Foodies in The Den (15:5)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenbkdSeason 15: episode 5

Entrepreneur(s): Adelle Smith

Company: BKD

Elevator Pitch: children’s baking brand with an ethos of fuelling children’s imagination

Asking For: £80k in exchange for 20% equity

What Went Well?

The Product: it’s on trend. Baking and crafting has grown exponentially over the last few years and any activity that brings the family together is bound to resonate with a large audience.

Branding: the products all look fantastic, polished and very clean. It’s easy to see how the range would stand it out in major retailers. It looks premium and fits the premium price point and will certainly offer a point of disruption on shelf versus the beige competition currently on offer in supermarkets.

What Could Have Gone Better?

Subscription Sales: subscription offerings are another rapidly expanding market and brands like Graze have demonstrated that it’s a fantastically effective way to build a brand. However, this entrepreneur failed to capitalise on a potential USP that could support the brand in commanding a premium price point.

‘Strong’ Interest: unfortunately this is a trap that a lot of entrants to The Den fall into. Entrepreneurs are very keen to tell the Dragons which retailers have shown some interest in placing orders; but this isn’t something you can put in the bank. It’s a great encouragement but it’s worthless until the invoice is paid.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Negotiation is a Game: I appreciate that emotions must run high in The Den but Adele’s poker face slipped when Peter Jones made his offer and weakened her negotiation position with both Dragons. I admit that I’d probably get a bit giddy and it must be really difficult not to react on the spot but it’s not a strong stance unless it’s a professional flinch!

Outcome: Success! 35% given to the serial foodie backer Peter Jones!

Would Munkee invest? I wouldn’t usually want to disagree with Peter Jones but did I mention I’m risk averse? The market for baking kits is evolving with the continued success of GBBO but I’m not convinced that the high volume retailers would back a premium offering in a big way. I’m sure this brand will have a lot of success in premium outlets but I’m not sure we’re going to be overcome by a sea of black and white, so I’m out – however I’d love to be wrong!

Northern Munkee.

 

 

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Foodies in The Den (15:3)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenspicedbyrayeesaSeason 15: episode 3

Entrepreneur(s): Rayeesa Ashgar-Sandy

Company: Spiced by Rayeesa

Elevator Pitch: fresh-frozen curry sauce with low calorie and gluten free curry bases.

Asking For: £75k in exchange for 12% equity

What Went Well?

Family Business: the positive noise in this pitch was down to the individual who came across very well and the family element of the business added a great slice of personality. Passion, persistence and drive are fundamental to demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit.

Health: this is a fundamental trend in this product area and this focus will drive growth. Assuming the product tastes as good as Deborah Meaden asserted then this USP will help to differentiate the product against some of the more established brands in the category.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Approach: it may sound impressive and it’s something you should be proud of but being approached by Sainsbury’s and Ocado is not something you can bank. I do appreciate that it will give some confidence but I’m afraid it’s just literature.

Lack of Market Understanding: ‘we don’t have competition’ is a terrible thing to say in the food industry and very unlikely to be true. There are very few brands and products that are inexchangeable. Most products bought are bought in favour of something else because the shopper doesn’t have an endless pit of money. In this example the competition is vast and Rayeesa’s product is easily substitutable for an ambient or chilled option.

Retailer Challenge: for me this single point killed the pitch. If retailers don’t get it, it will never sell. They’re absolutely right in that most shoppers in the frozen aisle are not looking to cook, they’re looking for a convenient, full solution which is why there are so few ingredients in freezers. Unfortunately Rayeesa’s vision that retailers would be willing to put a freezer in the ambient fixture is so far detached from reality. This type of initiative would not be completely impossible to secure but I would wager that it would warrant funding into the £millions plus the cost of hardware. Even in what Jenny coined ‘second tier retailers’ I can’t see it becoming a reality and, although COOK have made some headway, it’s a pipe dream.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Know Your Strengths: for me this pitch is a great example of an entrepreneur that has the right behaviours and drivers to be successful. However, it also highlights Rayeesa’s need to seek market specific support and gain experience and insight externally. This is not a criticism. A lot of entrepreneurs become successful because they surround themselves by the right people.

Outcome: No investment today.

Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is challenging and I don’t think the product offering is right. However there are a lot of positive aspects of this pitch so with a few tweaks I’m sure they’ll find success.

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:2)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdennaturalnutrientsSeason 15: episode 2

Entrepreneur(s): Liam Sheriff and Craig Newbigin

Company: Natural Nutrients UK

Elevator Pitch: high quality supplement brand that offers 100% transparency and doesn’t contain artificial nasties.

