Sometime in February, we got a call from the BBC asking us if we’d be interested in applying to take part in a new series of Dragons’ Den. We’re always up for a challenge, and were quite flattered at first, so we thought – why not give it a go and see what happens! And lo and behold, we did it: we got through the paper application, the video audition – all the way to the final filming stage. And then… we pulled out. Why? Why would we refuse the chance to have our brand and products broadcast to two million people? Well, a number of reasons…
First of all, this is television. It’s about grabbing the viewers’ attention, not accurate representation. And in recent times this has meant an emphasis on conflict and controversy. Why is “good TV” about showing people at their most aggressive, and stressed to the point of breaking down? We’re not into that. We’d rather see creativity, courage, and – dare we say it? Cooperation.
We thought long and hard about what being featured on Dragons’ Den would mean for our business. A business that we started ourselves, pouring lots of resources, time, and love into it, which we continue to do every day – starting your own business is not a 9-5 job. Taking part in programmes like Dragons’ Den gets participants some amazing exposure and potentially a big investment. But it also means the Dragons take a big chunk in return… a much bigger chunk than you would have to give up through any other investment channel. Of course, in exchange, the dragons lend their expertise and networks to develop the new business, but the people who had the ideas and took the risk to realise them don’t stand a chance to create an equal power dynamic. The dragons justify these valuations with their power and stature – but just because you have power doesn’t mean you need to abuse it. This kind of investment dynamic at the beginning of a partnership doesn’t bode well for the future, and indeed doesn’t gel with the kind of collaborative spirit we want to pursue.
Sure, we’re not going to change modern television and what “sells” to big audiences. But we can contribute to changing the business culture. We’re trying to do things differently as a business, and there is nothing different about how the dragons grill and scrutinise participants. “This is how the business world works”, we’re told. Well, that may be true – but if we all just accept it, it will never change. We want to change a lot of things about how the world works. Our whole brand is based on the values of making positive changes, little by little, to achieve bigger and bigger impacts. We believe in solidarity and sharing, not greed and power. And having our brand presented through that lens, of a dog-eat-dog world, to two or twenty two million people, would just obscure those values too much.
It’s for all these reasons that we used those two famous words: We’re Out.