From Dragons to Dreams: Kath's Den experience in her own words and the all-important WHY!?
I’ve written this blog so many times in my head, laughed out loud, ripped it up, cringed, crossed parts out and now I sit to write the real thing. BeeBee Wraps has consistently brought me the most amazing opportunities and this is no different.
Deciding to go on Dragons’ Den was a very hard decision. They’re notoriously hard on entrepreneurs and thick skin appears to be a prerequisite. I applied, I got an audition, I got my Den slot.
Blood on the swimming pool floor
The date crept up faster and faster. Nights were filled with insomnia and nails were worn to the bone. The weekend before arrived and Team BeeBee were prepping for Eat Cambridge. I planned to pop down to see the show, but on the day, just beforehand, I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids swimming.
I’m not sure if it was the hot atmosphere, or the build-up of stress, or a combination of both, but in the changing rooms, my nose erupted blood like Vesuvius. The changing room floor was covered in splashes of red. Realising this wasn’t going to stop I ventured out for help leaving behind me a trail of evidence, and two concerned kids. A lifeguard found me and immediately sprang into action cordoning off the area, which happened to now be in a busy thoroughfare. A cold compress was applied whilst I issued reassurances to terrified children en route to their swimming lessons. I now know that both my kids are amazing in an emergency. Especially the oldest, she was right on the money with the biggest wodge of loo roll you’ve ever seen.
Little did I know at that point I’d bled all down my top too…So, onwards to Eat Cambridge! (Yeah, let's go to a food festival covered in blood, it’ll be fun!). Food heroes Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. were hosting a book signing. I’ve been a fan of theirs almost as long as I’ve loved Yotam Ottolenghi and so delighted that their deli stocks BeeBee Wraps. I was over the moon to meet Sarit and Itamar who are as sweet as their dishes and completely ignored my bloodied top...until my kids pointed it out.
The Den: Take 1
The next day I took the train to Manchester to head to the Den, however minutes into the journey the producer called me to say the filming was cancelled without explanation. My mind went into overdrive and of course, I thought they’d dropped me.
I got off at Royston and sat on a lonely train platform with a suitcase, feeling dazed. Then a chap appeared and spontaneously broke into a wonderfully out of tune, yet sincere, version of ‘Gravity’ from the musical Wicked. This day couldn’t get any weirder. When I got back to Cambridge I was scooped up by my best friend Suzie and taken to the pub. Obviously.
Later, it transpired that Touker Suleyman had fallen ill causing filming to be delayed whilst they found a replacement. There are not so many Dragons roaming the English countryside nowadays so it wasn’t until Thursday that filming was rescheduled.
I reboarded the train to Manchester on Wednesday afternoon and got past Royston.
It was a pretty solitary experience from here on in. The hotel was nice, I ate like a sparrow over dinner and went to bed only to toss and turn until 4.45 am when my two alarms started ringing.
The Den: Take 2
On arriving, I entered the waiting room where there were plenty of refreshments. Couldn’t eat a thing. I waited and waited (see photo!). Couldn’t eat a thing. Saw people go ahead of me. Couldn’t eat a thing. Ten hours later, I went in. The nerves were unreal.
Into the lift. Doors closed. Waited. Doors opened. There they were, all five Dragons, silently expectant and primed for dishing out a grilling.
I walked towards them and looked at each one in the eye, took a deep breath and started my pitch. Perfect delivery. I breathed a sigh of relief. (It was fascinating to deliver a pitch and see the Dragons, in perfect synchronisation, scribbling down whenever I mentioned anything noteworthy.)
"I've got one and I love it!" Peter Jones
Then the most brilliant thing happened. Peter Jones said he was about to shock everyone with his revelation that he had our Tulip Wrap in his kitchen. When he arrives home late from work his dinner is usually kept fresh under a BeeBee Wrap. I was delighted and it gave me a lot of confidence to see Peter smile as he told me...
"I've got one and I love it!" Peter Jones
However, after a few questions about competitors and market share, which I felt I did a fair job of answering since turnover isn't publicly available, Peter, always the gentleman, apologised that this investment wasn’t for him and ruled himself out.
Theo Paphitis, Touker's stand in Dragon, was up next. His grilling over price and margins was pretty intense. He was polite but wasn’t convinced we had the opportunity to give him a return on his investment. This sentiment was echoed by Dragons Sara Davies and Tej Lalvani. At this point, it wasn’t going particularly well.
