Was it worth it? The truth about going on Dragons’ Den

Amelia Christie-Miller went in front of the Dragons and came away with £50,000 of investment in Bold Bean Co. She tells us what happened next.

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Any entrepreneur who says they go on Dragons’ Den for the actual investment alone is either lying to you or incredibly naive – borderline foolish. There are plenty of investors outside the BBC reality tv show who can open doors for you and they’ll likely give you a better valuation and far more time on the business alongside it. 

Entrepreneurs go through the pain-staking, anxiety-inducing process of prepping and planning for Dragons’ Den because they want their brand to see success and to feel the thrill of an overnight spike in sales. 

Of course, that could come through the profile of the Dragon rather than the airing of the show (imagine the value of a mention on a Diary of a CEO episode!). But the end goal is the same – to raise awareness, acquire new customers and to gain traction for your brand. 

And if you’re an entrepreneur reading this article, I know that the traction is exactly what you want to know about our experience. Because since airing in late March this year, among the huge number of messages from people, not one entrepreneur has asked me about what Deborah Meadon is like to have as an investor. 

Instead, I’ve been asked about sales data, Instagram followers and whether it was all worth it. 

So here it is folks, a full rundown. 

After the Dragons: what happened next?

Our instagram following grew around 4k (4%) and our mailing list grew by 3k (14%) in the week following airing, not bad, but it was the content we made using the Dragons’ Den footage in the subsequent weeks that saw real growth. 

Mashups of footage taken from our episode reached a collective one million views. Perhaps these videos are making their way through the mysterious algorithms to the people who tuned in that Thursday night and they decided to give us a follow. But I doubt this. 

My hunch is it’s more likely these videos are engaging with people that didn’t even watch that episode. Because almost every Brit has seen an episode of this show at some point in their lifetime, thanks to its 40 seasons on the BBC. 

We are all able to empathise with the chaos of being grilled by the Dragons, and this means these viewers give us the precious gift of their time. Engaging with our reels brings people into our brand in a more human way – without the typical “buy me” messaging consumers might be used to. 

It means they can see our own perspective, rather than the highly edited version that aired. A consumer’s familiarity with the Den experience is why even businesses that haven’t been in the Den have been taking advantage of its tried and tested formula for connecting with potential customers. 

Meal kit brand, Simmer, cut footage (for an April fools) from footage of another brand, Planthood. In the original, the Dragons praised Planthood for its “absolutely delicious” food and being “a brilliant business.Simmer used this mocked-up footage alongside its own media talking about its meal kit boxes to drive sales of a completely different product to the one the Dragons were tasting in the segment. 

But what about our sales?

Publicity is nothing without sales that follow. Months of stock management and carefully planned cash flow forecasts were put in at Bold Bean Co to ensure we could make the most of the buzz. 

Having spoken to previous contestants, we were prepping for 6x our monthly revenue in sales. Conversely to this forecast, we only ended up making 2x comparative to the month before. 

While, of course we’re still incredibly delighted by the new customers we’ve acquired, we budgeted for more. And that means we have been left with a load of stock that we’re still paying storage for. 

What we missed in that exciting multiple was the starting point our comparative entrepreneurs were looking at. A company selling 400 units a month is going to see 2,000 new customers overnight as a complete game changer. But if you’ve budgeted for 6x as a more mature business with 4,000 monthly customers, you’re suddenly well below target. That’s a schoolboy error we hope to save any potential contestants from when reading this. 

Anticlimax and checking your ego

This overestimation from us was initially, admittedly, a bit of an anticlimax. In the days that followed, the influx of congratulatory messages from LinkedIn friends made it feel like a somewhat success. But I began to feel a little embarrassed about my expectations and how I’d geared up my team to handle the fruits of the publicity. 

Bold Bean Co.

Bold Bean Co. won the Startups 100 Kitchen Table award in January 2023.

Self-doubt comes in to sabotage your performance (particularly when the Daily Express and Sun newspapers write full articles on how your segment was “boring”) and you question whether it really was worth all of that time, stress and effort. 

But, a month later after I’ve moved beyond my ego’s response to the data and I can see the results more clearly. We messed up on our forecast, yes. But the ripple impact of appearing on Dragons’ Den is so much more than the initial sales you get from it. 

More people are now conscious of our vision, our mission and heard on national television that “[beans are] the future of our food industry and I need to get behind it” (Sara). 

It’s easy to drive consumer trials through point-of-sale highlighting our reasons to believe, sampling, and Great Taste Awards recognition on our labels. But, in the seconds a consumer spends browsing the product, the hardest thing to do as a brand is to communicate what you stand for, why you exist and your brand mission. 

What we’ve realised is it’s not about the 48 hours that follow the show; it’s about the long game, and this is where the true value lies. 

While there wasn’t the climactic sales spike we anticipated, we’ve seen consistent growth in our ROS in retail, meaning people who might have seen the episode (or our content that followed it) have actually bothered to go into a store and see what these beans are about

We’ve spent years building the foundations for this sort of growth. This has involved developing a range of award winning beans, producing incredible recipe content, and nurturing relationships with suppliers. And we can’t help but notice that it’s paying off, including in the weeks following our appearance on Dragons’ Den. Are the two linked? We can’t be certain, but we’ll enjoy it either way.

Amelia Christie-Miller from Bold Bean Co

Amelia is the CEO and Founder of Bold Bean Co, a range of premium, jarred beans that won the Startups 100 Kitchen Table award in 2023. As a trained chef, she has also published a best-selling recipe Bold Bean recipe book to help more consumers become obsessed with beans.

Visit Bold Bean Co
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