Asking For: £100k in exchange for 10% equity

What Went Well?

The Products: not only are the products on trend and relevant but the duo have proliferated sensibly and developed beyond the functional category. This may present some practical issues when working with retailers whose individual buyers may only look after part of their portfolio. However, having a range that differs in volume and margin is a powerful position when managing margin mix.

Reasons to Believe: having Holland & Barrett on board for a business like Natural Nutrients is a massive coup and absolutely the right retailer at this stage. This will have been a fantastic selling point.

Peter Jones’ Empathy: this isn’t something that you can prepare for but this was fundamental to the success of the pitch. The pair were subjected to harsh loan terms to secure previous investment and not many businesses get offered the opportunity to have a business leader support them in improving that situation. How’s that for belief.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Numbers: margin is an issue that you can’t escape from and this company was walking a tight rope at a really early stage in the business. The retail price point is high and the margin they make is low; it’s a slippery slope from here but not unmanageable.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Maintain Control: Liam Sheriff did a great job in negotiating a way to secure the investment but have an option to maintain more than a 51% share in the business. This will be important to the business going forward and ensures that there is a clear head driving direction. The inability to make a quick decision can be crippling for some small businesses.

Outcome: Success! 40% equity given to Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani with a 5% optional buy back if the business hits 2018 targets.

Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is very clustered and dominated by brands backed by huge companies. I’d also have more concern over the terms of the loan and what was agreed in the past, for me that questioned the credibility of the business. However all Dragon’s made an offer so it looks like Munkee may be wrong!

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:1)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdencreativenatureSeason 15: episode 1

Entrepreneur(s): Julianne Ponan and Matthew Ford

Company: Creative Nature Superfoods

Elevator Pitch: ranges of free-from snack bars, innovative baking mixes and creative superfoods designed to cater for top 14 allergies

Asking For: £75k in exchange for 5% equity

What Went Well?

Preparation: fail to prepare and all that is key for any business pitch but it is absolutely fundamental when you’re asking someone to believe in you and to part with their money. The entrepreneurs demonstrated a strong knowledge of their own business and also the marketplace which might sound like a basic requirement but is often found wanting.

The business idea: the product ranges couldn’t be more on trend; it’s on-the-go, it’s home baking and it’s superfoods. Winning. Deborah Meaden identified that the freefrom shopper has developed into a shopper that no longer surfs packaging but wants product confidence and assurance and these guys have got it.

Distribution: there’s nothing better for a potential investor to hear than people are already buying your products and there are lots of retailers supporting it. Creative Nature was able to successfully demonstrate that its turnover is generated from a wide range of distribution with some very credible retailers. Although I’m not too sure how Christine Tacon would feel about the confession that the distribution was bought through ‘listing fees’; nevertheless from the entrepreneurs’ point of view this is a very savvy use of seed money.

What Could Have Gone Better?

Owner’s Relationship: the fact that Matthew holds no shares in the business may have come across as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek comment from Peter Jones but the reality is this information did cast a shadow of doubt in The Den. Family businesses are fantastic and there’s nothing more heart-warming than seeing a family business succeed however it does raise some questions from a business perspective. Who really owns the business? Who really runs the business? How integral is Matthew? What happens if he leaves and what’s his incentive to stay? These queries were well handled but these issues will ultimately need clearing up.

Rose-Tinted Forecasting: the ‘£1M contract’ in Co-Op was a bit of a faux pas that the Dragons were bound to pick apart. I completely understand where the numbers have come from, it’s simple science. However, we’re dealing with an art form and forecasting is not that simple. Assuming that a Co-Op store will achieve the same rate of sale as an ASDA is a little naïve; in some product categories ASDA will dwarf Co-Op and vice-versa in others. I do sympathise but a big bold headline like this will get scrutinised and criticised by any savvy investor.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Profit is KING: there’s a cliché in business that sales in vanity and profit is sanity and everyone in the room recognised that Creative Nature’s margins were too tight for comfort. Every business needs to account for scalability and assume some benefits as you scale up however if margins are tight at the early stage of a business that’s a real concern. It’s not unfixable but if you can’t sustain profitability you’re in for a rough ride!

Outcome: Success! 25% equity given to Deborah Meaden with a 5% optional buy back if the business hits 2018 targets.

Would Munkee invest? Yes! Who am I to argue with the Meaden?! Creative Nature has the makings of a great brand and business. It appears like a sound investment and I’m sure there’ll be more than just Co-Op placing new orders.

Northern Munkee.

