I never thought in a million years I’d be on Dragons’ Den, but when it came down to it, it felt completely right
I have been a HUGE Dragons’ Den fan from the very first episode.
As I’ve shared before, Deborah was a massive inspiration to me as a businesswoman and key figure in the Den, and she really made me feel as though I could do the same.
It was never as simple as wanting to follow in Deborah’s footsteps and ending up on the show. I was just incredibly determined and incredibly lucky that the BBC had an opening and that they saw something in me.
I should start off by saying … I couldn’t have done it without my amazing team, mam, dad and Simon. Without their support, I definitely wouldn’t have started my business in my university room all those years ago – and wouldn’t have been able to turn it into the company it is today. This story is helped along by everything they were helping me with in the background.
So let’s get crackin’ — here’s why and how I became a Dragon!
Back in my early twenties, after being in the startup space for a little while in the North East and steadily growing Crafter’s Companion, a lady called Caroline Theobald approached me. I had heard of Caroline from her reputation as the most prolific and inspiring business woman in the area so was a little star-struck. She approached me to work with her in a new investment group for women in the North East, and at the time, it was revolutionary! Every other angel group was either mostly male or entirely male. She had spotted something: how women are naturally very nurturing, and applied it to business.
Caroline asked me if I saw her vision and wanted to be involved. I jumped at the chance and that was the start of my investment journey with Gabriel Investors. We funded various fantastic companies and I got my crash course in the world of investment. A lot of applicants to Dragons’ Den don’t have prior investment knowledge so I like to think it gave me a great edge.
It’s worth saying at this point how much I loved angel investing. I’ve always led with my heart and I absolutely LOVED working with entrepreneurs on their businesses. There is nothing better than seeing others succeed in their passions. It felt fantastic to help give them that opportunity and has from then and through to Dragons’ Den.
I always loved Dragons’ Den but it didn’t exactly occur to me to apply for it… I was 34 with a business that was still evolving and a young family. The driving force was my colleague at Gabriel Investors and close friend Raman Sehgal. He worked with us on the PR and marketing side of things (quick plug – Raman is simply the best at what he does). One day we got chatting and realised we had both been watching Dragons’ Den the evening before.
After our usual catch up, there was a brief silence. Then Raman said, “You know what?! You’d be brilliant on there!”
I said “What?! On Dragons’ Den? You’re joking?!” He’s super supportive, our Raman, so I thought he was just being complimentary. I laughed and shrugged it off. “No, you really would!” he insisted before explaining they were looking for more female investors.
“But you can’t just call up the BBC!”… or so I thought.
Raman, being the guy he is, got through to the contestant centre and then through to the researchers, who he managed to convince to consider me. He explained my experience at Gabriel and that being on TV wasn’t a problem either – I’d presented on shopping channels many times for Crafter’s Companion.
They called me back the following day, offering me an interview. I was shocked, then excited and then I was terrified. I knew I’d be good on the show and my experience made me perfect for it, but it was Dragons’ Den (!)– the show I had watched when I was just a business management student in University. I got put forward into the pool of other investors, followed by a video interview before a final screen test.
A fun fact that not many people know is that one Dragon is selected to do the screen test with the applicants, and Touker was mine. The test was sent to the BBC Producers and they came back with an offer for me to feature in the next series! It was incredible.
Becoming a Dragon
I never thought in a million years I’d be on Dragons’ Den, but when it came down to it, it felt completely right– I absolutely loved it.
Dragons’ Den is incredibly popular, so I was a little nervous on my first day. Thankfully, I had the support of Touker from the screen test – he is the nicest man you could meet. I grabbed him as I entered the studio and said, “You’re going to mentor me!”, he didn’t have much choice but said “Oh yes! Of course!” Now, I call him Uncle T and we’ve got a great friendship.
When I got the job I told my kids “Mammy’s going to be on telly as a Dragon on Dragons’ Den”. But, when the first episode aired they were really disappointed– they thought I was going to be dressed up as a dragon in a cave somewhere! Real dragons are much more interesting to them than five entrepreneurs sitting on some chairs in a loft.
From the first episode to now I’ve met some incredible people and got to support the most fantastic entrepreneurs!
Although at the time I hadn’t considered being a Dragon, I really now feel that it was meant to be. I just needed a little push by a friend.
I have loved every minute of Dragons’ Den so far and I cannot wait for the next series… to be back with Peter, Deborah, Touker and NEW Dragon Steven.