Here at Craft Gin Club HQ, the date of 24 July holds a special place in our hearts: it marks the anniversary of Craft Gin Club founders Jon and John’s exciting pitch to the investors on the BBC television show, Dragon’s Den, back in 2016!
It got a little heated in the Den during the pitch, but it turns out that Dragons really do like gin – following offers of investment from an almost-unheard-of four out of five Dragons, Jon and John walked away with a £75,000 investment from London Cocktail Club co-founder Sarah Willingham.
Not only did Sarah have a huge amount of industry experience, it turned out she was also already a long-time Craft Gin Club member!
Sarah’s involvement helped Jon and John to accelerate the growth of the Club to become the amazing gin-loving community it is today, and she continues to play a close part in the development of the Club as it looks to an exciting future.
So what was the Dragon’s Den experience really like? We asked John, Jon and Sarah what they remember of their appearance on that fateful episode - here’s what they had to say.
What did it mean to you to appear on the show - what were you thinking about before you went on?
John B: “Mostly, I was really curious about the Dragons’ reaction to the business itself. We hadn’t pitched to any investors before that point so it was a complete unknown as to how they’d react. It’s always good to get feedback of any kind from competent outside parties that can help you to improve your business - preferably good feedback, of course!”
What was the scariest moment of appearing on the show?
Jon H: “Getting into that "lift" (hint - it’s not a real elevator!) and waiting for the doors to open, knowing that when they did, we were on! There are no second chances in The Den...”
John B: “Putting powder on my face to stop the glare of the lights!”
Sounds terrifying! Sarah, what did you think when you saw the pitch from John and Jon?
“When you’re sitting there in the Den you genuinely have no idea who will come through the lift door next, but as soon as I heard Craft Gin Club pitch I knew it was a business I wanted to be a part of.
“Not only do we all share a passion for the business side of things, we also get pretty excited about a great gin and tonic, which makes board meetings fun!”
We’re so happy to hear it! Jon and John, can you describe your favourite moment of the whole experience?
Jon H: “Getting our fourth and final offer and knowing that, with four of the five Dragons now bidding, we were set to walk out with a deal. The tables had turned!”
John B: “For me, the best moment was a little bit later - meeting Sarah backstage after accepting her offer on screen. We had a great chat and hit it off from the get-go. So it was a big relief as we knew at that point that we’d made the right choice.”
It must have felt amazing! What has it meant to you both - personally and professionally - since your appearance on the show?
John B: “Professionally, of course, the show raised the profile of Craft Gin Club, which was fantastic. But personally it was really important, too - it showed we could stand up in front of scrutiny and argue our case in a stressful environment in front of intimidating characters. If you can achieve that once, it gives you the confidence to achieve it again and again!”
Jon H: “I agree. Appearing in the Den, and leaving with a deal, was a great vote of confidence in our business and the publicity generated afterwards really gave us a kick-start.
“Plus, working with Sarah has been a fantastic experience - she's an awesome businesswoman and all-round good egg.
“Given the chance, I would do it all again!”
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