Dragons' Den - the whole story...
"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!