Ever wondered what it’s really like to go on Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice?
Here at Runway East we did – and then we realised that two of our members had actually been on the shows.
So who’s spilling the beans?
The lovely Tom Hunt of Meggings, a Soho member, pitched his male leggings solution to the Dragons in 2015. Highlights of his time on the show include being asked ‘is this a joke’ by Deborah Meaden.
Meanwhile our Moorgate member Laura Moore, founder of health data-decoder Nell, starred in The Apprentice when it was at the height of its popularity in 2008. Making it to week nine in the process, fans of the show might remember her straight talking manner led to her being fired over a mushroom.
So read on to find out:
- What Lord Sugar is like when the cameras stop rolling
- Benefits of appearing on Dragon’s Den for your business
- Surprising conversations that never make it to air
- How getting fired by Lord Sugar feels
We spoke to Laura Moore, founder of Nell and 2008 Apprentice contestant.
What was the application process like for The Apprentice?
You have to pitch yourself to camera, and then there’s a series of challenges which are really thorough.
When do you first meet the other contestants?
Legitimately the first time we meet is when we’re all walking over the bridge for the opening shot! Before the shot you’re not allowed to talk to any other competitors – so everyone looks very serious because they’ve purposefully psyched us out beforehand.
Everyone on the show says some pretty cheesy things – do they set you up to do that?
There’s something about their interview technique that pulls out those quotes! The production team does a really good job of getting you pumped and psyched about being on the show and feeling like you need to make an impact, and soon you’re saying stuff like ‘I want to prove myself and reach the stars’.
What’s Lord Sugar like?
He’s great, he’s very different to what you see on camera! You have this preconceived idea he’s a tough businessman and he’s critical, but when the camera turns off he’s asking if you’re ok, he’s interested in what you want to do in the future and asks genuine questions. Sometimes he’d come round to the house and just have a chat.
What was getting fired like?
Brutal. Alan Sugar is so straight faced, it’s like being at school. He also actually does point at you and fire you, it’s not an edit.
Afterwards though he came out and gave me a hug and said i was so nearly there and encouraged me to keep going, and I was really thankful for that. Karen came out as well and said I’d done really well, and Nic just came out and said ‘get ready for the best year of your life’.
What’s something most people would be surprised by about the show?
How seriously they take it! It’s like a hard core reality show where even when the cameras are switched off, you’re still tightly controlled. You’re allowed very limited contact with the outside world. You can’t go outside the house without a member of the production crew, you’d be kicked off if you did!
Is there high level business chat that gets cut out of the show?
Yes, I wish you saw some of the more intelligent conversation that happens both on and off camera. The reality is you’re doing a project that would usually take months, like creating a TV advert, in 24 hours, and discussions could get fairly high level! It’s a shame they don’t show the magic bits where things worked really well – but then people doing well doesn’t make good tv.
How much does the production team manufacture the show?
The situations aren’t manufactured, there’s no briefing and the tasks are a surprise on the day. But they do create situations – you’re not allowed to speak about tasks when the cameras not rolling which is more frustrating that you can ever imagine. You’ll be sat in a car for 30 mins on task day, not allowed to talk about the task.
There’s also just the way they’ve selected candidates – some people would really act up to the camera, start arguments, and then apologise as soon as the camera was off!
Did you ever feel ‘edited’?
Certainly it’s also annoying when you feel that things are going really well on a pitch, like the crisp task for me, and then you watch it back and it is portrayed in a different light. All that effort! Makes you wonder about how this happens in real life, when you feel a pitch or presentation has ‘gone well’!
Did you suspect some candidates were just there for the spectacle?
Yes, some people had obviously been picked for the show because they thought they were brilliant…but weren’t. Which is entertaining to watch. But many were talented and clearly there from a mixture of curiosity and interest in the challenge.
Do people twig you’re filming it?
Yes, the worst would be shops who twig what you’re filming and want to advertise, they’d almost do their own infomercial like ‘hey we’re from Acme Shop on Acme St, WOOOO we’re on TV’ – which was obviously very frustrating, because in what world does that make it through the edit!
Do large corporates actually place orders in the tasks where you need to sell some stationary to WH Smith or someone similar?
I have no idea if they are real but I have my suspicions. But if they are real, I hope for their sakes that they aren’t as some of the products we made were pretty awful!
Nic and Karen – what the scoop?
Karen is amazing. She’s super sharp and really nice. Nick was hilarious and has amazing facial expressions. They are the biggest face actors in the show – their job is to stay silent for the most part!
I would recommend it to people but I would say ‘be prepared for a lot of scrutiny’ – you have to be prepared for the fact that the ‘character’ the show will build for you in the edit room will not be hugely reflective of your personality. A lot of nice stuff will be written about you but also a lot of really horrible stuff – it’s not as easy as it looks.
What happens before you get on the show? Do they make you audition?
Yes, as my business partners didn’t want to go on the show I had to go audition for the show… in leggings… on my own at the BBC studios
Did you practise the pitch a lot?
We had models that were just our 3 friends from Chippenham and our core practice time was in the hotel the night before.
What is the warehouse actually like?
Quite big, spacious and cold. The lift doesn’t exist, you just go in and then the door opens on the same floor. You are separated from the Dragons’ before and after so you can’t influence their decision.
The Dragon’s can seem super mean – when the cameras are switched off, is it all handshakes and smiles?
You don’t get any time for this. Once it’s over you walk out and don’t see them again. If you don’t get a deal you get put in a taxi and shipped away.
What was the harshest thing a dragon said to you, and vice versa nicest?
“Is this a joke?” – Debora Meaden
“You do realise that in 20 years you children will see this on YouTube?” – Duncan
“They are actually kind of growing on me, maybe this will be the next big thing in 5 years?” – Peter Jones
Did they give you insight which was actually useful for your business?
How would you compare the pitch to them with a normal pitch you do to a VC?
They are not tech investors, they don’t understand tech so it’s very different – they would be horrified by tech valuations.
It’s a B2C product – did you see a bounce off of starring on the show? Did you get follow on PR opportunities or see a sales bump?
Yep, links from Mail Online and Independent and BBC don’t link or mention brand name but we were the only brand really ranking for “meggings” and “male leggings” at the time so did see a pretty big uplift.
Would you recommend it to other entrepreneurs?
Yep, great experience and great for PR
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