My last hope, Deborah Meaden. I already knew that Deborah made her own beeswax wraps and was a fan. Deborah mentioned they smelled differently to hers, to which I explained that beeswax does have a different aroma depending on where the bees foraged, just like honey. It later transpired that the wax on those wraps was from heathland where heather is abundant. The wax carries a stronger smell and it’s something we’ve changed in our formula going forward. We won’t use solely the stronger scented wax in a formula but mix with a less pungent version.
"I'd love to be involved in this because I'd love this to become mainstream" Deborah Meaden.
Deborah even responded to the cost of our wraps...
"That cost over a year, that's actually good value" Deborah Meaden
To hear Deborah say she wanted me to succeed was awesome but now wasn’t the time for her to invest. My heart sank.
Always looking to improve I summarised all the advice I had been given (which, along with so much other footage, was edited out), thanked the Dragons for their time and walked out head held high. As I entered the lift, I turned around and waved. Who does that!?
What Kath did next
I was whisked straight into a post-Den interview and, on account of my height, I was stood on a box, which I promptly fell off, whilst being filmed. I’m a genius.
Within minutes of that unfortunate incident, I was in a taxi en route to Manchester Piccadilly. Probably rendered a little bamboozled. Funnily enough, I didn’t feel anything else, I didn’t need a moment to myself or any debrief. It took me losing my train ticket home to start unravelling. I unpacked my suitcase in the middle of a busy thoroughfare and felt the prick of hot tears forming. I got myself together, found my ticket and went down to the platform.
Being rush hour it was very busy and I was struggling to work out which was my train. I asked the station master who said the next train to arrive was mine. As I went to board the carriage a hand pulled me back, it was a man who had overheard the station master’s advice and said: “I don’t think you want to get on that train, love”. I asked why and he said it was bound for Scotland. This finished me off.
The tears broke their banks and I had no defence. The chap asked me what was wrong, he said in a friendly Yorkshire accent, “Is it boy trouble?”. Missing the mark so wildly made me laugh and I said: “No, I was just grilled for 75 minutes in Dragons’ Den and didn't get investment”. And the reply came “Oh, well I wasn’t expecting that”.
Craig, Life and Perspective
His name is Craig and he is awesome. We sat together on the train to Leeds chatting life stories. Stuff that is wonderful, stuff that is tough. I couldn’t have asked for a more grounding moment than that. None of the past day was actually real in terms of life and death, and here we were talking about those very issues. A little perspective crept in and the tears dried to salty stains on my cheeks.
Believing so fervently in what I do at BeeBee Wraps made me do this. I care only a little about looking stupid on the telly, anyway, a big ego holds you back. What I care about is the stuff Craig and I chatted through; real life, kids, families, people, trees, birds, sky, land, oceans, all of that.
More recently another friend of mine, Matt, asked me to define why I do it. It didn’t take long for me to get it out, once I started it was a floodgate opening. There doesn't ever seem a good time to get this stuff out, we’re all very stoic with our passion sometimes. I’ve put myself out there already in The Den and whilst I’m here I might as well shout about ‘the why’ too.
I told Matt…
“I want to turn the world upside down and rewrite our priorities, not by forcing us to make our lives difficult but by making the alternative so attractive and easy that it's a no-brainer.
“I want to write a love story for everyone, so we can’t possibly avoid that heart-thumping feeling of happiness you get when you walk across hills and mountains, because we protect what we love.
“I want to know that education in this country means encouraging our children to protect our planet. You know what, they already know, we breed it out of them!!
“I want to make the eco-alternative so good that buying the best product or service or life choice means demanding it is earth-friendly and well thought out for generations ahead, as standard. If investment is what it takes to make that happen, I’ll find it.
“I want to do more, but I’m only one person. The problem is not just single-use plastic, it's transport and food and fashion and politics and more besides. We need to rethink how we tread on the planet and make a lot of little changes, very often, until we start to see culture change outside of own echo chambers, normalising what is better for everything that lives here."
I’ll leave it there.
I am so grateful for my Den experience. I understand that when running a business it needs to be financially viable, we need to make a profit to grow, and sustain staff and shareholders.
Since filming earlier this year we’ve made cost savings in a number of areas, improving our margins. We’ve tweaked our formula to address the scent. We have brought David in full time as our Finance and Operations Director and are advertising for a Financial Controller too.
Yet we are keeping our values at the very core of our everyday determination is crucial otherwise we’re just another product.
Since The Den, we have signed a contract with European distributor Green Pioneer and started working with doorstep grocery services Abel & Cole and Milk & More. Our bespoke wraps business is growing with each new client and we move to premises double in size later in September! We can then start manufacturing our plant-based vegan wraps which we’ve held off doing until we got it right and we had the space.
Since we started we have potentially saved over 10.4 million pieces of polluting plastic entering the natural world.