 

Cold-Pressed Protein Balls

One of the great things about the focus on food trends are the innovative new products that appear on the shelves. Sometimes it can be overwhelming with the amount of choice, yet the fact that there can be so much choice now is truly a positive change in the retail food industry.

For me, the most exciting thing of this trend is the combination of healthy yet tasty food products. Now there are numerous ‘super-foods’ out there and companies have tried to make these ‘super-foods’ into tantalising products – kale cupcakes, beetroot brownies, courgette loaf – and whilst some do succeed, others just don’t seem to hit the mark to be sustainable but are part of a fad phase that goes as quickly as it came.

However I love finding those products that are not necessarily ‘super-foods’ but are healthy everyday ingredients that firms have combined to provide nutritional value. Whether that benefit is more protein or less cholesterol or lower carbohydrates, it’s interesting to witness the innovation and passion of companies to do good for consumers.  Of course, there are those mavericks who just say their products are healthy but actually really aren’t!

Much of the trend for this are energy balls which seem to be taking over the market to provide nutritional value in a snack-bite manner. The energy ball market seems to have exploded recently within the fitness world – however these are starting to seep into the mass-consumer market due to their convenience for time-constrained consumers; think breakfast-on-the-go or mid-morning snacks.

Vigor Protein Balls – Sample Pack (Date & Cacao, Peanut Butter, Lemon & Blueberry)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: gym-goers, healthy-conscious eaters, time-restraint consumers!

Packaging

I love the packaging of these – they’re brightly coloured, small enough to hold in your hand and easy to store. My bug-bear with energy balls is that they usually come in a bag or a plastic tub and I always think they are going to get squashed in my bag.  However the sturdy cardboard material of this product lets me just throw it in my bag safe in the knowledge that when I dig it out later they will still be intact and not all squished together.  I also think the shape of the packaging is helpful too – easy to grip and hold in your hand.  I’m a huge fan of colour and love how the bright colours are eye-catching and pop out on a shelf or in your bag/cupboard.  The nutritional information and ingredients are easy to read and the fact you can see the product too is always a tick in my box.

Price

£5.99 for a sample pack of three via the company website. I think this is fair price as in each pack you receive 2 or 3 energy balls, plus a range of flavours.  If I just bought one pack for roughly £2 I would think I’m getting fair value for money in terms of quantity, and it’s in line with the price range for other products of the same ilk.

Delivery

I have tried a lot of protein based ‘treats’ during my time when I was really into my gym and work-out sessions. Quite frankly I found them difficult to eat and digest as they tasted like cardboard.  So I was slightly wary of trying these energy balls, especially as they are meant to be protein based.  However, although not totally bowled over I was pleasantly surprised as you could taste the flavours (peanut butter has the strongest).  However there is still the lingering dryness that is associated with many protein promoted products.  I don’t think many protein based products can get away with letting go of the dry taste,although these energy balls do try to at least have some genuine flavour in them rather than the majority which has either chocolate or caramel to try and cover the bland taste.  The peanut butter flavour is definitely the most flavoursome but the lemon and blueberry comes a close second- it’s refreshing to have a protein product with a fruit flavour.

Verdict: in a word – worth-a-try (3 words in 1!). These are a really good attempt to offer something different in the protein-based energy ball market.  There are a lot of protein products available yet these do stand out for packaging, different flavours and for appealing to all for a quick snack on the go.

Details: https://vigor-foods.com/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

An egg-cellent replacer?

Eggs. That one simple word brings me so much joy.  I LOVE eggs.  Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, omelleted, mixing it with veg/salads/rice, fried over a crispy gluten-free toast…any concoction you can think of that would have eggs in or on it, I will devour.

Over the last year I have had to cut out a lot of foods but I refused to cut out eggs – I had read about the dangerous effects of eggs – too many will cause you cholesterol, hard-boiled will cause you constipation, non-organic will be pumped full of chemicals, organic eggs are smaller and so forth. However for some reason I never bought into the horrors of eggs as I did with other food products.  I saw them as my one thing that my digestive system couldn’t take away from me and out of sheer stubbornness refused to give them up.

Now as the market trend points towards veganism, with more and more people adopting this lifestyle –I also contemplated it. But the thought of giving up eggs was the one thing I couldn’t quite fully accept.  My mind-set had become so stuck in eggs being a saviour for me that letting go of it seemed impossible.

So I did what any other rational person would do – I googled! Searches showed me of course replacements for eggs in baking and cooking but I couldn’t seem to find an alternative to eating eggs as they were.  Then as the universe would have it, I was offered to review a product that seemed to hear my plea for non-egg eggs. It was also combatting the bad things I heard about eggs such as being cholesterol free and providing fibre as well so was definitely worth a try.

