What is Dragons Den?
BBC Dragons Den is a UK television programme where budding entrepreneurs can pitch their business ideas to a panel of wealthy investors, known as "Dragons," in hopes of securing investment capital in exchange for a share in their business.
Entrepreneurs present their business ideas to a panel of five wealthy investors. These pitches often include demonstrations, financial projections, and the entrepreneur's estimated valuation of their business. If a Dragon is interested, they negotiate with the entrepreneur on the investment amount and the percentage of equity. It's not uncommon to apply for deals with multiple Dragons to compete with each other or collaborate on a single deal.
Over the years, the UK version series of the show has seen the participation from various Dragons, including Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden, Duncan Bannatyne, and many others.
The show is not only about securing investment; it also offers budding entrepreneurs valuable feedback on their business models, products, services, and strategies. The rigorous questioning from the Dragons ensures that only the most viable and promising ideas get backed...and we were considered one of them.
How we ended up in the Dragons Den
In 2007, Rachel, our founder, searched for recycled packaging for her range of ethical and fair trade jewellery and accessories. She had been working in Sierra Leone supporting women and teaching skills such as jewellery making, helping to give back to the struggling community by paying a fair wage (which was unheard of at the time), developing skills, and giving women a chance to learn. What Rachel then realised, was that nowhere on the market were there recycled or recyclable packaging to put the ethical jewellery in. "Most of what I could find on a Google search were plastic boxes from China you had to order thousands of at a time."
Rachel thought this would be easy. She was wrong. What she did find, after months of research, was that she wasn't the only one, there was an extremely high demand for recycled and ethical packaging options, but no one to meet that demand. Rising to the challenge, Rachel decided to started Tiny Box Company with a huge difference. Soon after, she met well-known radio broadcaster, Robin Banks, who was out shopping for a box (would you believe?). After a 12 hour meeting, Robin returned home with a share in Tiny Box Company and set to work promoting the business.
Our Dragon's Den tale
During a memorable appearance on Dragons Den, our all star and fearless Rachel stepped forward to broadcast our mission to a broader audience. With each presentation, pitch, rebuttal, and showcase, as well as her projected turnover, desired net worth, and her absolute determination, she painted viewers a vivid picture of her dreams for a world anchored in sustainability and forward-thinking.
This idea wasn't merely an idea about creating boxes or designing ribbons; it was a call to revolutionise our perspective on packaging, based on emphasising eco-conscious choices at every turn.
What happened next? The Dragons were all ears. From within the intense ambiance of Dragons Den, when it came to the final selection, two renowned figures, Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis, saw the potential and promise in joining our initiative. Their interest went beyond mere admiration; they were on board to invest and support us.
Walking into the Dragons Den and end up walking out with the endorsement deals of not just one, but two Dragons is no everyday feat. Our success that day underlined our relentless drive to transform the realm of gift packaging.
Scroll down to the bottom to read Rachel's entry of the day itself!
Introducing Our Dragons
Peter Jones, a towering figure not just in height but in the entrepreneurial world, has a reputation for discerning genuine potential. When he laid eyes on our pitch, he saw more than just innovative packaging. He envisioned a disruptive force in the market, a company that stood head and shoulders above the rest. To him, Tiny Box Company was not merely an idea but a transformative vision. And he wanted in.
Retail magnate Theo Paphitis knows a thing or two about what sells and what soars. When he encountered our brand, he saw more than just sustainable packaging. He recognised a blueprint for the future, a direction the industry could, and should, take. Seeing our boxes, he saw tomorrow's gold standard in packaging. With such a visionary believing in our path, it was clear: together, we'd redefine the landscape.
Also featured in Theo's Small Business Sunday.
The Tale Behind Our Dragons Den Alliance
Stepping into the Dragon's Den was a sign of more than just a presentation; it marked the beginning of an great partnership. Let’s delve into the detail of the alliance that sent ripples through the world of sustainable packaging.
The Deal Dynamics
It started with Peter Jones joining us. His keen eye saw potential, promise, and a bright future for our brand. Yet, even with his vast experience, he felt this journey would be best undertaken with another Dragon by his side. In a surprising twist, Peter Jones insisted on having his often-rival, Theo Paphitis, onboard. Theo, recognising the same promise Peter Jones saw, readily agreed. Each secured a 20% stake, reflecting their confidence in our company's vision. Meanwhile, Rachel, the heart and soul of Tiny Box, held onto a decisive 60%, ensuring the company's foundational values remained untouched.
The Financial Leap
Beyond insights, ideas and expertise, joining the Dragons fortified their trust with a significant financial boost. A collective investment of £60,000 symbolised more than just capital—it represented belief, foresight, and the hope of a sustainable future. "With such backing, we were primed to soar higher than ever. - Rachel Watkyn"
The Ripple Effect:
With the combined strength of two Dragons and a renewed strength, Tiny Box Company decided to set out on a trajectory of unparalleled growth. Our eco-conscious packaging began to make waves, striking a chord with both big brands and companies and individual consumers. The Dragons helped solidify our robust business plan and help push the business forward. From our humble beginnings, the post-Dragons Den era has seen us blossom into a force to be reckoned with in the packaging sector.
Spotlight in the Press:
It's rather brilliant to watch us find ourselves featured in a series of esteemed publications and top telly series and segments. Rachel, alongside the pioneering Tiny Box Company, has not merely marked territory in the packaging world; we've become a key topic of conversation for some of the UK's most iconic media outlets:
Theo Paphitis's Small Business Sunday
The Argus ... and many many more.
