BOLD BEANS dragons den

Amelia Christie-Miller, founder of Bold Bean Co, reflects on the “rollercoaster that is Dragons’ Den”

By the time you’re reading this, my Bold Bean Co pitch on Dragons’ Den will have aired on national television. This is the sort of brand awareness a startup can only dream of, with our tiny budgets and teams. We’re thrilled if an Instagram post reaches over 100,000 viewers, let alone the three million people who will have tuned in on Thursday evening to hear our story.

Over the past year, the whole team has put at least a month’s work into this project. I know in time, I’ll be sharing how and why it was all worth it – like most startup founders, I hold a skill at forgetting the toil in lieu of the glory moments. So with that in mind, I wanted to reflect on the rollercoaster that is Dragons’ Den, and what entrepreneurs should know before applying.

You can apply to the show at any given point, but strategically, there is a balance. Going on early in your journey, before you have distribution, means the publicity is wasted – but leaving it until you’re well established means the Dragons are unlikely to be interested (and that’s if you get through the selection process). So think about when the timing is right for your business.

Then, make sure you don’t need the investment. I know it sounds completely counterintuitive for a show that involves trying to win investment. But not only would that make the already nerve-wracking experience extremely high stakes, if you’ve forecast for that capital coming in, you’ll be screwed by the lengthy and uncertain due diligence process carried out by the Dragons.

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You so often hear about those who feature on the programme, but forget there are many who don’t make it onto the big screen. Many brilliant entrepreneurs go through the whole process only to hear their segment wasn’t “dramatic” enough to make the cut (it is an entertainment show, after all). 

Sophie McGregor and Ella Harland of Griddle were cut from the 2023 season because the Dragons were “too impressed” by their progress and didn’t feel like they could add enough value. When I heard stories like this, it made public ridicule appear like the preferential option, given all the work we’d put in.

Before you’re even in the Den, you’re putting hours into the selection process. There are numerous interviews with producers, conversations with previous contenders, and of course, time spent learning the numbers. There were hours of paperwork, collating evidence of why “beans can save the world” (we had to scrap that one!) and finding proof we were in conversations with M&S.

My team acted as Dragons and picked up slack for the time I was taking out of the business to practice my pitch. This is time we’ll never get back, and we could have done all of that without even being aired… it was risky to say the least!

Bold Bean Co Credit-Milly-Fletcher-36

Source: Bold Bean Co / Milly Fletcher

Then you have months of worrying you won’t be aired, yet needing to prepare the business in case you are. We were in close conversation with our friends at Stocked (filmed in the same season as us). They received an email from their producer confirming they were in the edit months before we received ours. How are you supposed to plan for 6x sales, get custom srps made, and maximise your retail partnerships when you don’t know for sure you’re even going to be featured?

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious to viewers: you don’t know how it’s going to go. We’ve all seen car crashes on the show – there is a reason they’re called Dragons. It’s a people pleaser’s worst nightmare: they hold harsh expressions that are designed to make you feel like an idiot, and if you start off on the back foot, it’s beyond tough to claw it back.

My pitch was mixed – there were golden moments but there were also some incredibly embarrassing ones that I know don’t do the brand (let alone me!) justice. You don’t know how you will be portrayed until you watch it with the public on Thursday evening.

But if you’re a founder of a business, risk is in the job spec. We’ve all seen the success stories of Levi Roots, PerfectTed and Rheal, and we made the call that the months of anxiety, stress and hard work would pull through.

When I received a call from the producer last week confirming my air date, I let out a deep breath: it’s been worth it. Because even with the risk of public humiliation, someone watching may decide to give our beans a try – and once they do, we’re confident they’ll know we’re worth the investment.