6 things I learnt from failing on BBC’s Dragons’​ Den

I rarely talk about my Dragon’s Den experience in 2005 with my business partner at the time. We secured £200k, a record investment, on series 5 with Theo Paphitis for an online bingo comparison site.

Earlier this week I had a great chat with fellow Dragon’s Den winner, Jules White, and it got me thinking. Why don’t I talk about it more?

Because it failed and at the time I felt like a failure!

We both secured investment, we both had great Dragons on board, but both our businesses ended up failing.

The good news is that we’ve come out the other side fighting, and with successful businesses to boot.

So what can you learn from failing?

For a long time, I was embarrassed about this failure – that it wasn’t a success.

We had put ourselves out there in the public eye and it felt like everyone was watching to see what would happen.

But as time moved on I realised that this failure was, in fact, a great learning experience. Since then I have set up, scaled and sold many successful businesses.

1) Focus on one thing at a time.

At the time we had 2 businesses a media agency and this DD business. It’s fair to say that when you have to split your focus it’s more difficult to concentrate on growing a business. I have seen that time and time again in business. When I get carried away trying to do too many things I have to bring myself back to this – Do One Thing!

2) When we fail we learn

We learn a lot – about how to do it better next time, what pitfalls there are, and how to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

3) Taking investment comes with responsibility

You try to do everything that you can to make a return for your investors. Sometimes that means that you might have to make decisions that you might not if you owned it 100%.

Because we had the funding in the bank we spent it faster than we might have, if we were running a lean start-up.

And because of that we grew quicker but failed quicker.

4) Always understand what is going on

Work with experts but know what they are doing. Question them. Have a good understanding of what it is they are doing. Don’t be in the dark!

We used an SEO agency and we ended up getting penalised in Google. We lost all our traffic and revenue overnight.

And it never came back.

5) Be kind to yourself

At the time it feels awful, humiliating, and like all your hard work has been thrown away. You feel embarrassed and ashamed that you didn’t offer a return to your investors.

But when you end up coming out the other side you have learnt a lot, you have failed and got through it, and at least you tried. You can pick yourself back up and take your learnings and do something even better.

We went on to run 2 successful businesses that we sold to bigger independent agencies. And quite a few other great projects on the side.

6) You have to believe in what you are doing

This might sound obvious. But if I am totally honest this wasn’t a project that I was that interested in. I don’t play online bingo so it didn’t resonate with me and there was no passion there.

Don’t get me wrong it was a great idea and some of our friends/ competitors went on to do super well.

But the lesson for me is that if your heart isn’t it, even if it’s a good idea, it’s just not going to work.

And that is why I focus my work on purpose-led businesses because I learnt that lesson

The silver lining

They say everything happens for a reason and one of the good things to have come from this experience is my knowledge and ability to secure investment.

We managed to secure £200K of funds, which at the time was the biggest investment ever. That was quite intense! But a great learning process about what investors are looking for.

I meet lots of founders that need investment and now I understand the process.

I can help them get investment-ready. And then help them spend their funds wisely. I have done that with numerous clients already.

Ways that I can help you

Schedule a free discovery call to talk more about how I can help you grow your business >> Book a Call here

? Listen to Starting To Scale with Emmie Faust – strategies, tactics and tips to help you start-up, scale-up, secure investment and use it for maximum growth >> Listen here

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And find out more about Jules’ podcast here, Live it Love it Sell it – The Human Conversation

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