Entering The Dragons Den With Stephen Conway

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today, we have Stephen Conway. Stephen, welcome.

Thank you very much. How are you?

I’m very well thank you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do?

Sure. So it goes back to 2017. I’m an entrepreneur by background, but I have one main business at this moment in time, which is a dairy free low sugar chocolate business, which is also soy free. It’s palm oil free GMO free, and it’s aimed at people who traditionally either can’t have normal chocolate because they are allergic to or intolerant to dairy or sugar, but also to anybody who has a medical issue. So it could be diabetes or on the other side, which is anybody who is looking for a healthier lifestyle, but don’t want to give up the treats.

So my story started because I have two beautiful daughters, one who’s 14, one who’s 12, who going back four or five years ago were dairy and sugar intolerant. So if they had too much dairy, they would end up with stomachaches, and if they had too much sugar, they would end up being feral. And what I mean by feral is, you know, mood swings, hyperactive one minute, you know, et cetera, et cetera. So I set about looking for a healthier chocolate that we could all enjoy because we are a family of chocolate lovers but couldn’t find any online that they like the taste of and ticked all the boxes that I was looking for. E you know the dairy free, low sugar, soy free palm oil free. And so I asked a very faithful question, which was how easy would it be to make my own chocolate in my kitchen?

Not realising that that question would take me on a voyage of self-discovery, torture, anguish, tears, an incredible highs over the following four years. And the trigger point of that got it off the ground was that I was making it at home. The kids liked it was it was, I have to say it was a grainy chewy mess. My little recipe, it wasn’t some polished finished chocolate that people love, but it actually tasted quite good. So my kids liked it. Their friends liked it. Their friends’ parents liked it. Our friends liked it. And so it became a little bit of a standing joke. People used to come around and say have you got any of your to eat chocolate? And so I was getting to the stage where I was making it for us and giving some away and it was becoming a bit little bit frustrating that people kept asking for it and I had to keep making it.

And at that moment I got a phone call from a good friend of mine who had set up about eight years previously, a luxury cat food business and it was quite a random out of the blue call because I was and spoke to him for look at few years and I said, wow, hey, how’s it going? How’s life, how’s the cat food business, which we all thought when he set it up, it was all very random, he, like me has had a few entrepreneurial businesses, so it was one of those ones that just weren’t sure he was going to make a success of it. So when he did bring up and say, yeah, things are good and I’ve sold the business, I nearly fell off my chair, first of all, but secondly, I was like, you know, wow, have you paid your mortgage off? You know, because I thought if he’d done that, that would be a supreme success out of his little cat food business.

He said, well I’ve done a little bit better than that, and I’m like, you know, spill the beans, how much better? And he said well, 50 million better. And I just literally dropped the phone and I picked it up and I said, not that it matters, but did you say 15 or 5-0, And he said 50 in cash, and I was like, oh my God, that is like the most amazing story and the most amazing success story for somebody who, like me had, had a number of businesses and, but you know, I knew the, getting the cat food business off the ground was challenging, But I didn’t realise it was as big as it was, you know, £100 million 30, 40 countries worldwide type thing. And so I was blown away by that and I came off the call and had this question come up in my head and it said who buys cat food?

And I was like, well, probably mainly women. I would think where do they buy it? Supermarkets? How much is it? Well it’s got to be you know, three quid. I don’t know, I don’t have cats, I’m not a big cat fan myself. Is it a repeat purchase? Yes, it is. And if they like the product will they rave about it? And I thought well probably the brave about it to other characters and say this is really good stuff. So I said, bearing in mind that this was a critical juncture of me getting frustrated with making chocolate for other people. I just asked the same questions. I said, well who this is literally internally sat at my kitchen table literally through the door there and I went, well who buys chocolate? I thought were probably mainly women. I know that sounds like a bit of a generalisation but genuinely – and it is borne out by the statistics with us – we are probably about 60 female purchases versus male purchases.

And so I thought, well how much is chocolate? Well, for a quality decent bar of chocolate probably in that £3 range. Is it a repeat purchase? Yes, it is. Do they love it? Are they going to shout about it? Yes. And where would it be purchased? In supermarkets. And then well, does that mean that if he has been able to a have a multimillion pound sell out or exit, could I do that with my chocolate idea? So being somebody who has a kind of persona that says never leave the scene of a decision without taking some kind of action. Or never leave the scene of a powerful thought without taking some kind of action. Because we all know – and I assume that the majority of listeners tend to be more business people or they tend to be in the business crowd, self-employed.

Yeah. So we all know how busy things can get. We also know how great ideas can go out the door because your mind gets taken on to something else very easily. Because it can literally be, I have an idea, it sounds great. And then the next minute the phone rings and somebody says, oh big problem here, you need to deal with this issue. And suddenly that great idea is part in the back of your mind and probably won’t come up again for a few weeks or months. So I I thought I’m not gonna I’m not going to do anything until I’ve taken some kind of action. So I rang a friend of mine who’s really good at research and I asked her to see if she could find me a chocolaty air, who could teach me how to turn my recipe idea into a proper recipe and a proper formula that would then we could potentially sell commercially.

