Yes... I walked away with the backing of the two longest serving Dragons' and £90,000 in the business bank account. What an experience...
4am - It was April 27th, my alarm sounded, not that I got much sleep. I hopped into the shower and began finalising my pitch. Having arrived to Manchester late from Newcastle I was scratching my head while trying to find my trousers. I 100% packed them - I double checked. Rummaging around they had fallen out of my suit carrier onto the MacDonald Hotel Car park... I could see them from my bedroom window 5 floors up! Frantically panicking I retrieved them. Phew, I wasn't going to be pitching in my pants!
5am - our fleet of vehicles have left our offices in Birmingham heading to the BBC Studios. It's suddenly got very real. After months of diligence checks we're first up... The vans arrived and our team of technicians begin building the VIVIT set.
6.30am - I was put through hair and make up before filming entering and exiting the lift. I was yet to meet the Dragons'. After waiting patiently I met some of the other entrepreneurs who were waiting to pitch after me. I had time for a quick cup of tea and a bacon sandwich before the producer came to tell me they were ready. My heart rate doubled - it wasn't the bacon.
8.30am - I walked to the lift, it felt different, the lighting had changed. There were an army of film crew everywhere I looked. I pushed the lift button and waited patiently for it to arrive. 3... 2... 1... the doors opened. By this time I was nervous, I felt sick. Stepping into the lift was a huge moment, its the point of no return; there is no going back. The other side of the lift doors were 5 people with the resources to transform my life, not forgetting a viewing base that would top 3 million. I couldn't mess this up. Years of hard work was now just a well rehearsed paragraph of business figures. I looked up as the lift began to move... 1... 2... 3... The mechanism kicked in and the doors pulled back, out I stepped. That moment was like going over the first drop on a rollercoaster.. and what a ride this would become.
I stepped out and sat before me were the Dragons'. This was it. I had to own it. Being an avid viewer of BBC Dragons' Den; the pitch makes or breaks you. I wasn't to be broken. ""Hello Dragons" I was off.
My 3 minute elevator pitch got off to a flying start.
With VIVIT next to me and surrounded by anatomical specimens - I'd got this.
Pulling off the body bag to reveal the organs.. "Can I just check, are they all real organs" Deborah said.
I invited the Dragons' up to see VIVIT and how we are able to use it to support students in learning anatomy. On went the aprons and off we went dissecting! Everything from brain to anus was on display. Very quickly the Dragons' could see the educational value in what we do so they wanted to learn more.
Peter Jones was first to dissect the business and was very impressed with our revenue to date. I explained our turnover and profit figures for the last three years and the plans I have for the future.
Tej Levani jumped straight in with an offer: £120,000 for 25%. I was very pleased. Touker then began to ask me why I went into the den? The business is growing strongly and our cash position is strong "Why Sam, what else can I offer?".
I thought long and hard about why I agreed to take part. Our UK output is growing rapidly and we're seeing good traction in audience engagement. However, my plans are oversees. I'm very keen to continue building the UK and at the same time expanding our offer internationally. That is a massive job and a Dragon (or team of Dragons') is what we're going to need. So sign me up!
I am a firm believer that in any arrangement or partnership there has to be negotiation. It's essential. Tej just wouldn't budge. I have seen a lot of activity on Twitter saying, "I got it wrong. I made the wrong choice." Personally I know my business, I know my audience, I know who attends our events. We have hundreds of members of the general public attending our events to learn more about their own conditions. We have an expert academic team made up of doctors, medical students, anatomists and PhD students, we're very up to date and plugged into current research across many UK universities. We deliver events in NHS trusts and aim to support learning in anatomy and physiology at all levels. We need coverage, and we need it quick.
The plan is to build the brand, to take our brands and make them big names in education. Not just in the UK but in Europe and the USA. Deborah and Peter's network of expertise can
help us do that.
So after consideration and negotiation I chose Peter and Deborah. A tag team of the two longest serving dragons who can offer a vast network of resources, skills and infrastructure to boost brand awareness and help maximise our coverage. Supporting students from GCSE to post graduate as well as the general public learning more about how their body works is important for us and I am glad we are on this journey together.
We've been working with Peter and Deborah's teams to finalise the deal and we've got great plans for the future.
The full pitch can be seen at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otYqv4BJBHA&t=22s
EVENTS FOR SCHOOLS (GCSE, A LEVEL BTEC, NAT5's & HIGHERS)
Operating Theatre Live
EVENTS FOR UNDERGRADUATES
The VIVIT Experience
DINNER & DISSECTION FOR STUDENTS, PROFESSIONALS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Anatomy Lab LIVE
Press and Media enquiries
Pictures Credited BBC Dragons Den