This evening sees the broadcast of the latest edition of BBC's business programme Dragon's Den, starring Green Oil.
The Green Oil team gave us an insight behind the scenes of their successful trip to the Den, in their own words...
Green Oil started in 2008, and at trade shows ever since people have said, “You should go on Dragons Den”. Regularly, at least twice at every trade show.
I always thought investment to expand the Green Oil range and to do even more for the environment and the world of cycling would be a good thing. However, I thought it wouldn't be a good thing to go on the show at too early in the company's progress.
More recently, the time seemed right and I applied to Dragons Den. I was invited to an interview and mock presentation at the BBC's studio in White City. A car full props and a bike, I drove there, and managed to get into the almost military grade security to the BBC's car park and was escorted into the building.
The audition went quite well, and some weeks later I was called by the BBC and found that I passed the audition. I would be invited to pitch Green Oil on Dragons Den!
Some hard work
An obscene amount of paper work was required to enter Dragons Den. They required business accounts, a business plan, proof of sales and numerous time consuming forms. Days of work, were required for Dragon's Den red tape, around an already busy schedule of running Green Oil day to day.
Two nights before the show I had just 4 hours sleep due to the due diligence and planning required. Further, the Dragon's Den pitch wouldn't be complete without a bike. I planned to ride into the Den on my old Orange Miss Isle, British made and classic quality just like my products.
A week or two before, in Scotland whilst riding, an all too familiar harsh landing meant the dérailleur snapped off and needed replacing – along with the hanger typically. Bromley Bike Co fortunately completed the task in time for the long drive up to Manchester where Dragons Den is filmed, the day I was due to head up.
I arrived just before midnight at the BBC's hotel in Salford. Going in with anything but a spotless bike would have left me ripped apart by the Dragons, and time preparing for the show meant I hadn't cleaned my bike for two weeks. I therefore had to sneak my muddy bike past reception, and with some Green Clean, a Bicycle Brush and an Ecosponge cleaned my bike in the shower of the hotel room. The next day however, the Dragons Den crew insisted on covering brand names with difficult to remove gaffa tape, though the bike still I hope looked good on screen.
4 hours of sleep later, I had to wake for an early start at Dragons Den. The time had come, and the preparation hopefully would pay off.
I arrived at the Den at around 6 AM. Behind the scenes was like something out of Ricky Jervais' show Extras – all kinds of miscellaneous props, people having make up applied and strange inventions. There were many entrepreneurs who you'll see on the show with interesting ideas and stories.
After getting microphones put on us, our displays perfected and our faces covered in make-up, we were lead to the green room. One by one would be called and go through to the Den – it was literally a one way thing, people left the green room never to be seen again! Possibly eaten by a Dragon or two...
On entering the lift, the sense of paranoia and nervousness intensified – that last sip of caffeine whilst looking over my numbers had kicked in, and I felt ready to ride into Dragons Den – despite the lack of sleep.
This was to be one of the most gruelling experiences of my life. Sleep deprived, deprived of notes and an audience who don't say anything or say hello when you walk in are all strange things. Obviously there was not drum beat music either – clearly added in after filming, it still seemed strange entering Dragons Den in silence.
The Dragons look exactly as they do on television. The piles of money, their faces, their demeanour really are as though through a screen.
They look quite threatening. Imagine doing a wedding speech, where instead of everyone being there to have a good time, possibly knowing you and being happy, 5 people eager to look harsh to television and rip you apart for ratings, and further get a share of your company higher than any crowd funding site on the planet.
And do this in front of 8 million viewers. It was scary. But a challenge is always interesting.
During the pitch, after some challenging questions, Piers Linney came in and said he used Green Oil and liked using it, though in its old packaging with the paper label.
Not being allowed notes into Dragons Den, and sleep deprived, I was later challenged on the numbers. Slightly confused and dazed, I went to reach for my notes in my pocket – only to be rebuked by Deborah Meadon for daring to look at a sheet of paper – banned in the Den. “Er, excuse me!”. I put the number sheet away and worked from memory.
Peter Jones asked me how many bottles of bike lube are sold in the UK every year. I explained that I didn't know, that that data was not available. He then replied, “you come here with your company Green Oil, but you don't even know your own market” I then answered, that market research reports into the bike market didn't contain this data, and that other companies making lubricant also made other products, so it was impossible to find out. He stayed quiet after his outburst for the cameras.
Later, Deborrah Meadon – said “I'd have to take more than 50% of your company based on the numbers you've given me – and you wouldn't want that would you?”
The conversations continued, and the Dragons continued to debate. Two Dragons fought to speak over each other at one point, it was a strange and interesting experience, yet rewarding.
Green Oil will be rolling its low carbon Green Clean bike cleaner next month – Green Clean with just the concentrate, so the user adds water. The prototype of this was on, and created for Dragons Den. This means a much lower carbon footprint in transport. Ecogrease will be rolled out in a (expensive to produce!) tube, as requested by customers for some time now.
The exact result of the show? You'll have to wait and see! The BBC won't let me say. You'll enjoy the show, and hopefully my bike skills.
See www.Green-Oil.net for more after the show on Sunday
Green Oil is distributed to the trade by i-ride.