She came back to me quite quickly fully enough and said I found somebody in Bristol and he’s available to you on Friday if you are interested. And bearing in mind that because we had very specific you know you can find lots and lots of chocolate makers who use dairy and sugar. You can’t find that many chocolate ears who are vegan soy free palm oil free. but there was one in Bristol and I’m in Salisbury and Bristol’s about an hour away from an hour and a half away from here. And so I went to see him on Friday and that was the start of a journey of me. They’re learning how to make it, started making it on my kitchen table on my kitchen table in really small numbers. getting it to a point where we were making you know 30 or 40 parts a day. I mean, it was really small, you know handmade stuff not enough to support anybody in any kind of business, but we were learning how to formulate. We were learning how to make the recipe.

And that then led on to me advertising on Facebook, creating an average, we can talk about in a short while because it’s very interesting thing happened, but literally are nearly giving up and having something happened that literally got me over the line. From there, it’s sort of grown and grown and grown to the point now this year We should, this is our 4th year and we should do between two and four million depending on how well Christmas goes for our fourth year, which, you know, compared to where we were making 30 bars a day back in 2018. Now we have a factory with 20 odd staff up in Scotland, which is another long story. But now, yeah, I feel it’s on the verge of going up another level, but it has been an extremely painful and challenging experience growing a business that requires so much capital.

I didn’t realise in the early days when I sort of went, hey, this sounds like a great idea and you know, we can take over the confectionary world that when you buy anything within the confectionary world, in terms of equipment, in terms of um, you know, ingredients and so on and so forth. You know, your starting price for equipment is £10,000 and goes up to hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of pounds and so trying to create a business when you have no money and nobody wants to back you. And nobody’s interested in a startup with not great margins. You know, it has been something that has been very challenging and very rewarding at the same time.

So I have learned an incredible amount. We’re still not out of the woods. So for anybody who’s sitting there at this moment, I’m thinking, oh, he’s been on Dragons Day and everything in the world is easy peasy, it’s not. And I completely relate to any small business owner of which we were just before we went live on this call, we were looking at the statistics, there are just shy of six million small businesses which account for half the turnover of the UK. And so I am somebody who is very empathetic towards other small business owners who have been through the mill in back to create something for themselves and something that produces profit. And I know how hard it is and I know the sleepless nights and the challenges that that brings. So if you are a small business owner watching this, um, well done number one for being entrepreneurial, well done for sticking your neck out and taking a risk where most other people won’t and well done for sticking through thick and thin to be watching this today and you know, I’m here in solidarity with you for all of your efforts, pains and what have you because, you know, you’re not alone.

So that’s a brief. Well, I’m not brief really, actually a very lovely message. Thank you for the introduction and thank you for the well done on behalf of everyone. At what point does the idea come to you about potentially going on Dragons Den? Okay. So I was what when we sort of got it up to a reasonable s a reasonable level in terms of making a few bars we’ve moved it from, I have an office just up the road which we took everything out, which is a small video production company, which with all of the camera equipment out, we turned it into a slightly bigger chocolate factory making instead of 30 bars a day, we were making 300 bars a day. You know, compared to, when we make bars now, we make anywhere between 5000 and 15,000 bars in a day just to give you a bit of an idea. So going from £5 a day to 30 bars a day to 300 and now, you know, Conservatively 10,000 a day.

When we were at the sort of 300 bars a day type numbers, we had a lot of people here in the village and friends who would try the chocolate and say this is perfect for dragon step, you know, you ought to think about going on dragons and this is absolutely right up their street and I’m like, I am not going on tv to embarrass myself, You know, I see what they do, they rip them to bits. If you don’t know your numbers, you know, it’s just a high-risk strategy. But people kept saying it and kept saying it and you know, it was, I was getting bored with people saying you should go on track instead and I have just directly opposite here, which I can actually probably show you if I turn my laptop around, I don’t know whether you can see, but across the road there, hold that up, there’s that’s a pub called the Wheatsheaf and I was in that pub having a few ales on a Friday night as you do when somebody said to me, you should go on Dragons Den and going back to that thing about you know, taking some kind of action, This sort of hit home because I was drunk and I thought you know what, I sort of did this thing where I looked at the gods and said, okay, okay, I’ve got, I’ve got the message, go on Dragons Den.

