Posted: 15th February 2016
Why I washed my hands of dragon’s den
Vicki Evans – Walk Mill Botanics
I was in a world of my own last week updating my website with romantic offerings for Valentine’s Day when the shrill tone of the phone cut through my thoughts. “Hello. This is the BBC research team for Dragon’s Den, am I speaking to the owner?”
Ha, ha I thought this is one of my daughters playing tricks with me. Wisely I held my tongue and listened intently to what the researcher had to say, slowly there was a growing realisation that this was a genuine call and it was then that my heart beat trebled. She went on to describe the process and asked if I would consider applying. Hesitantly I asked her to send me the application form.
As I read the form, the fight and flight response kicked in again; the thought of answering challenging questions on turnover, gross & net profit and the value of my order books under the steely gaze of Peter Jones or Deborah Meeden left me shaking. My daughter’s response to this scenario was slightly different, she all but rolled on the floor with hysterical, uncontrollable laughter accompanied by tears streaming down her cheeks.
When the rational side of my brain had kicked back in, I reminded myself that the Dragons are looking for a good return on their investment which requires a number of things.
Is Walk Mill Botanics a scalable business that will grow quickly so that the dragons can recover their money with a healthy profit? Hmmm definitely but maybe not quite yet.
My hand crafted soaps and beauty products are unique, they come packaged in seeded packaging that will grow when you plant it; and the relaxation exercises that I write on the labels will improve levels of well-being. They are, quite simply a labour of love, but some day soon I do hope to bring in a team of elves to help me stir the pots.
For this reason I don’t see my products having the kind of mass market appeal a dragon requires to justify his/her investment. Planting seeded paper, or practicing mindfulness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so I see these niche products sitting in a smaller marketplace.
Sharing the business …OK, maybe I have control issues but sharing my beloved business, even if it is with Peter Jones would be a huge challenge. I love the brand I am creating, it’s a unique handcrafted range of products including soaps, bath salts, room sprays and gifts which offer affordable luxury and there isn’t anything like it on the market. So I wouldn’t want to have to make compromises on quality that would inevitably come when supplying larger organisations.
Of course I wouldn’t say no to an investment in the business; I have so many ideas for new products and ways the business could grow. But for now the organic growth of the business is working. I am learning so much, and at each stage of the growth of the business I am challenged to step outside of my comfort zone and learn something new. I am loving this second career I have carved out for myself.
I will continue to be an avid dragons den viewer marvelling at the creativity, conviction and sheer courage of those who choose to enter the Dragon’s lair, but it isn’t for me.