Dragons' Den - the whole story...

Dragons' Den - the whole story... - Russell and Atwell

"Thanks but no thanks."

That was our initial response when Steve and I were approached by the lovely Emily from the BBC about Dragon's Den, back in March 2021. She had seen our Kickstarter launch film and asked if we were interested in pitching to the Den. 

We'd only been trading for 6 months, were in the middle of a busy Easter, and, while neither of us had courted publicity, Steve in particular had an aversion to any kind of media exposure.

But we also knew that 'fresh chocolate' was a big new idea, and that swapping palm-oil for organic fresh cream made our chocolates taste ridiculously good - so how about getting this in front of millions of people?

What have we got to lose?

We talked further amongst ourselves, canvassed other startups who had been in 'The Den' and figured out that we had little to lose by exploring further. We could always walk away if we weren't comfortable.

To cut a long story short, we filled in A LOT of forms, signed A LOT of other forms, found old documents dating back to the 1920s... 

 

Above: Earliest known photo of Giles' Grandfather's business Lesme Ltd, find out more here

...and proceeded through about 3 further stages including recording 'virtual auditions', a pitch video (plus an additional live one as we had messed-up the original with too long a recording!). Then, in late May, the BBC confirmed we'd made it to 'pitch'.

Above: Steve in Giles' kitchen with Gem & Jack who came to help record the audition film (that was never used!)

Who travels with chocolates in Summer?

Finally, on Wednesday 16th June, we nervously drove-up to the BBC studios in Manchester. We were particularly concerned about the chocolate melting on the way as it was a warm week. We had also just launched our 'Refill model', and we had Fathers' Day orders racking-up that needed posting - in short we had a lot on our minds!

We had dinner the night before in Manchester with an old school-friend of Giles' who came to wish us luck and, after meeting some fellow entrepreneurs by chance in the bar over a whisky to calm the nerves, we tried to get some sleep.

Not nervous...ish (before)

Spoiler alert, there is no spoiler here - even Giles' kids don't know the result!

The next morning, we did a couple of walk-throughs with the Directors who explained the COVID rules (mask-wearing if passing chocolates to Dragons, always keeping 2m apart) and, feeling like minor-celebs in our named dressing-rooms, we got changed into our TV-gear.

 

We also got a little TV make-up professionally applied, and it became something of a running joke how often Steve's head was re-dusted to remove the shine (sorry Steve!)

It felt weird. With 30 years combined experience we knew a decent amount about chocolate, we knew all about our young business, and we'd done our homework on the Dragons (autobiographies, podcasts, social media, websites). But we also knew that they would really probe us, and unlike our previous corporate experiences, there was no presentation, no notes and no other team members to answer specialist questions - it was just us, under lights, surrounded by cameras to record every little twitch, every sigh, every sideways glance. So yes, we were a little nervous!

We made a promise that we were going to just enjoy it, and whatever happened we'd get through it. After checking about 10 times that our chocolates were still refrigerated, we were called to the lift and stepped-out into easily the most surreal 90 minutes since we started the business. At least (we hoped) they would enjoy the fresh chocolates...

Well that was bonkers!

So, now you probably know - we got 5 offers, then lost 2, then almost lost all of them and settled on the 'dream team' of Peter 'offline' and Steven 'online'. It was an incredible hour and a half in The Den and we left smiling!

From filming last June, we've had to move from a trendy but small office in The Jewellery Quarter (lovely landlord Andrew) to a long, large semi-industrial space in Stirchley (shhhhh, just 5 mins walk from Bournville where we used to work) complete with Steve's new favourite toy - a large walk-in cool-room for all our fresh chocs. 

We've been frantically making fresh chocolate these last few weeks, but we never, ever imagined the support and sheer number of orders that have come through in the last 24 hours.

Thank you, oops and thank you again!

Thank you to all of you who have taken the plunge to taste the difference fresh makes.

And oops, we're a very small business that has never been on national TV before, so, while we have already got thousands of orders out of the door, and will send as much as we can in the coming days, you may have to wait a little longer (a few weeks in some cases) while we make, pack and post all your chocolates out to you. Sorry.

We are not a large American conglomerate who posts things in hours, nor are we a multinational who manufactures tons of chocolates in minutes - each batch we make takes 3 days to produce - and the best things, as the saying goes, come to those who wait...

Thank you again for all your enthusiasm and support!

 

 

Read more

Slow Chocolate for Fast People - Russell and Atwell

Slow Chocolate for Fast People

Trust no one - where do you hide your chocolates? - Russell and Atwell

Trust no one - where do you hide your chocolates?

Make fresh chocolates at home! - Russell and Atwell

Make fresh chocolates at home!

Comments

Karen Blackwell

WOW WOW WOW These are absolutely amazing! No artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives and they are suitable for vegetarians. Crisp fresh chocolate, with a lovely layer of chocolate to bite into before you reach the smooth creamy melt in the mouth center. I’m all about using organic so that was a big draw for me and NO PALM OIl it’s a chocolate lover’s dream. My delivery only took a few days so I was delighted. These chocolates are expensive but they are luxurious and offer pure indulgence and are made from the very best ingredients. They keep in the fridge for weeks and are clearly dated and well packaged when delivered. The packaging is recyclable, another bonus.