So I came back here into the study next door where the computer is and I drunkenly filled in a Dragons Den application for God knows what it said. God knows what the spelling must have been like because I was several sheets to the wind. So, and what was interesting because I was several sheets to the wind the next morning, I completely forgot that I had done that complete. Have you ever had one of those ones where you get in and you make yourself a sandwich and you get yourself a bag of crisps and get yourself a glass of wine and the next morning when you wake up and you suddenly see that plate on the side and you’re like, oh my God, I forgot I came in and had a sandwich and not that I’m a major, like, raging alcoholic actually before. So, it just completely escaped my mind and it literally was about three months later, that was about November time and it was February – beginning to mid-February, sat in the kitchen working on my laptop, and my wife answered the phone and handed it to me saying it’s Nicky from the BBC.

I still did not make any connection whatsoever to Dragons Down. I’m thinking, Nicky at the BBC, I’m thinking, oh, maybe there’s some you know, thing on, on local radio about sugar free sugar tax, something like that. So maybe they’re bringing me for to see it, but I would do an interview. And so I picked up the phone and I said, hi it’s Steven, how can help you? And she’s hi, it’s Nicky from Dragons Den. And it was like, literally like that Penny dropped where I was like, oh, yes, hi, how are you doing? She goes, yeah, well you applied um, couple of months back in, we’re interested in auditioning you, which would you, are you still interested now again? I have another rule. Number one, take action and number two always say yes. So I went in my head, well they’re gonna give me a least a week, maybe two weeks’ notice.

So I went, absolutely would love to come to an audition. This was Friday afternoon. And they said, great, I would like to see him Monday at BBC Television studios in London. And I literally was like, mm and so I went, great, what time look forward to seeing you? Then put the phone down and went, oh my God, I’m not practiced, not rehearsed, I’ve got no script, but no idea what I’m gonna say. And I was sort of losing the plot and then my wife had the most brilliant idea. and she said, we’ve got several friends who have been, you know, business owners, I tend to find, hang around with other business owners. So the majority of people I know own their own business. So she said, why don’t we get four of them around for Sunday lunch and you can do your pitch to them and they can critique it.

And I thought that’s absolutely genius. So we got them around and I did a pitch to them and it was awful. And they all went amount jokingly, but then what we did is, we had then had lunch afterwards and they said, you know, hey, you said this would be better if you said this. he said this will be better if he said this and that worked really well to give me a little bit of a structure so that I went in on the Monday into the BBC TV studios to be greeted by six people in a in a room with three cameras, and they said, right, we’re going to start recording, you start doing your pitch. And I was like, you know, fortunately had a little bit of a structure that based on the recommendations of my friends have made, that worked quite well, but they asked me to do the pitch four times and I’m thinking, oh my God, you know, normally when I, with my video production business, you know, I can do things in a couple of takes.

So with them asking me to do it four times, I thought, oh my God, this is really bad. So I was walking out thinking maybe that didn’t go too well, and I said to the researcher who was walking me out, so I said, I had to do that take four times, that doesn’t look good. And she said, well actually that’s really good. Normally some people take up to 30 takes to get it right, so I was like, okay, I’ll take that, well done, thank you very much went home, I didn’t hear a thing for literally again probably best part per month to two months? Not a dickey bird. So again, I sort of had put it to the back of my mind to think that either it’s a nonstarter or really sort of forget about it.

And then again another call comes in, this time to my mobile. Hi, it’s Nicky from BBC Dragons Den. You are through to the next stage. Doesn’t mean that you’re definitely going to be filmed but you’re through to the next stage so please start getting things ready and we’ll come back to you and confirm whether you’ve made it to the filming stage. So again a few weeks went by then got another call saying we’ve got your filming date, it is June the whatever it was. And you’ve got to keep it completely confidential, you cannot say this to anybody, you’re not allowed to let anybody know you’re coming on Dragons Den. It’s completely top secret. Which was in itself quite stressful. You know, knowing that you’re going on this TV program and not being able to mention it to people was quite challenging. Yeah, in relation to the fact that you’ve been encouraged to do it and it’s kind of moving along at almost like a – I know you said it took a long time but it’s moving along at quite a high speed in relation to you know potentially giving a chunk of your business up.

So what, what your thoughts in relation to actually going through with it. Yeah, so I, because one of the things that they do say is if you do get a filming slot you have to come in with the intention of doing a deal, it has to be on the basis that if they offer you a deal that you are happy with that you take it. You know, we’re not interested in people coming on purely for the publicity. So I was actually very much of the opinion that if I got a dragon on board who was really good, they could catapult my business stratospherically And therefore giving 20% away of the business would be a reasonable exchange for somebody of that calibre. It interestingly enough without going into too many details when the filming happened.

And I did get three offers which was very nerve-wracking. The whole thing was extremely nerve-wracking. I’m going to offer you all of the money And I just want 20% of the business. You can actually see my it’s still on YouTube. The Dragons Den clip. What you see is about 12 minutes of about an hour and 20 that you are in front of them. So it’s a highly edited version and it is extremely stressful because you are constantly waiting for the next really challenging question that you don’t know the answer to fortunately I managed to keep my composure, although my hands were, you know, and they’re still sweating two years later, that, but I got the three offers and Peter jones was the one I felt was the, just the most enthusiastic I’m gonna say, come out there right now.

