Episode 6: Mary Gallagher
Q: Explain your Dragon's Den experience?
A: It was a very positive and productive experience. First of all, it forced us to develop our products further and faster than we otherwise would have. Secondly, it focussed our minds on presenting our business to the world. Thirdly, it made us work out a proper business plan and put a realistic value on the idea.
Q: Who was the toughest Dragon?
A: I didn't find any of them tough. Some asked more searching questions than others and some seemed more relaxed and able to be themselves than others, but I felt they were all, on the whole, reachable and fair.
Q: Were you nervous?
A: Not once I started speaking.
Q: Were you surprised by some of the questions?
A: No, not by any of the questions, which all seemed reasonable to me. Some of the comments surprised me because they were so insightful; others because they didn't seem to match the rest of a particular dragon's demeanour. But even these more awkward comments could be explained by the obligation to play a certain role.
Q: Who was most interested in your idea?
A: Without having seen the filmed version and with just my memory to go on, I'd say that they all seemed to 'get' the idea, though I thought Sean and Gavin and maybe Peter showed the most understanding. I found Sean's questions particularly astute and thought-provoking.
Q: Would you have done anything differently?
A: I think I'd have given a more definite reason for not being inclined to accept the offer I was (provisionally!) made. Namely the fact that it valued our company at 60K, where as we are fairly confidently valuing it at 200K. As it was, I just intuitively knew I couldn't accept it but found it hard to come out and say so to Barry's face!
Q: Would you recommend applying for Dragon's Den to any other budding entrepreneurs?
A: I would definitely recommend it. For all of the reasons given above, we found it a very helpful exercise. But I think that candidates need to have good strong self-belief, because reality TV in any form is not for the faint-hearted! I think timing is probably important, in other words, the idea shouldn't be too green, and the applicant needs to adopt a very positive, yet realistic, mindset. I think it is very important to treat an application as a learning experience that will be beneficial whatever the investment outcome. No investment is better than an unsuitable one.
Q: In five year's time where do you see your product/company?
A: I see it flourishing as a leader in the early learning of Chinese across the English-speaking world. I see our toys, games and activity books having a real presence in homes, kindergardens and primary schools, backed up by interactive e-products. And I see the product range diversifying in hitherto unimagined directions, even into other non-alphabetical languages, perhaps...
Q: What is your lasting memory of the Den?
A: My lasting memory is of a very professional and pleasant 'back room' team, of enjoying making my pitch, and of feeling that getting or not getting an actual investment is not the most important criterion of usefulness: it's rather whether or not you feel that your idea has been well communicated and received; whether it has generated interest or not; and whether the whole experience has or hasn't moved your idea on to a new stage.