What it's like to win Dragon's Den

Dragon's Den winner
Dragon's Den winner

Scott Cupit, founder of Swing Patrol, recently convinced Deborah Meaden to invest £65,000 for a 20% stake in his dance school business on Dragon's Den.

Here, he tells AOL Money what it's like to win an investment on the Den, what happens after the handshake and what goes on backstage that you never get to see.

What was it like to go on Dragon's Den?

Absolutely terrifying. I think we have all seen how bad it can go when people get it wrong. I didn't sleep for a week and rehearsed my pitch so many times in my head. I couldn't believe how nervous I was. I'm a very confident Alpha male Aussie and I distinctly remember my throat tightening and my voice trembling.

The reality is, no matter how much you prepare, you can't prepare for the actual emotion and adrenaline of the moment.

You are standing in front of five very intimidating people and you've got one chance to give your pitch - it feels like a pivotal moment for you as a person. You know that if you get it wrong, you could make a fool of yourself and your business, and come across as incompetent. Plus you're at the mercy of the BBC editors.

What's it like backstage?

It's really fun. You share backstage with the Dragons but you are absolutely not allowed to meet them before the pitch - so you have to be personally escorted to the toilet!

You spend a whole day there. You're with all the other contestants in the morning (there are six of them per day) but once you've done the pitch, you go into separate rooms because the results of the pitches are confidential. So you don't see the other contestants after their pitches, and you never find out what happened until you see them on the show.

The secrecy is intense. You're not allowed to tell people you're even on Dragon's Den until the week of the show, and even then, you absolutely can't tell anyone the result! I did tell my dancers who came on the show with me - and they immediately all burst into tears, which made me cry as well.

Is Duncan Bannatyne as punchable in real life as he seems on TV?

Haha. No, actually I thought he was great when he interviewed me. But he really loved what we did.

Is it me, or is there something weirdly attractive about Peter Jones?

Personally, I much prefer Kelly Hoppen!

How long do you have to wait before you can tell people you've won?

Not long, luckily. We were in the opening show of the new series which aired about six or seven weeks after it was filmed.

How much time did the Dragons really spend interviewing you?

65 minutes in total - reduced to about eight minutes on the show.

How did you prepare for the Den?

I have to confess I didn't even know any of the Dragons' names before I started preparing for the show. So I researched all the Dragons, to make sure I understood what they are into and what their skills are, and watched the whole series beforehand closely and wrote down the financial questions they asked.

Then I really got my head around my business. Before the Den, even though I used to work in banking, all the finance stuff didn't interest me that much. I'm more interested in the creative side of swing dancing. But to get an investment from a Dragon, you need to know your balance sheet, profit and loss statement, earnings and forecast. And that made understand my business so much better. It was a great process for me.

Why do you think so many contestants come unstuck when it comes to the valuation question?

They do their sales forecast and then they base their valuation on their projected sales in, say, three years' time. By contrast, I was realistic and based my valuation on ten times my current sales figures. So no one questioned my valuation.

If you genuinely believe your business is worth investing in, why not go for private equity funding and avoid the potential ridicule on TV?

My brother works in private equity and I could have got £65,000 off him - he's the richest guy I know. But my brother can't open doors.

He's not Deborah Meaden, who's got this crazy network, and he can't get me in front of five million people and on the BBC. There's a whole PR machine that clicks in after you've faced the Dragons. We got a sponsor, Keds, after we went on the show, for example. And really well-known people have been calling me and lots of doors have been opened.

Dragon's Den winner
Dragon's Den winner

What happens on the day that you don't get to see on TV?

They get into the nitty gritty of the business - what the board structure is, for example, how the business actually works - stuff that's not that interesting to watch on TV. It's actually quite harrowing because you've got five multi-millionaires who know what they're on about, asking you a lot of questions. It's tough because you have to be friendly and stay nice to them - but if they find something that bothers them, they can be relentless. One of them gave me quite a hard time about why we use Groupon, for example.

They're also trying to get their angle on the business - for example, Duncan Ballantyne was more interested in the fitness side of our business, Kelly Hoppen was more interested in the fashion. They asked a lot of questions that got edited out because it was Deborah Meaden who eventually invested.

What are your tips for winning an investment in the Den?

Have a good idea that makes fun TV, as it's the BBC you have to convince first! You also have to come across as someone who's going to be good on TV, so be confident and passionate about what you do. And that's got to be backed up by an understanding of your figures.

I think the Dragons are often investing in the person more than anything else. They ask a lot of questions about you as an individual. For example, they asked about my banking background, how I got into it, how many years I'd done it, what else I've done - they wanted to know: was I genuine? Was I humble? Was I credible?

What happened after the handshake?

Deborah Meaden asked to meet me backstage and we had a quick chat. She gave me a hug and said: "I'm really excited about this. You made the right decision." Then about three days later, her solicitor emailed me and said: Right, let's sort this out. Even though the BBC does Due Diligence with you before the producers even allow you to go on the show, the Dragon does their own Due Diligence again and their lawyer goes through all your figures. The solicitors are the only people in the world allowed to watch the raw footage so they know everything you said in your pitch and will check that it wasn't all just made up.

Then you have to negotiate a contract, which means you need your own solicitor at that point. Once you sign that contract, they just put the money into your account!

How involved has Deborah Meaden actually been since the show?

She's been fantastic. She'll ring me at least once a week and I'll meet her whenever she's in London, in the Ivy restaurant or cool private clubs. The first thing she always says is: "I know you're at capacity, have you found time for your wife?" She's lovely. There's a very human side to Deborah which I really appreciate. And of course, she's very well-connected. She came to one of our Swing nights recently and she says she'd love to get us a slot on Strictly Come Dancing. I think, like all the Dragons, she's quite proud of her investments and she's gunning for us and wanting us do well. She seems to really believe in it and think that we have something special.

'Dragons' Den' Won't Be the Same Without Bannatyne
'Dragons' Den' Won't Be the Same Without Bannatyne

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