Well done. Thank amazing. Albeit in reality, probably Tess had the better contacts with the supermarkets and what have you. However, Peter just seemed a lot more enthusiastic. So I genuinely, when I did the deal on the show, genuinely was excited about working with him. But as these things happen, fate intervenes and we did have several meetings after the show and I don’t really want to go into the details of why, because I just don’t think it’s fair on them off for us. But I, after the show, when it came to what we call the due diligence stage where you meet for several meetings, I didn’t feel comfortable with the contractual arrangements or what they were asking of me or what they, uh, were expecting in return. So there were certain things that I felt were red lines that I couldn’t agree to, which was really disappointing cause I really wanted to have a dragon on board.

And so we agreed to not go ahead with the deal. And actually, that was again one of these fortuitous things that happened because I bought a load of a new equipment in anticipation of dragons then requiring us to ramp up again and a lot of this equipment malfunctioned in the lead up and post days of the, of Dragons den being broadcast, which caused us no end of grief because making a specialist product like we do and we are, as far as I’m aware, the only company that has a dairy free and practically sugar free chocolate that combined, it’s a quite challenging product to make and therefore we had all sorts of problems having been on Dragons Den and said I had scaling up issues the first time around and that you have got over those Here we are post or pre just pre dragons then having another set of scaling up issues which meant that we were, you know, the chocolate that we were given out was not that great.

And so we were then being judged and also not only was it not great, but we were having real problems making it in the numbers, we needed to, to satisfy the demand from Dragons Den. So on the good side, it put us on the map, but on the downside, we were not putting out our best chocolates which was extremely frustrating and depressing and at certain and it got to the point where so many things were going wrong that I was literally every phone call that came into me. I was expecting another piece of bad news, like there’s this one when we eventually managed to get this two pallets’ worth of chocolates to the distribution centre, the fulfilment house that we were using. And uh, we, that meant we could clear a lot of orders that were, I mean, some of these backlogs were running now into not weeks, they’re running two months. And I was having to say to customers, please bear with us. It’s down to the amount of orders we’ve had.

If you want to, you can get a refund, but if you’re happy to stay with it, we’ll get the chocolate to eventually. And most people thankfully stayed with it. So we had these two pallets of chocolate bars, which would have cleared a good 20% of the initial orders. So we would have done a really good job of at least those early orders. We could have got them cleared. And I got this phone call from the fulfilment house saying we’ve had to reject the two pallets. And I’m like, what do you mean? We’ve had to reject the two? But this is like the first chocolate. We’ve got to go out to customers who was now by this stage screaming at us as to why the way that they haven’t received their delivery. And they said, well, what they did was they stacked other pallets on top of your palates crushing all of the chocolate below. I literally just persons tears. It was just sheer and utter frustration of and this was like the sort of, you know, this was like these were the calls on a daily basis.

It was like the universe was really testing me. Are you able to deal with a medium small to medium sized businesses potentially able to grow into a bigger business? And I was I was just literally put through the rack on a daily basis. So and then you know and this is the, I think the key where resilience is the only thing that you can do is to stick through it and just wipe your tears, wipe the sweat, get up again the next day, do it all again and keep going and eventually you find that it’s something gives and something shows you a way forward but there was a good month and a half. Well, I think I probably cried every single day just through sheer frustration. My wife was having to deal with me just bring her up going, you won’t believe what’s happened now, You won’t believe what’s happened.

This piece of kit is broken. This has happened with the couriers, this has happened here. You know, it was just one disaster after another. However, you know like all of these things you know with the benefit of hindsight you know I did make a lot of mistakes and a lot of things when did not go my way. But I’ve also learned an inordinate amounts and I’ve also learned, you know that’s just being bloody minded can actually get you through the worst of times. And um, one of the things that I had done and it was something that I’ve heard in a Tony Robbins event was about this idea of when the Vikings turned up on the bridge on the UK shores, the commanders ordered that their ships be burnt immediately and the Vikings would go, what, why are we burning our ships, you know, our only means of escape? And the Viking commanders would say that’s because you now only have two choices, win or die. And this idea of burning your boats to create a situation where there is no plan B was pretty much where I was at because I was all in, financially, I was all in emotionally. I was all in physically. And I had no other choice but to keep moving forward. If there was a get-out clause and I had money elsewhere or I had asset sales wherever I could have bombed out. Would I have bombed out possibly? You know, possibly I would have taken the easy option. But I didn’t have a choice and while, you know, we are considerably bigger than we were then and you know, in terms of, in terms of turnover, then we were about half a million.