Accolades in Abundance:
It's not just about the money and being in the limelight; it's the gongs we've taken home that really warm our cockles. These accolades reflect our unwavering dedication to breaking new ground in sustainability and innovation:
The Dynamic Awards
Scale Up Awards
Great British Entrepreneur Awards
National Recycling Awards
UK Packaging Awards
Business Woman of the Year Awards
FSB Green Business of the Year Awards
Each award is a feather in our cap, a nod to our journey and the heights we've scaled.
Each mention we hear in the press and every accolade paints a broader stroke in our story, solidifying our mission to revolutionise the world of packaging. And we're so excited knowing this is merely the prologue to an even more exciting journey ahead.
Eco-Driven at Heart
When you delve into the core of Tiny Box Company, there's an unwavering dedication to our planet. Over 95% of the content of our packaging is crafted from recycled, recyclable, or compostable materials. By selecting our products, you're endorsing a brighter, greener tomorrow.
The Art of Eco-Luxury:
For us, every item is considered a canvas of quality and eco-responsibility. By championing in-house hand-printing, we meld luxury with an artisan touch that off-the-shelf products can't replicate. Our offerings aren't static; they're a reflection of our customer's desires. You speak, we listen. All the details of our products are steered by you and your needs, we move with the trends and are launching new styles and colours all the time to suit your business.
Beyond Recycling — Reviving:
Our embrace of sustainability extends to welcoming discarded packaging from our local community. It’s our way of rejuvenating materials and offering them a renewed purpose. Enter our 'box muncher' – a nifty contraption that breathes new life into old boxes, converting them into robust packing filler. It’s our nod to ensuring every parcel dispatched carries a hint of our green philosophy.
Beyond our products, we have a heart for our community and giving back. Through investments in our programme and series a programme of strategic partnerships with local charities and schools, we’re fuelling creativity and academic endeavours, ensuring they’re well-equipped to thrive.
While our association with the Dragons amplifies our voice, our dedication to the environment remains our true north. Each choice we make and each product we craft resonates with our unwavering green commitment.
Got questions? Ping us. Want more tales of our adventures? Stalk us on social media (we won’t mind).
Watch Rachel in the Den
Read Rachel's entry of the day itself!
So it went like this...
Christian decided it would be a good idea to try Dragons Den in order to allow us to expand our "Tiny" company. Good idea....except he didn't tell me! The first I knew was when I got a call from the BBC asking me what we would do with the money.
We desperately needed funds though as we had grown so rapidly, we were having to finance more stock, and we had started off with one small office and had spread over the farm we worked on, to 3 premises. These still weren't big enough and we were literally sitting on boxes - you couldn't get through the office door.
So a few months later we arrived at the "dragon" location at about 6:30 in the morning, both of us so nervous we appeared hyper. We sat in the "green room" twitching and fidgeting, waiting to be summonsed, in the meantime helping ourselves to endless cups of tea and chocolate to calm our nerves ... great idea as we were both then even more hyper!
The BBC staff had done my hair beautifully first thing, but the "green room" was so hot and humid, my hair just got frizzier and bigger as the day went on. So by the time we got in front of the Dragons it looked outrageous - one massive frizzball.
So finally we were called to the "den". How terrified were we?! We walked up the stairs wondering if it was anything like the experience shown on t.v. It was. The 5 dragons sat there just looking at us, waiting for us to do our pitch. So we did, and we got well and truly slayed! Both of us thought we had completely blown it, as apparently I was on a crusade and Christian's admission to rehab was met with less than sympathy to say the least.
After about 20 minutes of questioning, our hearts just sank as some of the Dragons were clearly unimpressed. Duncan Bannatyne in particular, who had for the previous 20 minutes been picking at the paper on the box sample he had, then announced that the paper was peeling off! Christian and I stood there in disbelief. Any paper product if picked at for that length of time would not withstand being torn. So we were ready to leave the den dejected.
Peter Jones (who is lovely by the way) had not said a thing up to this point, and suddenly threw us a life line, but only if Theo joined him. The BBC then ran out of film, so asked for a short break. Christian and I retreated to the back of the room and saw Theo shaking his head at Peter. Could our hearts sink much deeper? Christian and I felt even more dejected and then just waited for the film to be replaced and then for us to be expelled from the Den.
But Theo said Yes!
We came out of the den absolutely stunned. All the BBC crew were congratulating us, but it just wouldn't sink in that we had 2 dragons on board - and definitely our favourite ones.
So what happened next?
We went to London to meet all of Theo's team and Peter's team to work out the way forward. They were all lovely (especially Peter!) and we are now working on moving to much bigger premises, expanding our stock range to include 100% recycled wrapping paper, pillow boxes, mailing boxes and bigger square gift boxes. We are also updating our printing facilities and on a recruitment drive for people who can actually cope with working in our "tiny" offices! We have a regular flow of communication between our office and Peter's and Theo's offices and it's great because if there is any business decision now that we are unsure of, then we can just pick up the phone.
So all very good news so far. We will keep you posted on what happens next!
One last note - Deborah Meaden is nothing like how she is made out to be on Dragons Den. The programme is heavily edited and although she questioned us alot to check we knew what we were talking about, she was actually laughing with us and was very amicable.
Bye for now,