I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?
There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.
I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!
Season 15: episode 3
Entrepreneur(s): Rayeesa Ashgar-Sandy
Company: Spiced by Rayeesa
Elevator Pitch: fresh-frozen curry sauce with low calorie and gluten free curry bases.
Asking For: £75k in exchange for 12% equity
What Went Well?
Family Business: the positive noise in this pitch was down to the individual who came across very well and the family element of the business added a great slice of personality. Passion, persistence and drive are fundamental to demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit.
Health: this is a fundamental trend in this product area and this focus will drive growth. Assuming the product tastes as good as Deborah Meaden asserted then this USP will help to differentiate the product against some of the more established brands in the category.
What Could Have Gone Better?
The Approach: it may sound impressive and it’s something you should be proud of but being approached by Sainsbury’s and Ocado is not something you can bank. I do appreciate that it will give some confidence but I’m afraid it’s just literature.
Lack of Market Understanding: ‘we don’t have competition’ is a terrible thing to say in the food industry and very unlikely to be true. There are very few brands and products that are inexchangeable. Most products bought are bought in favour of something else because the shopper doesn’t have an endless pit of money. In this example the competition is vast and Rayeesa’s product is easily substitutable for an ambient or chilled option.
Retailer Challenge: for me this single point killed the pitch. If retailers don’t get it, it will never sell. They’re absolutely right in that most shoppers in the frozen aisle are not looking to cook, they’re looking for a convenient, full solution which is why there are so few ingredients in freezers. Unfortunately Rayeesa’s vision that retailers would be willing to put a freezer in the ambient fixture is so far detached from reality. This type of initiative would not be completely impossible to secure but I would wager that it would warrant funding into the £millions plus the cost of hardware. Even in what Jenny coined ‘second tier retailers’ I can’t see it becoming a reality and, although COOK have made some headway, it’s a pipe dream.
What Other Lessons Can We Learn?
Know Your Strengths: for me this pitch is a great example of an entrepreneur that has the right behaviours and drivers to be successful. However, it also highlights Rayeesa’s need to seek market specific support and gain experience and insight externally. This is not a criticism. A lot of entrepreneurs become successful because they surround themselves by the right people.
Outcome: No investment today.
Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is challenging and I don’t think the product offering is right. However there are a lot of positive aspects of this pitch so with a few tweaks I’m sure they’ll find success.