What’s interesting is that the challenges don’t go away, they get bigger, but they get less if so when they happen, the big, but they don’t happen quite as often. So when they were, they were smaller, it was lots of smaller problems on a daily basis. Now it’s they don’t happen as often, but when they do they are quite challenging. So we’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination. But my just all I try and do is keep on going in the hope that it will get easier each year. So I’m hoping if we can get through this year, get into year five. I think I’m right in saying you’ll be able to tell me more on this one. The statistics if you get into year five mean that your chances of survival go up quite a lot. Is that is that correct? I’m sorry to say, I don’t think that’s the case, but no, I think even if you get two year five, there’s still yes, the statistics are on our side there.

What year is it that you need to get to where the statistics start to show the other way? I don’t know the answer to that one. But I remember a specific sort of quotation of someone saying even when you get two year five, you’re not even safe then because half of the businesses that get two, year five ended up end up closing something along those lines extraordinary. I don’t think that will happen to you though, Steven. You know, I hope not, I genuinely hope not, but you just don’t know, you know, this summer has been very, very challenging because sales of chocolate in the summer are proportionately well down and because people just don’t tend to buy chocolate in the summer and your overheads are the same all year round, whether it’s summer or not. You know, we still have 30 staff, we still have the factory, we still have the over as the, the ingredients, the packaging, the build up to Christmas as well.

So you’re having to invest in all of the stock ingredients and what have you for the build up to Christmas when you have the least amount of money coming into the, into the bank. So yeah, it’s not easy, but I appreciate your positive words. And I take that I’ll take that to heart actually because sometimes, you know, as a business owner, you can actually feel that it’s a, you know, quite, you know, it it can get quite challenging to keep the self-belief. So to hear somebody say they don’t think that’s going to happen to you. It’s actually it’s quite a boost, actually. So thank you for that. My pleasure. You’ve touched on a few things that I want to follow up with you. And that is the comments section at least that I looked on YouTube video is filled with something which you touched on regarding which dragon? So there’s lots of people saying this would have been great for Tej this business.

So, have you got any thoughts on why you chose the dragon you did at the time? Yeah, it was more energetic. I’m somebody that goes with the gut instinct in terms of people. I’ve always been a sort of people person that goes on that gut instinct and he was just a lot more enthusiastic or came across a lot more enthusiastic. And actually that probably is a mistake that I made in judging Tej’s communications star because actually he was very enthusiastic. In fact, he fought with Peter. But I just felt the other thing I think probably did swing it in Peter’s favour is that he had had this massive, multi, multi-million pound success with reggae, reggae sauce, which everybody remembers that Levi Roots episode where he came on with the guitar to Sally’s reggae sauce and everybody was thinking this is nuts.

And Peter saw a nugget of an opportunity and invested when everybody else is like what this guy is like a musician, not a source maker. But Peter took it and turned it into with his contacts in Sainsbury’s and that was one of the issues that we had added with when we were doing the deal is that same speeds weren’t interested in taking our products, they have their own free from range that was cheaper, albeit full of sugar. But they wanted to promote that rather than take our products. So one of the big USPs that Peter could bring to the table being Sainsbury’s wasn’t on the table. So that was that was something that and I’m not entirely sure because of the fact that our product is quite unique and therefore the margins aren’t great. So let me put this into context for those people are watching sugar and dairy are two of the cheapest products within chocolate.

And if you are a big player, you can buy sugar for next to nothing. And same with dairy, you can buy dairy for next to nothing. Whereas we not using dairy and we’re not using sugar, we’re using alternatives to both of those. So we’re using rice cream and we’re using a blend of natural sweeteners and that are really expensive. So to give you a rough cost comparison, you know, they’re probably spending 22:30 p per kilogram of sugar Where we are spending four lb 50 per kilogram on our sweet and blend, you know, milk, they’re probably don’t know what they’re probably spending on, let’s say 50 P a kilogram On milk powder. I don’t I’m sure it’s less than that. But again, for ours where ours is to pound 50 per kilogram. So it’s and the quality of the cocoa, we use the quality of the other ingredients that we use, we don’t use soy, we use sunflower, which again is more expensive.

Everything in our products is way more expensive. So therefore the margin available in our products is much lower. So the supermarkets aren’t really that interested, because if they can’t make a lot of money, then they really are not that interested. And so even Tej I think may have struggled with the margins that we have. Indeed, I went to a meeting with, I think they should keep them nameless, but I went with a health food chain, very well-known health food chain, and I went into a meeting with them and they said, yeah, we’re interested in putting in 400 stores, How much is the chocolate? And I said, well, it’s, you know, £3.50 a bar. And they went, well, we want 1 75 straight away and you’re only gonna sell this chocolate really six times a year when it goes on promotion. So you need to do that, we’re gonna be doing a buy one, get one free, buy one get from all for a penny, 30% off all these different ones.

