It was (well what I thought was a normal morning) as I walked into Sooper Books HQ, Simon swivelled around in his chair and greeted me with, “I've got some news”.
"Yeeees go on...", I replied.
The reply I got was, "So we've had a call back from Dragons’ Den and we have our next interview round in a couple of days as well as delivering a video pitch next week to the BBC”.
I stopped in my tracks!
Questions poured out, how, when, who, WHAT!
Simon can never usually surprise me, I'm always on it straight away, but this time I was caught out!
Si calmly continues, “So I entered us secretly months ago and here we are! Taaaadaaaahh!”.
I felt a hot prickly sensation rise in my body, terror and exhilaration had flooded me and I needed to sit down. "Right, give me dates, actions and let's start the plan".
We had to nail this once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Sooper Books to the world.
To be honest the next stages were laughable, we set up our tripod in our dining room and started pitching to the camera as if we were in the Den. I mean it took us a ridiculous number of takes and we were both exhausted after!
In the meantime, we met on a zoom with the lovely Sophie from the BBC who interviewed us and even then we were all over the place.
We didn't tell anyone about what was going on and kept it ‘our little secret’.
After a couple of weeks stewing whilst hearing nothing back from the BBC we managed to turn off thinking we hadn't made the cut!
However, a surprise call caught us off guard one day to say we had officially made it to the Den.
Simon and I did not take this news lightly, we went into full revision mode and made notes, notes and more notes. So many notes that we had a folder by the end, with sticky coloured tags everywhere.
Simon went into full Dragons’ Den mode watching every previous episode and making mental notes. I only had to walk into the lounge and see it on the television to make me feel queasy and had to make a sharp exit.
We wanted to get creative so Simon thought up a rhyming Dragons' Den pitch which made it really fun to learn, but by doing so the pressure ramped up another level as it had to flow seamlessly.
We then worked up a short, fully illustrated original story starring all the dragons so they could get a real sense of our product and feel part of the storytelling experience.
And then for the week commencing we sergeant majored around reeling off our rhyming pitch to each other, every poor family member and Goldie, our daughter, who learnt it word-for-word and was our perfect little word prompter if we stalled or made a mistake.
One impromptu decision we made 48 hours before heading off was to change our offer in our pitch to something slightly off-piste and creative, which had never been done in Dragons’ Den’s history. So we rang the BBC and had a nerve-racking 24 hour wait before being given the all clear by the producer.
So now, we were all set with our rhyming pitch, the dragon story and our offer to the dragons of £1 for 1% of our business!
We bid our farewells to Goldie (who actually thought we were going to a real Dragon’s cave to meet five dragons) and we set off.
Manchester here we come.
Nerves were high on the car journey up. It was the day before filming and we set off early so we could check in to our hotel (which the BBC had kindly set up for us), settle, and get back to practising our pitch.
We dropped our bags and took ourselves,along with our folder of notes,into the city centre and found a sunny park where we set up camp and started reeling off the pitch.
We then came to the decision; what will be will be. We were prepared to the max, but obviously who knows what will happen on the day! So we familiarised ourselves with the amazing city of Manchester and explored.
Dinner time. I'm not sure how I managed it but I went all-in for the whole shi-bang, fueling myself up! On this occasion food was a distraction, while on the other hand Si's fish and chips defeated him (after a single bite) and a doggy bag was brought back to the hotel.
That night it felt like we were waking up constantly and by 5am the next morning we were up and ventured out for a run. Start the day as you mean to go on.
In the Den.
We arrived at the studio early (just because we couldn't pace about anymore). We were greeted by such a friendly team and got shown to our dressing room and the green room, where we got very comfortable for the next 5 hours, watching in anticipation as pitch after pitch entered the den ahead of us.
We were last on that day which sounded absolutely horrendous when we arrived, but actually we felt the most relaxed we had felt for ages being in the environment.
Our runner, Michael, was fabulous. He could have probably reeled off our pitch perfectly by the time we had finished doing multiple takes with him—so a massive thanks to you, Michael, for calming those nerves!
At 3pm we were led to the pre-interview set where we did an introduction of Sooper Books and ourselves. High on adrenaline and having a HUGE camera in front of us was, well, let's just say interesting. I forgot how old I was and Simon got in a complete tongue twist. It was comedy gold. At least we were laughing at this point.
The crew then took some footage of us entering the den through the 'pretend lift' and then we were swooped back into the green room for a quick lighting makeup check (especially for Si on the shiny bald head).
We then got told we needed to do one more demo pitch in front of the producers. Sophie said to us, “If you can nail it in front of the producers, you'll breeze it through the Den”.
I was just about to ask why when 15 producers waltzed in standing an arms length away and demanded to hear us in action.
Terrifying was an understatement and the pressure was on. But we delivered our pitch perfectly, if a little shaky.
"Right you're good to go."
We were hurried through to the lobby where the table was set with the famous jug of water and two glasses. The Dragon's pictures looked menacingly down at us from the wall, where we awaited our fate.
4, 3, 2, 1. Green light. The ‘lift' doors open and the first thing that struck me was, ‘this feels just like stepping into the telly’. It was suddenly very real with Touker, Sara, Deborah, Steven and Peter actually there! They looked so far away and small, especially in their overpowering throne like chairs. Hand in hand Si and I walked in and completely missed the red “X” mark that we were supposed to stand on!
I took one last look at Si and turned my head to face the dragons and started our rhyme. I was looking for some interaction and energy from each of the dragons but they managed to hold very good poker faces from go. Then Deborah was the first to crack and I felt a warm energy from her so I fixed my attention on her!
The best part of the rhyme was when Simon introduced himself "Simon here" and decided to add in jazz hands, something that he has never done before in his life, but obviously the pressures of the Den can do strange things to you!
After delivering our creative pitch, dragon story and the £1 for 1% news there was definitely a warm atmosphere in the den and Peter kicked it off with congratulating us in making Dragons' Den history with our offer, and immediately offered to buy Sooper Books for £100. We politely declined.
The energy stayed electric with sparks flying between Touker and Steven. Then came another Dragons’ Den first. Touker lay his cards on the table and offered us our deal. Usually he doesn't get out of bed for 1%, so we were utterly stunned to say the least!
Then, another extraordinary moment followed shortly after. All 5 dragons got up from their chairs and went to the back wall to discuss the offer they wanted to make us.
At this point my emotions were running high and I looked across to Simon who was obviously feeling exactly the same. We were both trying hard to hold back the floodgates.
But they were let loose almost immediately when we found out that all five dragons wanted to be part of the Sooper journey, all offering £1 for 1%.
Of course we accepted and came out of the Den utterly electric. We were in the Den for just over an hour, but it felt more like 10 minutes.
What an emotional rollercoaster.
After being congratulated by the crew behind the scenes, we were rushed straight to the post-pitch interview to get our reactions where we called my parents live on camera. Mum started screaming and Dad's reaction of ‘Shut the front door!’ was absolutely hilarious.
The dragons came to meet us straight afterwards for a quick chat, then we said our goodbyes to the crew, stuffed our faces at a nearby pizza place (Si's choice), hopped back in the car and went home to tell Goldie all about our adventures with the scary Dragons.