The Active Away Dragons’ Den Journey

We all love BBC TV Programme Dragons’ Den. Everyone loves to sit back on a Sunday evening and critique the different business ideas that are presented on the Den. Well I’m fortunate that my 2 business partners took the risk to enter the Den with our Tennis Holiday business.

We’ve added the video from the follow up show – Pitches to Riches below for you to watch first. Without further ado – here’s the story of Active Away and our Dragons’ Den journey..

1. How did Active Away get on the show?

In March 2015, Active Away Director Steve Davies was travelling home from skiing with some friends in France. During the flight he discussed with Vaughan (one of the friends) potential ways to get the Active Away brand in front of as many people as possible.

The first idea they had was to take a holiday to Necker Island and pitch Richard Branson (a lover of tennis) the business. However, this was going to cost around £20k with no guarantee of a face to face with Richard.
The second idea was to go for Dragons Den.

Upon arrival home Steve decided to apply for the Den, but initially had a unique idea – offer 5% of their business for £1. He believed this would be a unique idea that would create publicity and the BBC would like it.

In November 2016, Steve heard back from the BBC, and was invited to Media City, Manchester to audition in January 2017 alongside his business partner Matt Allen.

Prior to the audition Matt and Steve put in a huge amount of effort collating information and carrying out phone interviews, but finally on the 21 January 2016 they were able to attend the audition.

Following the audition Matt and Steve were fairly confident that they’d done a great job and were invited to pitch to the Dragons on the 20th April 2017.

2. What did Active Away want from the show?

After being accepted to pitch in the Den, the next stage for Matt and Steve (Active Away Directors) was to decide exactly what they wanted from the show, and how they were going to approach the Dragons.

They both decided that the main reason for going on the show was to gain exposure. They believed they had a great product, which they wanted to try and get in front of as many people as possible. The ideal scenario would be all of the Dragons wanting to invest, leaving Matt and Steve with a choice of which Dragon they wanted.

They also decided that they didn’t want to be made fools of as they already had a successful business. They agreed the worst-case scenario was that the Dragons would like them but not invest as they felt it was a ‘lifestyle business.’

It was at this point that Matt and Steve were told that there original pitch of 5% for £1 would not be accepted and that they would have to get a genuine valuation of their business. In the end it was decided to go with an offer of 5% of the business for £25,000.

Before Matt and Steve went in, they knew Peter Jones was very interested in tennis and was an ex tennis coach but both agreed they would have an open mind and listen to what all the Dragons had to say.

3. What's it like in the Dragons' Den?

The night before the interview Matt (Active Away Director) had flown back from Greece where he was living at the time Active Away had been given a limited amount of time from being told they would have the opportunity to pitch to actually delivering the pitch. As a result Matt and Steve stayed up late until 1am practicing their pitch!
The pitch had to be between 3 minutes and 3 minutes 30 seconds long – it was not allowed to be shorter or longer which added to the pressure of getting the pitch right.

The following day Matt and Steve were up at 5:30am, and at the studios for 6:30am. Upon arrival they were offered to have their hair and makeup done – for anyone that knows Matt he promptly obliged!

Matt and Steve waited in a room with various other people who were pitching their businesses until 5:30pm and were the last to actually enter the Den.
The Dragons have no idea who you are or what you are pitching and they can’t see the display as it’s covered.

When entering the Den you are told to walk in, stand on the ‘X’ and begin your pitch. Steve and Matt were most worried about ‘nailing’ the opening pitch and felt that once they had got through that they could confidently answer any questions.
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For 2.5 hours Matt and Steve battled it out in the Den, with 4 out of the 5 Dragons making offers. Eventually at 8pm, after an extremely long day they walked away with a deal with Peter Jones – £25,000 for 20% dropping down to 15% when he got his original investment back.

It was undoubtedly one of the most successful pitches of the series and, after holding his nerve, throughout the day Steve let his emotion show during the interview at the end.

4. Why did Active Away choose Peter Jones?

Before going into the Den, Steve and Matt (Active Away Directors) knew they wanted Peter Jones due to his tennis background but agreed that they would enter the Den with an open mind.

When Peter was 12, he was helping a teacher at his school to teach tennis. This later inspired him to set up his first business, a tennis academy.
Peter used to play tennis at county level as a child and still plays regularly with ex-professionals. At the time, Peter had the chance to improve his game with a view to becoming a professional but there was something in him that wanted to take that talent and develop a successful business from it rather than, say, win Wimbledon.

Clearly Peter had a passion for tennis and understood the industry which Active Away was working within.

Whilst in the Den, Steve and Matt felt that Peter came across as very keen – wanting to be hands on with the business and feeling an instant rapport with him.

Matt and Steve also felt that the deal Peter offered them was fair and below the maximum they felt they would relinquish which was 20% of the business.

5. How has business been since the Den?

The show aired on the 28th December 2016, and we had a fantastic reaction from both our valued current clients and people who had no idea about what we offered. We used social media to engage with the audience and posted a Facebook live reaction video.

Steve and Matt met with a member of Peter’s team (who looks after all of Peter’s Dragons’ Den investments) several times to make sure both parties were still happy with signing. Following due diligence, the boys signed on the 29th June 2017.

In-between times, 2016-17 had been a record year for Active Away; hitting a new record turnover. We’ve taken on several new resorts, and launched new products. With the advice and direction of Peter Jones we believe we can be one of the biggest players in the leisure tennis market in the UK.

However this won’t be possible without you – you are part of the Active Away Family. We offer a personal, accountable experience on all of our events and want to maintain the positive relationship with you. We welcome feedback and ideas and look forward to continuing to provide you with an excellent level of service in everything we offer at Active Away.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog about the Dragons’ Den Journey of Active Away. Please feel free to share our journey using the buttons below.

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