Luxe Collective went on Dragons’ Den for investment (Picture: BBC)
Pitching an idea on Dragons’ Den looks terrifying.
Five successful businesspeople staring at you as you try to convince them that you’ve got a good idea is the kind of scenario that could throw off even the most confident individual.
Ben Gallagher has been there, done that and although he didn’t get the T-shirt, he did pocket £100,000.
Alongside brother and co-founder Joe Gallagher, as well as COO Oliver Millar, he secured investment in Luxe Collective – their brand which buys and sells vintage designer items – from Steven Bartlett in exchange for 3% of the company.
It was described by some viewers of the BBC series as the best negotiation in Dragons’ Den history as they remained strong in their position of only wanting to sell a small amount, and now Ben has reflected on the whole experience with Metro.co.uk.
Firstly, he wanted to get something clear – the dragons which also include Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Sara Davies, and Touker Suleyman, are not as scary as their name or reputation.
‘They are all absolutely lovely but told to be stern,’ he explained.
Ben reckons the way their face reacts to business ideas is purely for the BBC series.
‘You can see they’ve been told to do a facial expression when someone’s saying something, so the cameras can get that reaction.
‘They are super skilled at being about to communicate so the average person can understand it, and the faces are a part of that.
‘The stuff they say it’s very thoughtful, very knowledgeable and it’s coming from a good place, but there are some extra bits there that are for the show to make it more dramatic.’
Ben reckons the facial expressions are exaggerated (Picture: BBC)
Ben’s enthusiasm meant that he kept moving from the spot where entrepreneurs are supposed to stand, and this led to the dragons even showing their humour.
‘I was told by producers to return to the X on the floor five or six times. Whenever I would step closer to dragons, they would put their hands over their money as if I was about to steal it and we’d all laugh.
‘If I could still be in there I would. I was in my element and it was just so nice. It was one of the best experiences of my life so far,’ he excitedly told us.
The dragons were so lovely that Ben found it difficult to turn them down.
‘They didn’t show it, but I found it hard to say no to Deborah when she also made us an offer. I felt so guilty that I couldn’t say the word, but she was lovely and understood it.’
Ben struggled to say ‘no’ to Deborah (Picture: BBC)
For Ben, it was always going to be Steven, 31, as he has a personal connection to the entrepreneur.
‘I subconsciously targeted my pitch at Stephen because he was the person I wanted all along.
‘When I was at college, I was kind of losing direction. I’m smart but I wasn’t doing well. I was regularly missing lessons to deliver shoes as I’d already started this business.
‘All my friends were getting ready to go to university, and that wasn’t my path. I decided to focus on Luxe Collective and stay at home in Liverpool living in my parents’ house.
‘One day I came across Steven’s podcast Diary of the CEO and I became obsessed with his message. He guided me as I grew my business.
‘I got to tell him how much he helped him, and with our numbers too, he had no option but to invest.’
The brand could proudly boast that since incorporating the business in December 2020, they’ve seen sales revenue exceed £8.5 million, which is pretty impressive for a business that was started after being inspired by a parent buying their child vintage trainers for Christmas.
Their incredible story fell into the right hands – like Love Island’s casting team scout out the hottest influencers, interesting businesses also fall onto Dragons’ Den radar and that was the case for Ben and his business partners. However, after the initial contact, like a match on Hinge, they heard nothing for two years. When their business went through a quiet phase they went old-school and filled in an application form.
Luxe Collective were scouted for the show (Picture: BBC)
‘It was disappointing when they went silent, but timing is everything. I don’t think we were ready the first time, so I’m glad it worked out this way,’ he reflected.
This time, they had a call with someone from the BBC, and Ben believes that asking questions back to the caller about their career got them through to the next stage.
Following ‘three or four rounds’ of due diligence which included checking their background, and that their figures were legit, which took around seven months the day finally involved.
Staying at a nearby hotel Ben got no more than two hours’ sleep, but soon he arrived at Old Granada Studios in Manchester ready to make the pitch of his life. But, first, there was a little more waiting to be done.
‘We got there at 10am, and we didn’t get into the room until 8pm as we kept getting delayed by other pitches taking longer than expected, and breaks.
The group waited for ten hours to get in the room (Picture: BBC)
‘All day the nerves and tension were going up and down. I was itching to get in there.
‘We spent so long practising, and the producers kept asking for little changes like “Go faster here, slow down there”, so I didn’t do it right once before going in.
‘I had a little tiff with my business partners too as they wanted to focus on numbers, and I wanted to talk about our story more. I won that one,’ he proudly stated.
‘By the time I got in the room, I knew everybody’s parts and you can even see me mouthing them which is a bad habit of mine! I hate myself for doing it and I’m working on it.’
Luxe Collective also got an offer from Touker (Picture: BBC)
After spending two hours with the dragons, they emerged into the night filled with adrenaline. They met their partners for champagne and retold their experience before trying and failing to get some sleep.
Nine months after filming, on the night their episode aired, they signed the contracts and got their money.
However, it was never really about the money for Ben, instead, they were after business guidance.
‘We’re a semi-established business so we weren’t looking for validation and the numbers speak for themselves. It was more people behind the business who we could see ourselves working with,’ he shared. ‘It wasn’t about chasing fame, or chasing money, it was about having a moment in that room. It was bliss.’
Despite, Steven’s busy schedule they’ve already felt the benefits of having him around including his text speed rate – Ben says he’ll reply within 10 minutes always.
‘You got access to his team and all their expertise, and also just our association with Steven is worth millions in itself. When you’re affiliated with Steven, everyone wants a piece of you.
‘We were getting around 400,000 site visits a month before Dragons’ Den and now it’s over one million, and we’ve gained 100,000 followers on Instagram. Time will tell how this impacts profits.’
Dragons’ Den continues tonight on BBC One at 9pm.
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