And I went, okay, and who pays for lattes? And they went, what do you do? So I’m like, so not only do you want 50% margin on this product, which we don’t we don’t even, yeah, that’s not even in that product, you know, we don’t have that kind of margin, but on top of that, you then wanted. So I just got up to leave and I just said thank you very much, but I’m out of here. And they went, oh, no, no, no, no sit down. This is, this is just the opening of the negotiations was the quote. And I said, well if this is the opening, we are so far from the clothes that it’s just no point. And uh, so that meeting came to a rapid close. So I think this is one of the, the big issues if you are. And again, I just didn’t know this when I first started, is that when you go to make a unique quality product that has, you know, ingredients which are expensive equipment, that’s expensive staff that are expensive, the whole kit and caboodle.

It’s really difficult to compete uh, in the, in the likes of the wholesalers and retailers. So we are pretty much a 95-98% direct to consumer brand, which again makes it challenging because we have to spend an inordinate amount on marketing and advertising and PPC and Facebook and Google. And that in itself is extremely costly. And since IOS 14 or whatever it is that they put the privacy blockers on has made it even more challenging to make that those marketing dollars work for themselves. So yeah, it’s uh, going back to the question would tests have been better. Yes, probably in a lot of ways if there was a way we could have made the product cheaper.

But as everything that I know and my experience of dealing with all of these suppliers, there is no, even if we bought 10 times the amount they weren’t gonna be able to give us much more money off. So the price of our products is the price of our products. So I don’t, I truly believe that even if I had chosen Taj or a chosen Deborah, I don’t think we would have got very far with them because their experience knowledge contacts are with the multiples and I just don’t think there was enough margin ever. And we’ve spoken to these multiple since then and we’ve not got any traction in with them. So I think possibly in the future when we become a bigger brand and we become more well-known and people start to demand us then we might have a little bit more negotiating flexibility with the multiples because they want us as opposed to us going please take our chocolate, please take a chocolate.

You know, but for them there offered multiple products every single day, do they need our chocolate in there in the supermarkets at this moment in time. Probably not. But as the focus starts to turn on obesity, the sugar tax health in general diabetes. You know, a lot of the reason why I started this business was because I suffer from brain fog rheumatoid arthritis type symptoms. My wife has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and we both use diet to control especially her who’s got, you know, if she doesn’t control her diet, she has very strong rheumatoid arthritis issues. So she has to be really strict on the dart me.

I just get that eight and stiffness and what have you and stiffness in the joints. So I’m not anywhere near as bad as her. But the brain fog can be something that if I have too much sugar in my diet, I get brain fog. And that’s really quite frustrating. So, so for me, the making of this product was not in the in the early days was I’m trying to solve a problem. I’m trying to solve an issue for my Children and I’m trying to solve an issue for me and my wife where we want to have chocolate that we can eat and not worry about it. And that then led to us going, well, could this be something that other people want? And it’s obvious that it is what people want. And my belief is that it’s going to be something that’s going to be grow in its need. Because lots more people are being diagnosed with diabetes with arthritic autoimmune style problems.

Cancer is on the rise, which, you know, we know that sugar is a big feeder of cancer. Alzheimer’s and dementia, you know, again, things can be linked there are definitive links with sugar in those. So there are a lot of what we call lifestyle type diseases that are exploding. and our products helps with that. You know, if you’re a diabetic and you know you have chocolate, it’s gonna send your normal chocolate’s gonna send your bloods going skywards. And I’m very passionate about nutrition. I’m very passionate about health. And one of the things that or to the things that I am now really think this is the medicine and the focus of medicine in the future is twofold gut health. So having a healthy microbiome and having a healthy microbiome means not having sugar in your, having very little sugar in your diet because the sugar feeds the bad bacteria within your guts.

So that’s number one and number two. and there are a number of very leading scientists and doctors who talk about this now on YouTube and that is health is start with keeping your blood sugar levels as stable as possible. When you create a erratic blood sugar daily routine. That is the two things that happened there is inflammation, which is the big underlying. If you think about what is causing autoimmune issues dementia and what have you inflammation is the thing that underlines all of this and inflammation is because I’m not a doctor. So we’ll say quite clearly here, this is just what I’ve learned and therefore if you need to get medical advice, you do it from a proper medical practitioner.

However, from what I have learned, you want to keep your blood sugars as closely stable as you possibly can if you want to have good health, uh, and not have inflammation issues. So, um, so for me, this product is a product that solves a big need within the marketplace, which is, we all want to have a treat, but we don’t want to have a treat at the cost of our long term health. And so for me, it’s all about, you know, it’s sort of a bit of a cause in a way that, you know, trying to educate people to look after their guts and look after their, uh, their blood sugar levels and their inflammation levels is critical to the future health of the, of the country. And the problem is because we don’t, as a country, we have the number of issues.

And, you know, if you think back to um, when you, when you, I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 54 years old. And when I was a kid, There was one overweight kid in a school of 600 Children that I attended, diabetes was really rare. Alzheimer’s and dementia was, you know, not something that was particularly big. Cancer was something again, that happened. These things, they weren’t not there, but not anywhere near the scale that they are today. And I absolutely put that down to, I put that down to what we put in our mouth And I would say that that is 70% of the issue. The threat of the 30% is made up of stress, very stressful, having stress on the body and the mind that does not help.

