Episode 4: Primal Food

Q: Explain your Dragon's Den experience?
A: Overall, my whole Dragons' Den experience has been a really positive one. From a personal perspective it was fun and from a professional perspective it was really beneficial. It had never been a solid plan to take part in the show, up until last December that is. To be honest there's been little time for tv this past year so Dragons' Den wasn't really on my radar. Although after some advice from family and colleagues about how great it could be for the business it didn't take long before I had the first application filled in and sent off. After that, it was really just a case of getting stuck into the busy Christmas season with Primal Food and waiting to see what happened with my application. So happily in January I found out Primal Food had made the selection and it was full steam ahead from there, preparing for the Den, refining my pitch while at the same time balancing it all with full days at Primal HQ. The process was great and ultimately a good opportunity to update our business plan and refine our strategy...... business ideas and targets that are always at the forefront of my mind but may not make it down on paper as quickly as I would like. On the day of filming I had lots of encouragement from the Primal Food Crew who came along to help and lend support. It was great and made the time pass much quicker while we waited in turn with the other entrepreneurs for our call. It's definitely a little surreal walking up the steps to the Den, but once in there with the Dragons the time flies by. It's a mixture of friendly dialogue, intense questioning and the occasional locking of horns. All these elements made for a really satisfying win at the end of the day.

Q: Who was the toughest Dragon?
A: I didn't feel that any Dragon stood out as really being tougher than the others. I did find that perhaps through a lack of understanding of the product or interest in the food industry Peter Casey & Barry O'Sullivan seemed the most dismissive....although perhaps 'slightly difficult' would be a better phrase to describe their behaviour.

Q: Were you nervous?
A: I really wasn't nervous throughout the whole experience, from first application through to actually standing before the Dragons doing my pitch. It was always excitement over nerves....although a bit of an adrenaline rush as I started my pitch may have put me a little on edge for the first few minutes in the Den. Even so, I loved every minute. It was hard to be nervous when I was so preoccupied with properly representing my brand and products, which I wholly believe in and have worked so hard on this past year.

Q: Were you surprised by some of the questions?
A: I think I was prepared for most of their questions and had also prepared myself for the idea that they might throw in a few hard balls which I wouldn't be able to predict. After all, it is in their interest to put you on the spot and test your knowledge of your product as well as see what you're made of under pressure. In saying that, I was surprised at how Barry O'Sullivan fixated on the fact that our Primal Food banner in the Den didn't contain our web address. He used this as justification to cast doubt over my abilities and career to date in online marketing. A completely unwarranted assumption on his part, when in actual fact we were in the process of changing our website address at the time and chose not to feature it before we had confirmation from the domain name registrar. I did also feel it was definitely unfair when I was posed some other questions, particularly around sales projections, and then wasn't permitted to answer by the Dragons. It's a surreal situation where an investor and a entrepreneur have to potentially commit to working together after only a very short time, so tensions can run high.

Q: Who was most interested in your idea?
A: Throughout the whole time with the Dragons it was hard to tell who had the most interest in my product. At the start it seemed like a similar level of interest and a similar tone of interrogation from each of them as they weighed up whether Primal Food was a good match to their expertise and a potential investment opportunity for them. It made for some drama in the Den but in the end I was really happy with the Dragon who chose to invest. I had hoped from the offset it would be Ramona Nicholas.

Q: Would you have done anything differently?
A: Nothing really. Maybe I'd have had a bigger lunch. It was a long but fun day...

Q: Would you recommend applying for Dragon's Den to any other budding entrepreneurs?
A: I would definitely recommend all entrepreneurs to apply and take part in Dragon's Den. Situations are what you make of them and I found it hugely beneficial to have to stand up and speak about my brand and products to a sometimes difficult audience. It isn't called 'Dragons' Den for no reason. I'd also recommend any budding entrepreneurs who feel they aren't ready to apply or who cringe at the thought of appearing on the show to ask themselves why, and use their answers as a barometer of what they need to work on in the business before they would feel happy to have their business scrutinised in the Den. After all, to really drive your business forward in the real world it's so important to be able to stand up and speak with knowledge and conviction about your idea, and really show your ability and belief in what you have created.

Q: What does this mean to you personally?
A: It's a great personal achievement and a great feather in my cap, but it is just another step along the way. True success for me, both personally and with Primal Food, is reflected in what I have achieved before Dragons' Den and what I will achieve with the opportunities created by taking part in the show.

Q: In five year's time where do you see your product/company?
A: We have a number of solid plans and objectives in place. We are firmly focused on where we want Primal Food to be, and are really excited at being in the fantastic position as the first & only producers of our type, in what is a massive emerging market for paleo goods. Our aim is to establish the brand as a household name in Ireland and abroad. Creating a model where our products are readily available to customers where and when they need them. Our focus is on providing convenience for our customers, whether individuals, restaurants, gyms, schools or otherwise. We will continue with our current expansion through licensing and distribution agreements and look forward to seeing 'Primal Food' translated in many different languages over the next few years.

Q: What is your lasting memory of the Den?
A: My lasting memory of the Den is definitely the moments just after I said yes to Ramona's offer of investment. All the Dragons stood up and gathered around myself and Ramona to congratulate us both. It was a really celebratory atmosphere and definitely the counter balance to what had been was a tense few moments prior to that.

Q: At any point did you think you wouldn't get the investment?
A: Negotiations in the Den did come to the point where 4 of the 5 dragons had opted out and it was just left to Ramona Nicholas to make her final decision. I never really had a strong feeling that this was the end, that my chances of investment were gone. Having researched Ramona's background in pharmaceuticals & retail in combination with her involvement in health and sporting activities in the west of Ireland, I was hopeful that she would be the Dragon to fully understand the nutritional benefits of Primal Food and also the market potential. Thankfully this was the case. Ramona had been playing her cards close to her chest and revealed that she had market research data from leading supermarket chains in Ireland which showed that there was substantial & proactive demand from customers for our type of high protein, low carb, grain-free, paleo style products. And the deal was done!


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RTÉ One, Sundays, 9.30pm


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