On January 30th, 2014 we had an email from a BBC researcher saying she had heard all about Our Tiny Bees and thought we may well be interested and a good match for Dragons Den. Like most people we know of Dragons Den and have watched the program, we knew most things about the Den, what the program was all about and roughly, what investment could mean and was capable of.
We were flattered but also thought ‘we bet that researcher spends all day everyday emailing companies like ours.’

We let the email sit there for a few days of much-needed thinking time. We didn’t reply straight away because we were not really sure we needed investment (we have grown organically since day one) but our eyes were open to perhaps a different route to that we have chosen.

‘Ok we’ll apply – you never know where these things will go or how they progress.’

That was it – we thought our form would go in the pot of what we thought was eleventy-million and never be seen again…

Wrong. A few days later the phone rang…

The Phone Call

BBC: ‘Hello, its xyz from Dragons Den – we like you – lets be friends (more long winded than that but that is basically the head and tail of it). Would you mind answering a few questions on this phone call to progress things?
US: ‘yes ok’
The thoughts in our mind…
The BBC must have one hundred millionty researchers all paid to make phone calls just like this. But the lady was nice and we are nice so we went along with it.
30 odd (probing, personal, businessy) questions and forty minutes later…
BBC: ’Ok it’s clear from your answers that I think you should proceed to the next step, you’re through to the next stage…
US:(Always the sceptic) Ok can you answer us a question – how many people get invited to this filming stage? (thinking 1000’s)
BBC: Erm – good question – about 90% of people at this stage get on TV.
US: (said in a very un-calm manner) Erm pardon!?
BBC: (said in a very calm manner) Yeah not many people get to where you guys are. So when would you be able to come and do the run-through.

At this stage we were asked to formally discuss our plan, what investment did we want, what for, which Dragons did we feel would we sit best with. So we met with our extended support network – our epic accountant – who keeps us on the straight and narrow and our solicitor (look at us all grown-up) who ran through some legal bits and pieces, what we should expect from a contract with a Dragon, that sort of thing.

As l well as a script, we had to of course make sure we new our stuff.

We wanted to be realistic, and so asked for a modest and realistic amount that would generate a good but modest and realistic profit for all concerned. Approved by us, approved by the accountant, approved by the team at the BBC. Job done, we’re on our way.

The Run Thorough.

After far too many BBC related coffees, we arrived at BBC HQ in Salford for our run through. Our pop up stall behind us and wearing our finest linens, we began. The run through is where you pretend to do a pitch to the Dragons (a video is recorded for the production manager to ‘yey or ney’) – our stall was set out and the camera was filming. After more takes than we would like we had a lovely free BBC coffee and a calm down. That’s the end of that we thought, despite much encouragement from the BBC team, you never think your best is good enough in such high-pressure scenarios!
1 week later Mr iPhone starts dancing.

BBC: ‘Your through, when can you come for the live shoot?’ the delightful researcher said.

Until that moment, until that very moment, it had all been a process, just getting to the next stage was all that was in our minds. The ‘long view’ – i.e. getting in front of the Dragons always seemed a stage away so not worth worrying about. But now there were no more stages we had our ticket – we even had a date for filming.

There was no-where to hide. There was only one question left... Is this what we want?

Fundamentally, and all along the answer was no. But there is always the thought of the what if? What if we got massive investment?, what if we were in high street stores across the land? And, the answer is, we would not be the company we are today, we'd be stressed and busy, probably richer but with less time to enjoy it.

Our brand.

We never want to be mainstream, we never want a businessman as a boss (we like being our own boss), we like being a creative brand that does things we believe in – despite not always agreeing with the bottom line.

For example it would be soooooo much easier to buy commercial non-European honey and beeswax and would mean we make more money and spend less time (we purify all our own honey and beeswax). But we believe in supporting British bees, their keepers and farmers, so that is what we do.  A businessman would tell us it makes no sense. But if we can earn less money but make things better we will, thank you very much Mr businessman.

We could also get a non-UK company to make eleventy-million tins of nice-smelling whale blubber, package it nicely, sell it for a fortune, tell you it’ll do wonders for your skin and make a living that way (like some well-known companies seem to do), but we’d rather fill our pots with goodness, charge a fair price and be happy.

So Dragons…
‘We’re out’.