Dragons’ Den: The real story and a peek behind the scenes

Originally, we were too scared to apply.

I made up a long list of not-really-justifiable excuses, like ‘oh no, that doesn’t fit with our business model’,’what will our investors say?’,‘we’ll never get on the show’ and so on.

Charlene just flatly refused on the basis that she was too terrified. And, truth be told, so was I.

But, then I did something a little naughty.

I applied for the show without telling Charlene. I know. Not my finest moment of matrimony, but I figured the chances of getting called back were slim to none (ooooops!).

So I just spent 20 minutes filling out the online application form, shut the computer and forgot about it.

Months went by.

Then, out of the blue one day I got a call from Sophie.

“Hello, this is Sophie from BBC Dragons’ Den. Am I speaking with Simon?”

My heart nearly fell out of my chest.

With a slightly shaky voice and sweaty palms I managed to bumble my way through the first call and we were invited back for a video interview the following week.

My first thought was that I couldn’t believe we’d made it to the next round. Followed quickly by wondering how I was going to break the news to Charlene [insert facepalm emoji here].

The look on Charlene’s face when I told her was one I’ll never forget. Sheer terror mixed with a dash of you-sneaky-devil and a sprinkling of excitement would be a fair summation.

Things progressed quickly from there.

A video call with Sophie, a cringy (and very budget) selfie audition reel, lots of form filling, heaps of emails, a mountain of documentation, many conversations about how we’d pitch, hours creating the pitch material, days learning the pitch material and finally we were ready.

It took around three hours to drive to Manchester the day before filming. We checked into a hotel (very kindly put on by the BBC), dumped our bags, grabbed our notes and dashed out to a local park to do some last minute prep.

Then we popped out for a bite to eat. And I mean literally one bite. I ordered fish and chips, took one mouthful and my tummy said ‘nope!’.

[And just for the record, Charlene scoffed a whole plate of seabass.]

I’d say that night was the worst night’s sleep of our lives so far. For the parents out there, it was roughly equivalent to night one of sleep training a 6-month old. Ironic, considering this was our first night away from our 3 year old daughter, Goldie, since she was born.

Our studio call time was 10am, so naturally we turned up at 9:15am, milled around in the car park and eventually plucked up the courage to knock on the door at ten to ten.

A lovely lady showed us to our dressing room, introduced us to our main runner called Michael and gave us a quick tour of the ‘green room’. This was a large room with sofas, two hair and make-up desks with those fancy light bulbs around the mirror and a coffee table with an assortment of nibbly bits, including Haribo, which was an ideal sugar supply for a stomach that was still refusing to cooperate.

Then, a smiley Sophie came to meet us.

She looked very official with her headset and clipboard and told us we were the only pitch in the afternoon slot, so we’d be on straight after lunch.

At this point it was 10:51 and after lunch turned out to be 3:15pm, so there was quite a bit of waiting around and reciting our pitch to Michael umpteen times (sorry Michael!).

Around 2pm we were taken onto the set for the first time to film all of the non-pitch footage you see on the show, like the foyer clips, walking up to the lift, pressing the button and walking out into an empty Den. We had multiple retakes and a super awkward moment when the producer asked us to kiss. We stumbled, nearly missed and then we had to beg them to cut that out of the final edit. Embarrassing.

SPOILER ALERT: The lift isn’t real! It looks and works like a lift, but it’s just a cleverly designed set.

We then filmed the pre-pitch teaser interview where we talked to the camera about the business without giving anything away. Charlene got her own age wrong and had to do a retake which was hilarious. And I completely froze and kept asking Charlene to take over. It was a comedy of errors really, so I’m surprised they managed to get anything remotely coherent out of it.

Then came the dry-run in front of the producers. Picture 15 people all dressed in black with clipboards and headsets marching in and standing four feet in front of you. Then all we heard was “action” and we had to recite our pitch on demand, which thankfully we managed to do.

Then came the big moment.

We were taken round to the foyer, given our cues, waited for the green light, got in the lift and walked out in front of the Dragons.

Charlene started and nailed her part of the pitch, but I fluffed a line and it felt like an eternity until it popped back into my head (but it was probably only a few seconds).

Once the conversation started flowing everything became a little more natural. It was just like having a conversation with people that you already know. But it felt a little like being inside the telly, which was peculiar.

It was when Touker made the first offer that the floodgates opened. Firstly, it was a big surprise because he doesn’t usually get out of bed for 1%. Add in all of his lovely comments and the offers from all five Dragons at 1% and it was all a bit much.

The emotion is difficult to describe. It kind of felt like all the thousands of hours of love, energy, belief, doubt, pride, fear and hope that we’ve poured into our stories over 3 years, condensed down into a few seconds.

The funny thing was, we both agreed at dinner the night before (if you can call a single bite of cod dinner) that there was no way either of us would cry. Not a single drop. How could that even happen? Well, let me tell you, it can. And it did. And now we have to live with our blubbering faces etched into the fabric of TV history until the end of time. No biggy.

But, truth be told, we wouldn’t change a thing. 

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