Dragons Den Investment for Churchill Gowns

21st August, 2019

If you read the blog last week you’ll know that the Churchill Gowns team were gearing up for an appearance on primetime BBC Two show ‘Dragons’ Den’. Here Director of Operations, Ruth Nicholls, reflects on her time in the Den.

Warning: this blog contains spoilers!

Preparing for the Den

I’m a big fan of Dragons’ Den and have watched hundreds of episodes over the course of its past 17 series. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the nerve jangling experience of actually walking out of the famous elevator to be greeted by a panel of stony faced ‘dragon’ investors!

Ollie (our Managing Director) and I had agreed to present together and split our pitch between us, with Ollie introducing the market and me introducing our product and sales. We’d rehearsed the pitch so many times I found myself running through it in my sleep in the run up to the filming date! This meant we were relatively confident we could survive the first three minutes of our Den experience. It was the questioning that came after we were worried about…

A grilling from the Dragons!

After we had pitched we presented each Dragon with their own graduation set of a gown, mortarboard cap and hood to try on. This was a great icebreaker and allowed us a brief moment of relaxed conversation with them before the real grilling began.

Deborah Meaden dived straight in with a question about the existing gowning market and from then on the whole experience felt like a blur! We were in the Den for over and hour and a half, but it felt like 15 minutes as we batted off question after question.

Ruth and Ollie in the Den

There were definitely some nervy moments. Having started her own business in her university bedroom we were disappointed when the new Dragon, Sara Davies, questioned our home-delivery business model.

Turning things around...

Luckily, this gave us a great opportunity to expand on all of our other selling points such as our longer hire period and eco-friendly credentials and we ended up getting offers from both Touker Suleyman and Deborah Meaden who seemed enthused by our products from the beginning.

In the end we accepted Deborah’s offer of £60,000 for 22%. It was obvious from her questioning that she really understood our business and our reasons for wanting to disrupt the graduation market. She clearly recognises that traditional suppliers don’t represent good value for students and that it’s time for a change… we can’t wait to have her on board!

If you haven’t seen it yet Dragons’ Den Season 17, Episode 2 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until 17th September 2019