March 22nd 2020 was an important day for many – Mothers Day! Although maybe this year your Mothers Day wasn’t ideal due to the ongoing pandemic we at thefullworks hope you had the best day you could with the circumstances. However, 22nd March was an extra important day for one of our clients – Patrick Tatham – he appeared on our screens in the evening of Mothers Day on the coveted programme Dragons Den!
Everyone in thefullworks team were watching excitedly, similarly to many of Patricks friends and family at home. Was strange, seeing someone you know well, appearing on your screen with the likes of Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden but we could hardly contain our excitement to see how Patrick got on.
The pitch went well, the explanation of how the bags worked and the benefits came across perfectly and the dragons seemed to be impressed. The first to remove himself from the process was Peter Jones, not because he wasn’t interested, but because he already has an investment in the industry – so due to conflict of interest he gave the first "I'm out"
In regards to the rest of the dragons and what happens next we are not going to give away any spoilers…instead we are going to provide you with an exclusive interview with Patrick Tatham himself, about his experience, what the dragons are really like and what he would change if he could do the whole process all over again!
What sort of preparation goes into appearing on the Den?
It’s an exhaustive and exhausting process. About 18-months after completing the application online, out of the blue I had a call from a researcher, which resulted in a screen-test at the BBC’s White City HQ. This was followed by an even longer call, and then due diligence.
When that was approved, I went into a kind of holding pattern while a filming date was agreed – I guess it’s hard getting those busy Dragons on the same page. I think my filming date was postponed at least twice. During this time, my lovely researcher helped me refine my pitch, and organise my props for the show. Filming was finally scheduled for late June 2019 – around nine months ago.
What’s it really like on the day?
It’s a very early start: contestants have to be on site at 6.30 am, though to be honest, nothing much happens till the director and producer turn up at about 9.30 am. Then there’s a flurry of activity as you set up your props and dry-run the pitch for the execs. A bit annoyingly, the producer told me my agreed arrangement of bags and other props had to change to make way for the fixed camera angles.
Then back to waiting in the Green Room. This was not as glamorous as it sounds – think Rich Tea biscuits and juice rather than Jack Daniels and canapés. Still more sitting on my hands, before another flurry of activity – I was on in five! Make up and sound people swarmed around, and suddenly I was in the iconic lift.
The moment I walked in, I could tell the Dragons were tired – in fairness it was the season’s last day of filming. My heart sank, but I had rehearsed the pitch and prepared well for questioning, and that stage went smoothly enough.
Generally, the pressure is relentless. I’ve watched recordings of so-called ‘live’ TV recordings before, but in these the director frequently stops proceedings for a better take. That doesn’t happen in the Den – the cameras just roll on and on and you can’t go back.
Once the whole experience was over, I found my props had been scooped off set, and piled into a poky closet by a side exit. I wasn’t allowed into the Green Room again lest I give anything away to the remaining contestants.
As I dragged my bags out onto the cobbles, a studio runner consoled me – although I didn’t get the investment I wanted, the publicity would be tremendous – and I’d better make sure my webstore was in robust shape come transmission date. I hope she’s right.
The whole experience felt akin to a slow-motion bungee jump. The 55 minutes on set seemed like a day. Still maxed out on adrenaline, I spent the journey home down the M6 mulling on how I could have engineered a more telly-friendly outcome.
The show is shot in the Old Granada Studios in Manchester – the former home of Corrie. I’m obliged not to divulge trade secrets, but let’s just say there are several ‘tricks of the eye’ in the place. For example, there is certainly no view of the outside world from behind the Dragons easy-chairs.
Most surprisingly, the Dragons were faultlessly polite – not the ferocious and merciless gang they often seem to be made out to be. They were helpful when I needed support on set, and our disagreements – which were numerous – were conducted in a very civil way. I felt treated as an equal, and was never patronized. If the show turns out different, I will have to put it down to ingenious editing.
Anything you’d do differently if you had the time again?
I don’t regret turning down the somewhat lowball offer of investment – that would have rankled for all time. But I’ll regret not being more strategic in the negotiations – and in particular not going back for a deal somewhere in between my valuation and the one Sara initially offered.
Finally, as everyone will know, the broadcast date is set to coincide with what the prime minister has dubbed ‘the worst healthcare crisis in a generation.’ Selling a travel-related product at a time like this is an uphill struggle, Dragons’ Den or not. Although it can’t be helped, I had been hoping my segment was going to air before Christmas 2019.
Still, it has been an honour to have featured on the BBC’s flagship business-funding show. I appreciate that hundreds, if not thousands, of budding entrepreneurs apply every year, and I was blessed to have jumped every hurdle – something I said in the pre-pitch interview. I hope that little quote makes the final cut – it’s probably the most profound thing I said the whole day.
We are so proud of Patrick as a team and cannot wait to continue our working partnership with him and his brilliant ideas. I'm sure we will see your orders coming in thick and fast soon!!
If you haven't seen it already make sure you catch up with Dragons Den on BBC iplayer NOW!