BUDDING entrepreneurs get just three minutes to convince some of the richest people in Britain to pump cash into their business.
And pitching in front of the Dragons’ Den millionaires can make or break it – and you.
Rachel Cummins, Josh Cummins and Lee Hoppen secured £80,000 on Dragons’ DenCredit: Let’s Sanitise
The trio wowed the millionaires with their scented hand sanitiser firmCredit: BBC
Josh and Lee during their pitch on the BBC show, which aired on March 17Credit: Let’s Sanitise
Thankfully for friends Lee Hoppen, Josh Cummins and his wife Rachel, they successfully wowed the money makers with their scented hand sanitiser.
Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman smelled an investment, and the trio walked away with a hefty £80,000 for a 20 per cent stake in Let’s Sanitise.
Josh described their victory as “like winning the lottery” – but not everybody is so lucky.
Only a small number of contenders actually make it onto our screens, and even fewer secure some kind of backing.
So after a lengthy four-page application process and several probes by producers, just how do you win big once you’re in the Den?
Josh, 31, has compiled the five things you must do to triumph – and what to avoid.
1. Know your numbers
It goes without saying that five people known for making money expect you to know your finances inside out, but Josh reckons it’s even more important than people think.
The Dragons pulled Josh and Lee, 34, up on some discrepancies in their numbers during their pitch, which aired on March 17, particularly surrounding their gross profit.
But after a some quickfire quizzing, Josh managed to claw things back thanks to his knowledge of the business’ bank accounts.
“There was an intense line of questioning coming in thick and fast from all directions, but Lee and I had rehearsed for this situation so I felt that we handled it well,” he said.
2. Do your homework
Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Sara Davies, Steven Bartlett and Touker Suleyman all have their own interests and styles – and Josh reckons entrepreneurs should capitalise on these.
“Research the Dragons and their investments so you know what areas they are keen to invest in,” he said.
He knew Peter more than anyone would want to hear about their passion for success, so when asked if they had “absolute commitment, dedication, focus and execution”, Josh was more than ready.
He told Peter: “Can I convince you that I’ve put all of my focus into this?
“I’ve helped grow this because we are literally only at the tip of the iceberg, the market’s huge.
“I think there is so much opportunity here and I can assure you that I will be fully invested to get this to where it needs to be.”
Peter, who according to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2021 has an estimated worth of £1.16billion, replied: “That’s what I needed to here”, then proceeded to make the pair an offer.
Josh, from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, said: “As Peter was coming to the final part of his summary I could not tell whether he was going to say ‘for that reason, I’m going to make you an offer’ or ‘for that reason, I’m out’ so I had to interject.
“There was no way that we were going to lose Peter and I needed to be sure that we would be leaving with his investment and skills on board.
“I made a passionate plea as to why he needed to be on board and was delighted when he was the first Dragon to make us an offer.”
3. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Once inside the Den, many contestants freeze when they come face to face with the Dragons.
The best way to avoid this, Josh says, is to “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse”.
He said: “It was surreal seeing them in the flesh as we walked out of the lift to enter the Den but I was opening the pitch so I just kept repeating the opening line in my head.
“Once the first line was out, I was sure that the rest would follow.”
After securing the desired amount, Josh added: “We were physically drained as we had put our all into rehearsing in advance, but the knowledge that we had secured two Dragons lifted us up unimaginably.
“It felt like we had won the lottery.”
The Dragons listening intently to Josh and Lee’s pitchCredit: BBC
Let’s Sanitise has a range of scented hand productsCredit: Let’s Sanitise
4. Be flexible
Lee and Josh, and partner Rachel, 33, at home, were after £80,000 for a five per cent stake in their business.
While they got the money they wanted, they were forced to part with a much higher slice of Let’s Sanitise.
But knowing this can happen, or more importantly preparing for it and being okay with it, is key to scoring that all-important offer.
Josh said: “Be prepared to give the Dragons a percentage that will incentivise them to get on board.
“There was some tense negotiation as our original offer was to give away five per cent of the business, and Peter wanted 20 per cent and Touker 25 per cent.
“We finally agreed on accepting a joint investment with both Peter and Touker – with the percentage reducing to 20.”
5. Be unique
Finally, the Dragons are always seeking something different, so show them what makes your business stand out.
Let’s Sanitise is unlike other sanitiser brands as its focus is on skin-friendly, good-smelling, and natural products, Josh says.
And to ensure its appeal doesn’t fade away once the pandemic does too, Josh told the millionaires how they had started selling gentle washes, creams and sprays to hold their place in the market.
Josh and Lee were all smiles after securing investment from Peter Jones and Touker SuleymanCredit: BBC
The duo celebrating their big win in the lift on the way outCredit: BBC
Let’s Sanitise was born after Lee and Rachel’s photobooth business was struck by the pandemic and they were forced to find alternative income.
They quickly clocked on that hand sanitiser was in high demand and, along with Josh, worked with a pharmacist to create products that were kind to the skin and didn’t smell like pure alcohol.
“Those available in the market were of poor quality – they left hands feeling very dry and smelling like tequila,” Josh said.
After perfecting the gels, they turned to their existing clients for orders, and now their cruelty free, vegan and recyclable hand care is sold online and instore through firms such as Ocado, Rymans and The Fragrance Shop.
But it was almost by accident that Josh and Lee, from Chingford, east London, wound up in the Dragons’ lair.
Creative director Rachel was updating her LinkedIn when she stumbled across a message in her inbox from an executive producer at the BBC.
There was an intense line of questioning coming in thick and fast from all directions, but Lee and I had rehearsed for this situation so I felt that we handled it well.
They had seen their products online and wanted to invite them for a “chat” about the imminent series 19 of the programme.
“At first, we thought that it was spam or a joke but after carrying out some research it became clear that the message was genuine,” Josh said.
The team arranged a Zoom meeting and then “things moved at lightning speed”, with Josh and Lee expected in the studio just three days later.
“We had to write the entire pitch within a day – nothing like a little pressure,” he added.
Let’s Sanitise has continued to grow since filming last year, and it’s now worth a whopping £2.2million.
“We have strong growth plans in place and with the Dragons help, skills and contacts, we are on track to a valuation in excess of £10m within five years,” Josh said.
“If I cast myself back to March 2020 with the horrible news of the Covid outbreak and lockdowns, I would never have imagined that this tragic situation would have been the catalyst to us founding a company that develops hand care and hygiene products that keep you safe while delivering a pleasurable experience.”