Hello bees! So here’s a question… what happens when you cross two beekeepers with five dragons?
Well for those of you who watched last night’s Dragons’ Den on BBC 2, you’ll already know the answer!
Since May last year (yes it was filmed back in Spring 2016, before we’d even started selling our Honey Water drinks in Boots, Waitrose and Holland & Barrett!) we’ve been nervously perched on the edge of our seats, sworn to secrecy and wondering how everything that happened in the Den that day would finally look on TV!
In this week’s special blog, Just Bee’s co-founders Joe & Andy write about all things Dragons’ Den and what it was like to stand in front of the scariest buzz-ness people in the UK!
What happens when you cross two beekeepers with five Dragons… by Joe and Andy
The minute the lift doors opened is also the minute we saw the Dragons for the very first time. There had been no pleasant introductions, no friendly ‘meet and greets’ beforehand… it was just straight in at the deep end, walking in under their watchful glares! Our stomachs churned again for the hundredth time that day…
It was 8.15pm in the evening when we finally walked through those doors and into the Den. We’d been nervously waiting in the “green room” waiting to be called in since 7am that morning. Yes… that’s over 12 hours waiting for what felt like the worst interview of your life!
In actual fact though, our Dragons’ Den experience has started well before that… we’d taken our first step back in July 2014 two and a half years ago when Just Bee was still just an idea on a scrap of paper…
Above: Joe and Andy nervously waiting in the green room for over 12 hours before entering The Den!
The 18 months’ audition story
Two and a half years ago, whilst still in our old desk jobs dreaming up Just Bee business plans, we sent in the application form and applied to Dragons’ Den. Truthfully at the time, this was more for fun – because we are both huge fans of the show!
When we didn’t hear anything back from the BBC we guessed our application had just gone in the bin, but amazingly, out of the blue, at the beginning of 2015 they called and asked us to come in for an audition!
At this point we’d handed in our notice at our old jobs but although we’d developed our initial recipes, we still didn’t have any of the final drinks in their cartons. Instead we turned up to the auditions with a home-made mock-up cartons made with an old cereal box and stuck together with sticky tape (and no actual Honey Water inside!): “this is what it’s going to look like”, we declared confidently. At the end of the 15-minute audition with the BBC producers, they said “don’t call us, we’ll call you” so we waited and waited, but unsurprisingly… they didn’t call.
A few weeks later, in March 2015 we finally produced our first full batch of Honey Water (no sticky tape involved) and launched Just Bee, selling our drinks door to-door around our local cafes, delis and artisan markets in Manchester. To be honest, we were so busy we forgot completely about Dragons’ Den.
This wasn’t to be forever though, as a whole year after our first audition (March 2016), we received another call from the BBC! They’d been back on our website and seen the progress we’d made, and that we were by then selling them in a number of high profile shops like Selfridges. Offered another audition… we were buzzing at the chance (sorry!).
This time round our audition was a lot more credible (we laugh now at how much we’d learned since the first time!) and we were able to tell the producers about the conversations and potential deals we were hoping to agree with Holland & Barrett, Waitrose and Boots. We quickly got the call back we’d been dreaming of, saying they wanted us to film on the actual show in May 2016. We couldn’t believe it!
Pink beekeepers and smoking props
We obviously wanted to impress the hard-to-please Dragons by making a grand entrance! With Joe coming from a family of beekeepers (his Dad is a beekeeper in Lancashire, his Grandad was and Joe is currently learning himself!) we’d already been to a few artisan food markets dressed in traditional beekeeper suits… and they always seemed to make people laugh. Unfortunately, though, our white beekeeper’s suits had become a bit tired and dirty from all the wear and tear – certainly not suitable for impressing the Dragons!
Anyway, we went on a search for some new outfits, and came back with two brand new beekeeper suits, one blue and one bright pink. We’re still not sure if the grand entrance really captured the Dragons’ imaginations as we’d hoped, with Peter Jones calling us a “right pair of Charlies” (we’ve also had a lovely tweet telling us that we looked like a pair of teletubbies…but it could have been worse) Not quite the reaction we were going for, but fun all the same (and that’s the main thing, as we say in The Hive!).
Above: the ‘lift’ (actually a small room with a sliding door!) was the scariest place in the studio. We could hear our hearts pounding as the doors opened!
We also thought walking into the Den with Bee-smokers (used by beekeepers to calm the bees when opening the Hive) would also add a bit of fun and drama to the entrance. Our plan was to fill the bee smoker with some dry ice! A local cocktail bar in Manchester had kindly provided us with some dry ice and we had a quick practice the day before filming. The results were amazing – just a small drop of dry ice in the smoker created spectacular white smoke billowing everywhere! Perfect, and great to know in case any of you ever need to make a dramatic entrance anywhere!
However, when we turned up at the filming studio the following day for our 7am props meeting and we whipped out a Thermos flask filled with 1 litre of dry ice, the studio’s Health and Safety officer nearly fainted and quickly told us that we couldn’t use it and that we needed to remove it from the studio immediately. Boo!
So instead of using our dry ice, whilst we were stood in the lift (which isn’t actually a lift, by the way!), just seconds before walking into the Den, a BBC prop man came in with a smoke machine to fill up our smokers. But the effect was sadly nowhere near as good as the dry ice would have been, in fact by the time the lift doors opened and we walked out into the Den (we think the producers purposefully hold you in the lift for what feels like forever to make you even more nervous!) most of the smoke had gone and couldn’t really been seen on the TV last night!
Above: The dragons were buzzing to try the drinks. And Peter had a few puns of his own!
In the Den
From that moment on – everything feels like a bit of a blur! Being in the Den was the most intense, pressurised experience ever, knowing that the Dragons’ would be looking for the smallest opportunity to pick apart anything we said.
And whilst on TV the Den experience only seems to last a few minutes, this is just a heavily edited down version… we were actually in the Den with the Dragons being grilled for about an hour and a half. There is no stopping and starting or retakes… the cameras start rolling the moment the lift doors open and they keep rolling until you walk out again.
For those who didn’t see the programme last night, we won’t spoil anything by saying what the outcome was or how we got on, but overall we feel like the Dragons’ ‘bee-hived’ themselves…Thanks Peter!
Last night’s episode is available to view on the BBC iPlayer – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08d39rg
Don’t forget, if you want to try our drinks, they are available from Boots (in the Meal Deal!), Waitrose and Holland & Barrett J
If you have any thoughts about our performance we would love to hear them! Please tweet us @justbeedrinks. Until next time, keeeeeeeep buzzing!
Joe & Andy x