How NitNOT founder Eileen overcame her nerves to deliver a winning pitch on Dragons’ Den.
After having run her own head lice and nit clinic and developed a no-compromise eco-friendly serum, founder Eileen decided that it was time to bring NitNOT to a wider market. To do it, she would need some investment – and who better to approach than BBC’s Dragons’ Den?
Her application to appear on the show was a success, so now all Eileen had to do was to start preparing for the pitch of her lifetime, not just in front of the five multi-millionaires but also an audience of millions! The pressure was on.
As the day of the show approached, Eileen began to feel that her nerves were getting the better of her. The unfortunate knock-on effect was that her tinnitus became much worse. Not the ideal preparation for the cauldron of Dragons’ Den.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
As Eileen got into the elevator for her pre-pitch interview, it all seemed very far away from her Hemel Hempstead clinic. With her stress levels rising, she went over her pitch details one last time: “I was ideally looking for a £40,000 investment in NitNOT for a 20% share of the business.”
Like most of the entrepreneurs who appear, Eileen had done her research into the Dragons. “I would have been really pleased if any of the five Dragons wanted to invest, but I thought Tej Lalvani and Peter Jones were the best matches for NitNOT. Their experience and expertise in branding and marketing was what I was really hoping for.”
As the elevator doors began to open and Eileen felt the eyes of the Dragons on her, she knew it was now or never. She describes the moment of stepping out of the elevator as truly surreal, “like stepping out into my own television screen!”
Meeting the Dragons
Because this episode was filmed with lockdown restrictions, the show felt a little different. For one, the Dragons were all sitting further away from each other, giving Eileen a much wider stage to pitch to. With her ears ringing, she began speaking to the Dragons about NitNot, her revolutionary head lice and nit treatment.
Eileen admits that while she was battling with her nerves, and focusing on saying all the right things, she found herself speaking faster and faster. Before she knew it, she’d made her initial pitch and felt herself relaxing with a big sigh. Dragon Deborah Meaden gave her some reassuring words, and told her that she could relax now. But something was missing – the NitNOT product itself!
NitNOT out of the box… or not
COVID-19 restrictions meant that samples of NitNOT were sitting in a closed box next to each Dragon and Eileen was supposed to tell the Dragons when they could look inside. Only nobody had told her that, so Deborah kindly reminded her.
After hearing Eileen talk about all the benefits of NitNOT, including its eco credentials, hypoallergenic goals and proven efficacy, the Dragons were keen to see the magic serum for them selves. At least four of the five were.
Eileen takes up the story: “I noticed when I was pitching that Peter Jones looked a little… uncomfortable. He kept scratching his head. And when it came to getting NitNOT out of the box, he just sat there. He didn’t want anything to do with it. He clearly had some real issues with the subject of head lice.”
“The others were very interested though. Deborah wanted to see what the product smelt like, which was good for me because a big selling point of NitNOT is that it’s odourless – there are no fragrances put in, to keep the product as hypoallergenic as possible.”
Although Peter clearly wasn’t interested in NitNOT, he was very open as to why. He explained that each of this daughters has had head lice on numerous occasions. His partner Tara treats them, then combs them out. It always seems effective, but then they’re back again. This story played right into Eileen’s hands, as of course this is the main reason she developed NitNOT – a treatment that does actually work without compromise.
The Dragons then took the opportunity to ask Eileen questions about NitNOT, how she developed it and how her clinic had given her the opportunity.
Eileen’s confident answers here didn’t actually do her any favours when it came to Dragon Sara Davies. Sara said it was great that Eileen had so much passion for her business, and even described her as the ‘head lice queen’! However, she thought that with all that going for her, Eileen didn’t need any help as she was clearly doing a great job anyway.
“This worried me a lot,” says Eileen, “as it made me wonder if all the other Dragons would feel the same. I started to panic that I’d scared off potentil investors with my answers.” Thankfully, Eileen was wrong on that count.
Offers from the Dragons
Tej had obviously liked what he heard from Eileen. “He said that NitNOT fitted in very well with his experience, and that he had plenty of branding and marketing contacts who could help move it in the right direction. I felt incredibly relieved when he made an offer of £40,000 for 30% – although maybe that was something to do with his amazing smile. It really calmed me down. He’s a walking advert for Vitabiotics…” finishes Eileen, looking wistfully into the distance.
That wasn’t the final offer from the Dragons though as firstly Touker Suleyman offered to go halves with Tej (something Tej didn’t agree to), and then Deborah came in with an offer of 25% share.
“All my plans to negotiate went straight out of the window thanks to my nerves. I didn’t want to go and talk to the wall, I just wanted to take Tej’s initial offer. Deborah and Touker’s offers were both amazing though. Deborah’s eco-credentials meant that the grilling she gave me was really from the heart and I actually really appreciated it. They both gave me great advice about how to make the packaging more impactful, and the instructions clearer. I took it all onboard and have made immediate changes – since filming and before airing.”
“Tej’s team has been so supportive. They got in contact with me straight away and as I thought even before I pitched to the Dragons, Tej is the right Dragon for me. Even something like all the due diligence they carried out before we signed contracts put me at ease.”
Eileen’s final thoughts
“It was lovely to have the positive feedback about how passionate I am about NitNOT. I wish I’d have more time to cover the eco credentials, and to focus on the importance of manufacturing non-flammable products, but overall I’m very happy about the way it went – and of course the outcome. It just goes to show that if you believe in something, you can make it happen no matter what obstacles are in your way.”
Watch the episode on BBC iPlayer here or YouTube here.