I wish you guys the best of Luck and thank you so much for your chocolatey innovation.

Karen Blackwell

WOW WOW WOW These are absolutely amazing! No artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives and they are suitable for vegetarians. Crisp fresh chocolate, with a lovely layer of chocolate to bite into before you reach the smooth creamy melt in the mouth center. I’m all about using organic so that was a big draw for me and NO PALM OIl it’s a chocolate lover’s dream. My delivery only took a few days so I was delighted. These chocolates are expensive but they are luxurious and offer pure indulgence and are made from the very best ingredients. They keep in the fridge for weeks and are clearly dated and well packaged when delivered. The packaging is recyclable, another bonus.

I wish you guys the best of Luck and thank you so much for your chocolatey innovation.

Carey

I can only say that those who have actually received chocolates are very lucky, I’m still waiting for mine ordered on 10 March (yes that was the night they were on Dragon’s Den). The email acknowledging my order said they hoped to dispatch within 5-7 days. That was not be be. On 18 March I had an email saying the chocolates would be sent out on 4-8 weeks, so on that the latest date was last Friday. However as that was close to a holiday I have planned I wrote asking if I could cancel and re-order at the same price if they could not deliver by the end of April (chocolates were still on sale on their website then but at a significantly higher price). They replied that as I had ordered 2 boxes they hoped to deliver closer to the earlier deadline so the end of April looked probable. On 24 April I got an email saying the chocolates would be sent out by mid May – difficult for me but I wasn’t up for arguing and it was pretty much the original 4 – 8 weeks as said on 18 March. This morning I get an email saying they are to be dispatched in the next 2 weeks. This is not only beyond a reasonable time for me, but beyond every promise made by the company over the last 2 months. They have said that orders grossly exceeded expectations but why wasn’t the website set to “Sold Out” when it reached capacity? Parlous planning on their part? They may have taken in a lot of money in orders not yet fulfilled but lost trust in the meantime. I expect that this response will be “moderated” and not published, but I have all the emails to evidence my account.

hannes

Waited 2 months for these to arrive. THE BEST CHOCOLATES IVE EVER HAD! Well worth the wait!!

Barbara and Tony Ickeringill

ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS !!!
Best we have ever tasted!
Good luck ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tony Mack

My chocolates arrived yesterday and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. The packets were open within seconds of arrival and the 3 different flavours were slowly and delightfully sampled by our taste buds. My good lady, my daughter and me were all amazed at just how good these freshly made chocolates tasted. They were sooooo yummy. Can’t wait to sign up for a regular delivery.

Shirley

I did a crazy thing a couple of months ago. I watched Dragons Den then ordered a product impulsively without really thinking about it. Then thought why did I do that? Well I appreciate good chocolate, for one. Unfortunately I was disappointed it was going to take many, many weeks to arrive. I regretted it at that point. I kind of forgot about it. That’s until they arrived this week. What an amazing surprise and worth the long wait! Gorgeous! High five guys and congratulations on your success.🖐🏼

Vivien Proctor-Parr

I placed my order in early March. Mid March I had an email saying that my order will be despatched at the end of March.
I’m still waiting at the end of April.
Not really impressed.

Julian Black

Sorry that I have cancelled my order today but to be told today that the order I placed six weeks ago will still not be delivered for another month is not great.
Easter has come and gone when it would have been great to have had your products.
I know you won’t put this message on your website but I do wish you well for the future

Max Rowley

Just received my chocolates, omg they are gorgeous thank you I have to admit best I have tasted and I love and have tried most chocolates
Weldone 👍

Katy Cozier-Coulling

Wow, my chocolates arrived today, perfectly & professionally packaged.
We popped them straight in the fridge & waited as long as we possibly could to try them. The verdict…absolutely delightful, flavor & texture couldn’t be better, incredibly moreish! Perfect! Certainly chocolate to savor so they are back in the fridge for now. Thank you so much, we can’t wait to order more!

Laurence Dowding

Absolutely fantastic chocolates , I bought them for my wife who was delighted with them . We will definitely order more as soon as they are available and can’t wait to try the other ones we didn’t order .
Congratulations to you both for inventing such fantastic chocolates
We are both available to test any future chocolates you make !!

Adrienne Knight

Congratulations, well done, and can’t wait to receive my chocolates!

Anne Todd

Very pleased that my order arrived within a few days. They are of an outstanding quality – rich and creamy. Yes, they’re more expensive than larger brands, but the quality more than compensates. I’ve tried to order more, but not a chance at the moment!

Gary Silver

As a self confessed chocoholic I am rather upset (first world problem), that I missed the programme for a few days. Out of stock but not out of mind. Immensely looking forward to ordering when you are next stocked up. The product looks simply delicious. Great pitch and good luck for the future guys.

Viv Maton

Just seen you on Dragons Den.
You did brilliantly, congrats.
Lovely guys wishing you every success.
I can’t wait to get an update when I will ge able to place my order.
👏👏👏

Carol stainsby

Genuine lovely men with a dream. Chocolates that taste amazing. Dreams do come true. All the luck in the world you deserve this chance.

All comments are moderated before being published.