We’ve got health. And so you know what we say to ourselves and what the thought, the thoughts we have and then the rest of it’s sort of an environmental, so environmental being, pollution, quality of food, you know, pesticides in our, uh, in our food, um, uh, and so on and so forth. So, you know, having a lifestyle of low sugar, exercise, plenty of sleep. Um, you know, for me, is the future of health going on? A bit of a bit. I should be coming right. I’m starting the new parliamentary party for health. Well, thank you for the for the answer. Just to conclude the den, How much would you say? The 1.5 million views on YouTube and also the appearance and getting a deal. How much would you say that’s impacted your business? Huge. Cannot underestimate it.

So if you are somebody who is thinking about going on dragon stand, if you’ve got a powerful message and a powerful product, then it can be absolutely, you know, instrumental in growing your business. So putting us on the map categorically. Um, Dragons then has done that and continues to do that. So, um, very interestingly, the day after broadcast, you know, just suppliers treat you differently, customers treat you differently. Um, staff treat you differently. It’s a, it cannot be, I literally cannot overestimate plus the fact that sales, even though uh, website crashed for three hours after the show. You know, the sales, we did about a quarter of a million pounds in the week after Dragons Den.

I mean it was colossal results both financially and also with regard to raising our profile, which is probably the biggest at the two, the big yes, it’s great to have those sales, those initial sales and have you, albeit that we had all of those manufacturing issues, so we didn’t really make any profit. In fact, we probably ended up losing money. However, the raising of the profile has meant that people want to talk to me. So, you know, we get invited onto radio shows. I get still two years down the line. you know, I get people wanting to interview me and when you do talk to people or new supplies, what have you, they go, oh, I saw you on dragons then, you know, I saw this, I watched that. No, I saw that. I saw that clip recently or you know, I saw you on the night it was broken. You know, it’s amazing the reach that the Dragons Den has.

So if you’re thinking of doing it, my recommendation would be definitely go for it, but definitely practice, get yourself a set of people who are business oriented to question you about what your business is all about and be clear on you at your USPS, be clear on what you are trying to do and know your numbers, be prepared to do multiple takes, right? Yeah. Well on the, on the audition, on the day it’s one run, you don’t get a second job. They don’t go, oh can we just re film? That’s like this is it, You’re in the den for an hour and 20 minutes and you literally, I mean we get that, you get to the studio about 6:00 AM. I didn’t get into the den until about and it was actually a real benefit for me.

They put me on just before lunch, and so the dragons were absolutely starving. So I knew we had a good product we give them, but in fact it was starving as well meant that my chocolate was like a saviour to people who have not eaten all morning. So I think that added to the them going, oh my God, this is incredible. Which I think was I think the BBC enormously for choosing that time slot for me. But that meant I was literally sat around for six hours waiting to go in and then when eventually I was called up, you know, there’s nothing can prepare you for when the lift doors open and there are 65 unsmiling faces staring at you. And you have to walk in up to a certain point and the only bit that they did get me to re-do, as I walked straight past that point where the cameras are all set to. And five Dragons go back back back, and I was like you know, oh my God, sorry come back, and you know that immediately puts you at a disadvantage straightaway because suddenly, you know, you’re thinking oh my God I’ve done this and now I’m gonna do my pitch. I’m gonna compose myself. But I have practiced my pitch hundreds of times and re-edited it, re-did it, practiced it in front of multiple people even when I was up in Manchester, filming in Manchester. I was staying in a hotel the night before and there were a few business people in, like – there was a little business centre and they were working away and I just said do you mind if I borrow you for five minutes? I just need to practice my thing again and just kept getting feedback from people saying what was good, what’s not good and so on and so forth. So I would really recommend that you absolutely practice your pitch in front of as many people as possible. I think a lot of people make this mistake which is embarrassing. So I don’t want to go and do it in front of my friends or I don’t want to let me tell you it’s a lot better getting told that you’re, what you’re saying is not great from your friends then it is hearing it from the Dragons because the Dragons are brutal.

They are absolutely do not, you know, in that hour and 20 minutes. They just say it as it is and if they don’t like something, they will just go to town on you. And, you know, there were a couple of other people on the day that I was filming who were didn’t get the deals and they really ripped into them. And I would say that a lot of that was down to the fact that I just practiced, practiced, practiced, practiced and I kept practicing. And unfortunately, it paid off. Yeah, well done for all that. In context for this question is just regarding the luxury cat food that you mentioned. What are your goals for the company? Right. It’s not just goals for the company but its goals for what we can do with the company. So for example, we support an orphanage in Tanzania which has about 80 kids in it. And we also support a number of other charitable things and for me, my goal for the businesses to do two folders, number one, to produce a whole range of products that help with the health of the nation. So I’m passionate about helping people have treats without it impacting the health without it sort of and hopefully actually adding to the health. So to give you an idea. One of our ingredients in our chocolate, which is one of the sweets that we use is called insulin, insulin comes from the chicory root for a root fibre and it is a prebiotic we can’t use these claims in because it’s not an EU approved claim but it is actually factually true that England is a prebiotic which basically means it is food for probiotics which goes back to the gut microbiome which we were talking about earlier. So when you eat our chocolate, you are feeding your good bacteria.

