In September 2011, Kiddimoto founder Simon Booth braved the unforgiving entrepreneurs of the Dragon’s Den and emerged having tamed not one, but two Dragons.
Hilary Devey and Duncan Bannatyne were impressed with Simon’s pitch and his balance bikes, and made a joint offer of a £75,000 investment for a 30% stake in the business.
More than five years later, the 44-year-old Somerset-based father-of-two reflects on the daunting experience of facing some of the most intimidating personalities on television…
What made you apply to go on the show?
“I was left home alone with the kids one Tuesday evening in May. After putting the kids to bed and having a bite to eat, I settled down on the sofa with a bottle of red and the laptop. I quickly found myself on the BBC website. About an hour later I had sent in an online application for the Dragons’ Den. Three days later I had a call from a BBC researcher, who invited me for a screen test in Manchester the following Monday.”
You obviously managed to make an impression in the screen test…
“It was in front of a camera with just the researcher and camera man. This was about the fourth time I had said the pitch out loud and definitely the first time in front of a camera. The guys at the BBC were great and made me feel quite at ease and sent me home feeling good about the audition. The call came from the researcher on the following Thursday to say that Kiddimoto had been selected for the ‘Den’ and that filming would be in the next couple of weeks.”
How did you prepare for your appearance?
“I had less than two weeks to prepare all due diligence, refine my pitch and work out how I would handle it. All this pressure on top of continuing to run the business, which was demanding of my time.”
Walking out to face the Dragons must have been a nerve-wracking experience.
“As I walked up the stairs into the Den I felt very nervous, but I had Ruby, my daughter and greatest ally, with me so I didn’t feel alone. I felt as if I was stepping inside the television itself. Drinking in the sights in front of me with the Dragons, the crew and the bright lights, it was as if I’d been sucked through the screen in my living room! My initial pitch lasted just three minutes. Ruby and I walked into the Den and I unveiled the Kiddimoto range, delivered my pitch, then Ruby did a few demo laps of the Den and away she went. Then ensued possibly the most draining two hours of my life as the five Dragons attacked me from every angle.”
How do you think the interrogation went?
“I think that I managed to get the concept of Kiddimoto across pretty well, but I stumbled with some of the close financial interrogations, and I don’t think I managed to get across the uniqueness of the Heroes range. Deborah Meaden quizzed me about a missing £100K that I just couldn’t account for. Luckily Hilary Devey came to my aid, building in transport costs. The remainder of the £100k could be accounted for in royalties paid to the world champions in our Heroes range, but I just froze on this and felt that perhaps I’d blown it all when Deborah Meaden uttered those dreaded words, ‘I’m out!’ ”
You really thought it was game over?
“Yeah. I knew my figures inside out, but my mind just went completely blank, like a frozen computer screen, and I simply could not recall anything. After that I felt I was on a downwards helter skelter. I knew where Deborah Meaden was taking me. She had given me a spade to dig myself in with and I did. I was starting to look deep down into the hole when Duncan and Hilary helped me fill it in.”
You must have been on cloud nine when you received an offer.
“Absolutely. With two Dragons gone, Duncan Bannatyne finally uttered the immortal words, ‘Because I like your product, I’m going to make you an offer.’ However, not one but two offers followed. The first – all the money for 30%; the second – half the money for 15%. In my mind, I had the maximum figure of 25% to give in exchange for investment but at this stage I was almost relieved after my early faux pas with the financials to be offered anything at all! Hilary weighed in with a few more questions but at this point my head was racing with adrenalin and I accepted a joint offer from both. By the end I felt exhausted but relieved – I’d been dragged through the mire but managed to just about keep my cool, my integrity and self-dignity. Although totally drained, I felt that it had been a great success.”
So what happened following the show?
“I had quite a bit of contact with Hilary’s finance director and he was very helpful and insightful, but ultimately there was an issue with a minority shareholder that essentially scuppered the deal. I also felt that Duncan’s advice of not giving away part of my business was invaluable and thus followed it. He really struck a cord when he asked “Why not sell your motorbike to raise cash?” He had a good point!”
So despite the deal not going through, was it a positive experience?
“The whole follow-up process was very interesting in that it threw up something I hadn’t even considered and it also brought about an almost ‘light bulb’ moment for me. After the cameras had stopped rolling and the show had been aired, I realised that the company has some phenomenal strengths and that the way we are going is definitely in the right direction. And I realised that Kiddimoto didn’t have to go down the Dragons route and that the deal didn’t need to go through. Once I’d reached that conclusion, it felt great.”
Watch Kiddimoto on Dragon’s Den here.