragons’ Den. I am so glad we did… Seeing all the videos and photos that were posted is one of my favourite memories of the whole experience. Big thanks to everyone who got involved!

How did you spend your week before Dragons’ Den aired on national TV?

The level of support we received during the seven-day build-up before the show aired blew me away! Our customers, affiliates and social media followers were SO excited for us. Their brand loyalty to EasyTots is amazing. They very much felt part of our journey to the Den.

I wanted to encourage everyone to join in the celebrations, so we mailed gift boxes crammed full of goodies to our supporters. I enclosed a special thank-you card from me, as well as branded flags to wave on the night and share on social that they were supporting EasyTots on Dragons’ Den. I am so glad we did… Seeing all the videos and photos that were posted is one of my favourite memories of the whole experience. Big thanks to everyone who got involved!

What was it like watching Dragons’ Den and waiting for your pitch?

To kick off the watch party, I did an Instagram Live from the social club. I was so nervous that I couldn’t remember how to end the broadcast. I’ve done hundreds in the past, but my mind went completely blank. My media team had to step in and rescue me… LOL! I love watching that video back. It makes me howl! All of us are human, and often the things that go wrong make for the best memories.

My segment was second to last to be aired, so I had to wait through four other pitches. By that time, I’d had a few glasses of wine and my heart was going, but everyone was so supportive – cheering me on and waving their flags. I’d only told people the outcome of the pitch on a need-to-know basis, so most people in the room didn’t know whether or not I got an investment! 

I somehow managed to keep it a secret for all those months after filming wrapped up in September 2020.

After a tense build-up, with every other Dragon having declared themselves out, Sara Davies made me an offer: £80,000 in exchange for 30% equity in my business.

Of course, I accepted. I didn’t even need to think about it or go and speak to the wall! She had seen the potential in my products and was willing to give me a chance, which I grabbed with both hands.

Everyone at the watch party went bonkers. It was a huge moment of celebration. The hugs I shared with my family meant even more – having spent so many months in lockdown.

Our social media accounts blew up with congratulatory messages, so I was especially grateful to Stephanie Halsall, who spent the evening glued to her phone and, for the next few days, engaging with all our well-wishers.

Did anything happen in the Den that did not make it onto the TV?

If you’ve read Part One of this blog – the Road to Dragons’ Den – you’ll know that I had a bit of a nightmare with the demonstration part of my pitch. It was a double-edged sword that the footage of me ripping the mat off the highchair didn’t make it onto TV. I had overstocked on that particular product, the EasyMat Mini Max™, because I expected it to get airtime; however, it was the correct and fairest choice to ditch the footage, as I hadn’t had the chance to set it up on the highchair correctly. Thank you, Dragons’ Den!

Once the show finished broadcasting, I had a special surprise for my watch party guests… I played a private video that Sara Davies herself had recorded for them – saying how excited she was to work with EasyTots.

How lovely to get a direct message from my Dragon to my family, friends and employees! It topped the night off perfectly.

What happened the day after you appeared on Dragons’ Den?

The day after Dragons’ Den aired, we were totally immersed in answering new stockists’ enquiries (both here in the UK and overseas), as well as customer messages.

We had so many direct messages of support on social media – and more emails and voicemails than I can count! Our brilliant team were straight on it – picking and packing the flood of orders that had come in overnight.

Most new customers bought from Amazon; however, lots of people discovered you can buy direct from our website: www.easytots.com

By far, the most popular product was our EasyMat Mini™, but lots of people who were new to the brand saw the benefit in buying one of our amazing Weaning Bundle Deals, so our average sales order value stayed consistent with pre-Dragons’ Den levels.

Where we did see a huge uplift was the 900% increase in the total number of sales! Naturally, that’s levelled off now, but we are still 100% up compared with before the show aired.

Do the Dragons actually invest?

The money offers you see on Dragons’ Den are real. We are currently waiting for the paperwork confirming Sara’s investment in EasyTots to be completed. The wheels are in motion… Exciting times!

Have you kept in touch with your Dragon?

Sara’s assistant looks after her investments as the first point of contact. We are in a private WhatsApp group and we message and email each other in between fortnightly Google Meets.

Sara has been incredibly supportive throughout this whole experience and messaged me personally the day after Dragons’ Den was broadcast. She’s definitely the best Dragon for me. She gets it and she’s a mum herself, and I couldn’t have asked for a better result.

Within a week, I got to meet Sara in person at the Crafter’s Companion – Sara’s HQ in the North East. We had time in her studio to do a filmed interview. This was a fantastic experience where Sara and I answered questions from our social media folowers. Watch the interview here! Sara also demonstrated the strength of the EasyMat Mini Max™ with a pull-tester. Go check it out on Instagram!

Having now met Sara with her extended team, I can see what a phenomenal leader in business she is, as well as being well-liked and down to earth. Sara is so easy to get along with. We are on exactly the same page and I am so excited to see where, together, we can take EasyTots in the longer term. Look out for new products that are in the pipeline, new colour ways and a gifting set – all part of a complete revamp ahead of Christmas 2021!

pull test

What surprised you the most about your experience of being on Dragons’ Den?

I was genuinely surprised by the number of people who went out of their way to contact us and say: ‘Well done’. It is really rewarding to have the support of total strangers and it just goes to show what a massive impact primetime TV shows like Dragons’ Den can have on your visibility.

Another fun milestone for me was appearing on the front cover and page three of my hometown’s newspaper, the Warrington Guardian.

I would tell anyone who has a business or a product that they know solves a problem to apply to enter the Den. Despite being incredibly out of your comfort zone, great things can come of it.