Life After the Den

In the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine, Jonathan Davies sat down with 2017 finalist Ed Hollands after his successful appearance on Dragons’ Den, and his investor Jenny Campbell.

Ed Hollands is a young entrepreneur staking his claim in the advertising industry. Having just graduated from the University of Derby, Ed’s business idea was born out of a long, crawling drive along a busy A38 in the Midlands. This is how he noticed the volume of heavy goods vehicles with blank sides. He launched DrivenMedia soon after, a company which utilises these sides for advertising. In a bid to take his business to the next level, Ed turned to BBC’s Dragons’ Den. His pitch impressed Jenny Campbell and he accepted her offer of a £30,000 investment for a 20% stake in the business. We sat down with Ed and Jenny to find out what it’s like once the lights in the Den turn off and the work begins.

[ED HOLLANDS]

Ed, congratulations on your success on Dragons’ Den. Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes, from a very young age, I’ve wanted to have my own business for as long as I can remember. I remember wanting to run a pub in primary school! I’ve just never had the right idea until now.

What drives you? (Pun intended!)

I think doing something different that is having a real impact and proving wrong those who doubted the idea. I swell with pride every time a haulier tells me what they’ve been able to achieve since we started working together.

You’re obviously still in the early stages of your entrepreneurial career, but what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

I’ll be honest, it is my age! Being asked “Is your boss coming?” is never really the best start to a business relationship. It still happens now – Peter Jones thought I was 14! It can take a lot of work to push past that first impression.

There are several options for entrepreneurs to raise investment. What made you choose Dragon’s Den?

I’ve dreamt of being on Dragons’ Den since I first watched the show. It may not be right for every business, but it was right for mine.

The business really struggles with awareness of the medium, it just seemed like the perfect platform to create brand awareness and to genuinely seek serious and committed support from someone who takes you seriously.

How does it feel stepping into the lift to the Den?

The lift is surreal, that’s when it finally hit me. I realised when those doors opened I really was coming face to face with the Dragons – who are heroes to me.

You can’t do any more practice; you have to rely on your memory and personality. It brought a mix of emotions – fear, disbelief and excitement.

What was the response like after the episode aired? Was there a spike in sales or enquiries?

The response was fantastic! We expected the phones to ring off the hook, but it was mainly through email or website.

I spent most of the day after the episode replying to emails. When I finished with one, another five came in. We’ve now started to convert those enquiries into sales. We’re so pleased with the reaction.

You accepted Jenny’s offer pretty quickly. Did you enter the Den hoping to work with a certain Dragon, or was investment the main goal?

Honestly, being on the Den was a dream come true, walking out with an investment was like a whole other level. I didn’t have any preference, I would’ve been happy if just one of the Dragons believed in me. I hope they saw potential in me and the business, and I’m delighted Jenny did.

Besides the financial investment, what do you hope to gain as an entrepreneur by working with Jenny?

Jenny knows how to scale a business, and that’s exactly what I need. Through her journey with YourCash, she has really valuable experience working with bigger and bigger brands and exporting the business.

Can you give us a bit of an insight into how the relationship works?

Most day to day contact is though Jenny’s investment director. However, she is on the other end of the phone or email if I need anything. I’m mindful of how busy she is and respect the fact that it’s her and her team that are backing me.

Jenny’s team have been fantastic, supporting me with specific queries and bouncing off ideas for development. It’s difficult to put into words how useful that is.

What has been the biggest benefit of working with her so far?

The biggest impact has been streamlining our supply chain and lowering our costs of the wraps, which Touker Suleyman mentioned in the Den.

Jenny is also introducing me to potential advertisers, which I’d never have direct access to otherwise.

What is your top tip for entrepreneurs pitching for investment?

It’s not always about having all the skills or experience needed for the sector, it’s more about exuding a genuine love for what you do and a drive to see it through.

This comes across again and again in the Den, it’s often the person who captures the imagination and interest of the Dragons.

[JENNY CAMPBELL]

Jenny, congratulations on your latest investment. What made you invest in Ed?

Ed is a young entrepreneur but came into the Den with a genuine passion for his business and determination to see it succeed. Mentoring enthusiastic individuals as they embark on starting their business is something I have always been interested in and having sat through Ed’s pitch, I knew there was potential to help grow and develop his business.

What has impressed you most about Ed since you started working with him?

Ed’s commitment to his business is very inspiring. He is so determined to succeed and takes advice seriously, adapting best practices very quickly. He’s a pleasure to work with!

How important is it that young entrepreneurs like Ed are given the support and financial backing they need to help take their businesses to the next level?

I think it is very important for young entrepreneurs to have the encouragement and advice they need to help propel their business forward. Starting a business is a challenge in itself, let alone if you have had very little experience in the workplace before, or chance to build up your contacts. By having support and financial backing these individuals have someone who can offer them all sorts of invaluable advice from how to scale their business to how to handle their finances and provide them with an invaluable ‘black book’ of contacts to help jump start their venture.

What is the most common mistake you see when entrepreneurs are pitching for investment?

A crucial mistake I have seen entrepreneurs make time and time again is being over ambitious with their valuations. You need to be realistic! If you start a pitch with a valuation that is too high, then a large proportion of the negotiations will centre around trying to justify the figures as opposed to exploring the true potential of your business.

In conjunction with this I think part of the problem is that people can often pitch their business too soon. When you are trying to convince people to invest in your business you don’t want to have to base everything on predictions. The investors will want to see evidence of the success your company can be, even if this is just six months’ worth of financials – it gives them concrete numbers to work with. You also need to be able to stand in front of them with complete confidence in your business to encourage the same from them.

What is the single most important element of a pitch?

When pitching, no matter how successful you think your business could be, you have to have the facts and figures to back it up. My advice would be to keep the pitch succinct and make sure you tailor your selling points to the potential investors in front of you. You want to really engage the investor whilst being able to clearly outline what you are selling, where the market is and where the demand lies. Make sure the potential investors clearly understand your business, are inspired by your pitch and are provided with the appropriate figures that convince them that your business has potential.

What advice would you give to young people who are thinking about starting a business?

There is a really encouraging movement surrounding entrepreneurship and start- ups in the UK at the moment, fuelled by a great deal of support by the government and individual funding bodies. The rise of innovation hubs and more diverse funding options have created a positive environment for people to take the leap into self-employment.

As an investor, one of the first things I think about when I meet a young entrepreneur is whether they have a confident and resilient nature. If you are thinking about starting up your own business you must appreciate the time and effort that goes into trying to make it a success, and you need to have the self-belief that you can achieve something great, otherwise your idea won’t stand a fighting chance.

There are always hurdles to overcome and as an entrepreneur you must be very resilient to survive and thrive in the face of these. Being determined and driven to see your business succeed will help tackle these, but most importantly surround yourself with an effective support network that is just as eager to see your venture become a success as you are.

You can take a look at a full, digital version of the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine here.