Orgran Vegan Easy Egg

Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: vegans, free-from consumers.

Packaging

The product comes in a bright yellow (naturally) rectangular cardboard box, large enough to make it feel like a substantial size but yet still small enough to be able to pour/tip the product. My first impressions was that it did not look like an egg carton which made me contemplate how could I make boiled eggs from this?!  The writing on the front clearly pointed out all the free-from benefits (it’s not only egg-free but gluten-free, wheat free, dairy free, soy free and yeast free), however the box was covered in writing on all sides making it a little difficult to read the main pointers you need.  Instructions on the back of the box explaining how to make the product with graphics were very helpful.

Price

£4.45. I was kindly provided some samples but a quick search online showed me the price range and it felt quite high.  Although the packaging details that the product is equivalent to 15 eggs, it still seems vegan/free from products will continue to carry the high price tag as it’s not a mainstream lifestyle.

Delivery

The product itself is a flour-based mix. You need to add water and oil to it, to then be able to make a mixture.  This you would then cook as you would normally cook scrambled eggs, an omelette or even make a frittata or quiche.  However if you fancy boiled or poached – this obviously isn’t the answer for that!  It is as quick and easy as it is to whisk eggs.  The taste however is not quite as straight-forward, it tasted a little stringy.  On a second batch I added in some other herbs and spices which whilst covering it up could not deter from the rubbery taste.  Looking at the ingredients I could understand why there was a chewy-feel to it – with a host of stabilisers in the product it may not be the most nutritional of products but for a quick breakfast or evening meal it does the job.  Add a few spices or flavourings to it and it’s a go-to product on those days when you just don’t have enough time.  Whilst not quite tasting the same as eggs, I can see how this can be a replacer for those who don’t want to or cannot tolerate eggs.

Verdict: in a word – easy. This is a go-to quick and easy food item.  However if you’re looking for taste then it maybe doesn’t quite hit the mark.  Spice it up with herbs and flavours and it may just be enough.

Details: http://www.orgran.com/products/vegan-easy-egg-2/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

Collectives Boosting UK Businesses

Now is a great time to start up in business. Don’t listen to the Brexiteers and the naysayers. We are in a period of economic uncertainty and instability but that’s the point – it is uncertain so depending on how you fill your glass we could be in a positive or a negative environment. Now, I’m no Mystic Meg and I genuinely don’t know which way it will fall when we come through trade negotiations but I do know that it doesn’t mean we should give up, go home and shut up shop!

However if, like me, you err on the side of caution or even go as far as saying you’re risk averse then the current climate may mean that you change your approach to business; and that makes sense to me. Thankfully if you do think like that you’re not alone; help is at hand. This post looks at three examples of business collectives designed to boost small business inception, growth and expansion.

  • Incubate to Accumulate

Business accelerators or incubators offer start-up companies work or office space and direct funding. According to a report published by gov.uk this year there are currently 205 incubators, 163 accelerators, 11 per-accelerators, 7 virtual accelerators and 4 virtual incubators operating in the UK. Now is a great time to get involved with these start-up platforms as they’re on a rapid growth rate with just over half (54%) the number of incubators operating being created since 2011. Incubators and accelerators may still feel like a fairly new concept but for the foreseeable future they’re here to stay.

  • Sharing is Caring

northernmunkeebites.foodstars6Another fantastic example for food of using the collective to drive your business is shared commercial kitchens for food companies like FoodStars deliver. It’s a fantastic world where you can rent a commercial kitchen and avoid huge, crippling capital expense when you’re starting out. These guys are now offering facilities across Bermondsey, Bethnall Green, Vauxhall and Shoreditch so if you’re in the Greater London area and you want to start your own food delivery Empire or the next big thing in food or drink product development then it’s now really easy to do so!

  • The Power of the Crowd

Crowdfunding has received a lot of bad press in recent weeks and has been portrayed asnorthernmunkeebites.foodstars7.jpg bad investment which appears to have scared off a lot of serious investors however it’s still a very real, very viable option for start-ups. Crowdfunding has evolved in 2017 and I’m now seeing young businesses pitching for much smaller sums of money attracting city types, small business supporters and genuine fans! What could be better? So instead of giving away huge chunks of your business to ever more demanding portfolio builders, businesses are now using the power of the crowd to create fans, fans that will have a vested interest in evangelising and making your dreams work. Belting!

So that’s it: my guide for small businesses in using the collective to induce business growth, inception and expansion. As an entrepreneur you’re likely to be an independent, self-starter with all the drive in the world to do it on your own but trust me, it’s much easier to work with the collective.

Northern Munkee.