Do you have any dreams that you have always hoped would come true but never thought would actually happen? That's what Dragons' Den has been for us. We've both been avid viewers of the show - all the way back from when we were in high school! We remember being in awe by the confidence, determination and creativity that the pitchers brought into the den.
In probably our biggest pinch me moment to date, we're excited to announce that 6 weeks ago we filmed our pitch and this coming Thursday, October 29th at 9pm EST our episode will be live! It was an incredible experience, and one that we could have used a "check list" for ahead of time. So, we thought that it would be helpful for us to share the behind the scenes breakdown about our day in the den!
There are three main parts of the Dragons’ Den process: application, audition, and taping. Just because you make it to the taping does not mean you are guaranteed a spot in the season! The entire process from application to airing took around 9 months. We applied in early February, and auditioned to producers at the end of that month. A producer reached out in July to let us know we were one of 80 teams advancing to the taping stage, from the initial group of 2000 auditions. Normally the taping begins shortly after, however this year it was delayed due to the pandemic. We went for our in-person taping on September 2, and Season 15 began airing on October 22.
Our audition back in February!
Application and Audition Process
Applications for Dragons' Den open up once per year. This year the applications opened in February. The online application was pretty straight forward - just some high level questions about our business, what problem we are solving, our traction and what we are looking to get on the show. We also had to film a quick 1 min pitch video and submit with our application.
The next step was in person auditions. We auditioned on February 29th in the lobby of the CBC building in downtown Toronto. Auditions opened at 10am that morning so we got there first thing expecting that there would be long lines. Fortunately we had beat the rush and didn't have to deal with huge crowds of fellow pitchers. After registering with the on site team, we only waited for around 20 min before we were called up to do our pitch in front of their production team.
In the lobby were around 5 tables which had been setup with two producers sitting behind each table. Once you were called, you had to walk up to the producers and deliver your best dragons den pitch! Our pitch was around 1 min and then afterwards was maybe another 10-15 min of questions from the production team. We brought some of our top selling products for them to test out as well. The questions that they asked were fairly straight forward, just about what we are building and what we are wanting to get out of the den (such as our ideal dragon!). They also asked questions about access to other forms of funding - we definitely got the sense that we are actively trying to weed out companies who aren't actually interested in taking a deal and are doing it more for publicity.
It wasn't totally clear about how the online application was used in conjunction with our in person pitch audition but we would recommend submitting both just to increase your visibility to the producers!
What We Did to Prepare
The better question is, what didn’t we do?! Once we found out that we would be pitching in front of the dragons, we went heads down into research. We started by watching all the beauty-related episodes in the most recent Dragons’ Den seasons (we ended up going as far back as Season 6). We took notes on commonly asked questions and pitches that stood out to us.
From there, we reached out to five founders we knew who had previously pitched, and asked them for feedback and advice. The following tips were recommended multiple times:
- Up the drama! Use large props and have an interesting story that makes you stand out. It’s not enough that you started a company in your kitchen with $4,000. You need to really sell yourself and what makes you TV-worthy and different.
- Have a reasonable valuation that you can justify - the Dragons will “eat you alive” if you aren’t able to defend your valuation. It’s better to be more conservative with your valuation.
- Make a cheat sheet - create a list of all your company statistics and memorize, memorize, memorize!
- Do your research on the Dragons - we read up on the books they had written, their prior investments, and even which charities they supported. The more you know the more confident you will feel walking into the Den.
After we spoke with previous pitchers, we ran our 90 second pitch and demo by our assigned producer, and also spitballed prop ideas with her. We wanted our props to stand out and provide that ‘wow’ factor on TV, hence why we sourced amazing customer before/after photos, as well as large displays.
Once we had our pitch and demo approved, we began practicing. We started by creating our cheat sheet with relevant stats (like sales, profit, margin, average order value, customer lifetime value, conversion rate) and responses to commonly asked questions. These included questions such as:
- What is the problem you’re solving?
- What’s your business model?
- What makes you different from other natural skincare brands?
- What are you going to use the funding for?
- Justify your valuation.
- How do you acquire customers?
Connie practicing laying out our props on her kitchen counter. We later also practiced in heels. ;)
We practiced our pitch and demo probably 200 times in front of friends and family, and had them throw the most ridiculous questions at us. By doing so, we walked into the CBC studio on pitch day confident and excited.
The day of filming was....a lot of waiting! The production did their best to predict when we would be slotted for filming but something that we learned is that show biz is hard to control! We were slotted to film on September 2nd and told to get to the studio for 10am. Originally we were told that we would be filming in the afternoon and would have enough time to get our hair and makeup done, but were moved up to an earlier slot the night before so had to fend for ourselves.
After getting to the studio, we checked in with the production team. Covid measures were in effect so they had pretty strict control over how many people were allowed into the studio at a time. We ended up waiting in a holding room from 10am until around 4pm when we were finally called in to film our segment. The waiting was super nerve-wracking since we could be called at any moment! We had sent in products for the Dragons ahead of time but had to bring all of our props the day of. The holding room also had a TV and mic for us to communicate with our producer who was in another room of the building. She took us through what to expect once getting into the studio and ensured that we spoke with the prop team to have everything setup ahead of our pitch.
Laura making the finishing touches on one of our props!
The walls of the holding room were so thin that we could hear that excitement (or sadness) of the other pitchers after they came back from their pitch. It was also FREEZING in the studio so would definitely recommend that you bring some warm clothes. To kill time, we just kept practicing our pitch over and over again. This helped to chase off the nerves and also made time pass by way faster.
Finally we were called for our time. We had mics put on, tested, final hair/makeup check and then we were off! Walking onto the set was so exciting/terrifying all at the same time. This year, they unveiled a brand new set which was incredible to see live. The pitch is filmed all in one go - no re-dos or take backs if you make a mistake. The only small segment that they had us film twice was our initial walk into the set (just to get consistency across all of the pitchers).
We were told to make the pitch as dynamic/interesting as possible so brought some props that we were able to setup as a "demo". Every pitch starts off with the pitchers doing their "elevator pitch". Ours was around 90 seconds, this was the only part of the segment that we rehearsed/memorized ahead of time. Then the Dragons test the products out before running through questions and answers. We were in the den for around 45 minutes but it flew by!
This entire experience was such a surreal and rewarding opportunity for us. We feel so grateful for all the support we received while prepping, and also the outpouring of excitement and love for the upcoming episode launch. We highly encourage our entrepreneurial readers to consider applying for Dragons’ Den. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments section below, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to tune in on Thurs. Oct. 29 @ 9PM EST on CBC to watch our pitch (or tune in here to watch later)!
Connie and Laura