We can’t make those claims in any advertising, but I can on this show because we’re not doing an advert. And so my goal is that our products help improve the health of the nation at the same time as giving them a treat. You know that is that’s number one and number two is I hope and I pray that we make enough money with which to be able to make the world a better place, whether it be supporting charities like the orphanage or and this is something that I am very passionate about and would love to be able to do. So I hope the universe makes us a reality. I would love to invest in other small businesses that are on a mission to make the world a better place and because nothing would make me feel happier and prouder than be a being able to say I left this, left this world in a better place than I found it and I know that I can help small businesses with their marketing, with their messaging, with their video, with their design, all the kind of stuff, skills that I have, I can help them do that and at the same time help them learn through my experiences dragons then all of the scaling issues, raising money and all that kind of stuff.

I know I can add a lot to small businesses who need assistance. So a goal for me would be for us to make enough money for me to be able to invest and help businesses that are on a mission to create a better world for my daughters to live in and to feel that we’ve done something the, yeah, that that means that we are, we, you know, have a planet that we can be truly proud of. If they ask you to be a dragon in the future, would you do it? Absolutely would do it in the drop of a hat and I would hope that I would be a supportive dragon. I know it’s quite challenging because it’s obviously tv as well. So they want a bit of, they wanted to be dramatic. But yeah, I would definitely jump if I had that kind of money, which at this moment in time I don’t, but if, and when, that does happen, I would jump at the chance to be a future dragon.

Yeah. Is there anything which you’d like to mention that I haven’t asked you about today. Yeah, I think, I think again, going back to this message of being an entrepreneur, running your own business is not easy and therefore my message would be if you are struggling, reach out to somebody who can support you and don’t listen to the naysayers, it’s so easy to surround yourself with people who go, I told you it was shit. I told you I knew it wasn’t gonna work for, you know, well, you know the marketplace and Brexit and this and that and you know it’s really tough and blah blah, but it’s like you don’t want those kinds of people in your life. You want to keep it to people who say yes, it’s tough, I appreciate it stuff. But this is when you need to step up, this is when you need to change your focus of this. If it’s not working, then look at your business plan, look at USPS, look at what you’re doing, Look at how you’re marketing, and reinvent yourself.

Don’t just listen to the what I call the neg ferrets or the, you know, I think there are two people and they do it. Most people do it with the best of intentions. But I believe that there are two people, two types of people in this world, there are drains and there are radiators. The drains will suck all of the optimism, hope desire, you know enthusiasm, they just suck it out of you in terms of you know that’s never gonna work and you know you don’t want to be doing that and all that, you know somebody else is doing that and you know your product is not that great or whatever, you know. You want them out of your life and what you want are those radiators who go, come on, you can do this. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s not great, but let’s have a look at why it’s not great what you’re doing and how can you do it differently and those are the kind of people that you want to be on your side backing you and pushing you forward so wherever you are in your journey at this moment in time, stick with it.

And if you absolutely have got to the point of this cannot go any further because it is commercially not viable, then reinvent yourself. Do not stop being an entrepreneur because your idea is not quite worked out either, change the idea, change the marketing, change the approach, change the recipe, whatever it takes to either reinvent that product service or have you or reinvent yourself. So think about how you need to change the person, how you need to evolve, but stay with being an entrepreneur if you believe that that is what you want to do and going back to this is looping back to the six million business owners in the UK, you know, they are the backbone of this country and I would guess the backbone of the global economy and therefore we are doing a vital a job of keeping the wheels of UK PLC going around.

So you know, stick with it, keep the focus of it in times when it gets dark, realise you’re not alone. That many, many, many other entrepreneurs are going through a very similar thing and if you need to reach out, you know, send me an email and I’ll be very happy to jump on a quick 10 minute Zoom call at no cost to you to help you with what I could possibly do to help you get it sorted, but just know you’re not alone and stick with it and just reinvent either the product or service that you’re doing or reinvent yourself. So, good luck and I wish you the best.

Great message to end on, thank you for that. Stephen, where’s the best place for people to find you?

Pureheavenly.com. Really easily pureheavenly.com and you can either contact me through there or if you’re interested in our products and services, they’re all online.

Well, at the very minimum, you’ve got one new customer. Okay, thanks for being a great guest today.

No worries. I hope that’s useful and I hope it gets some good comments for you. I’m sure we’ll speak to you soon. Thank you.