Deborah Meaden has two extra reasons to be excited about Dragons’ Den re-opening for business. After 15 years on BBC2, the show is moving to a new home on prime time BBC1, plus the opening title sequence has been given a swish makeover!
Filmed last year strictly following social-distancing guidelines, the new series of Dragon's Den sees Deborah Meaden and her fellow dragons Sara Davies, Peter Jones, Tej Lalvani and Touker Suleyman all return to cast their expert eyes over more pitches from investment-seeking entrepreneurs.
Among the ideas hoping to pique their interest are a tea subscription business, an eco-friendly alternative to the drinking straw and skincare range designed for hard-working medical staff, which has been created by a nurse and her husband.
We chatted to Deborah, who’s been a staple on Dragon's Den since series three, about the new series, perfect pitches, aching feet and… towels!
How excited are you about the new series?
"I’m really excited. We’re moving to BBC1, which means we’ll get a wider audience talking about the love of my life: Business! We have new opening titles, too, and I really like them."
How has the world of business changed in the last 12 months?
"A lot of businesses have had to change to survive. They have had to adapt. Certainly, most of my businesses have. In the first episode of the new series, one pitch comes from the owner of an art studio who can’t have people in because of the pandemic, so she’s switched to selling letterbox art kits and doing online tutorials while her doors are closed."
Has the pandemic dampened our entrepreneurial spirit?
"A lot of people have thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to start my own business and now is my moment’. I think it’s definitely bringing entrepreneurs forward. Despite the awfulness of the pandemic, people are making their own opportunities. It’s easier than ever to start a business. All you need is a computer and a phone to start selling."
What’s been your most surprising investment during your time on Dragons’ Den?
"Four years ago, a business called Dock & Bay came into the Den and they sell microfibre towels. I thought, there’s no way I’m investing in a towel – they’ve definitely been invented already! They were turning over about half-a-million pounds, and this year, even with the pandemic, they will do eight million pounds, which is fantastic! And that’s because they responded to what’s going on and introduced things like hair wraps as they realised people would be at home. Businesses that are adaptable are the ones that will do really well."
Are there any businesses that got away and you wish you had invested in?
"No. They are gone and forgotten! I don’t think about them."
Describe your dream pitch…
"It’s basically a good entrepreneur with a good product. Usually you get a great person, but not a great product, or vice versa. So the dream is they tell their story quickly, explain what their market is and how they are going to get there. That’s when you see the five dragons suddenly sit up and think, ‘Ooh I want a piece of this!’"
As usual, there a few surprises in this series… What do you think when it looks like a business is going home empty-handed but then a dragon unexpectedly makes an offer?
"In the new series, there’s one pitch in particular where that happens and you can tell from our faces what we think about it. Sometimes we all pitch for a business and we really want it, but then someone else gets it, which is annoying! But this one wasn’t for me."
What are your must-have essentials while filming in the den?
"Billy, who’s the most fantastic wardrobe man. He brings us really comfy slippers for when we walk out of the Den, because I wear quite high heels and my feet can hurt sitting in them a long time. I also like to have Strepsils because the Den can get quite dry and dusty, and it would be unkind of me to cough my way through somebody’s pitch. I’ve also found you need a sense of humour!"
Dragons' Den returns Thursday 1 April at 8pm.
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