'Here's what really happens on Dragons' Den and what's fake'

Dragon's Den star Abeer Iqbal was offered a job by Peter Jones

Dragon's Den star Abeer Iqbal impressed Peter Jones so much he offered him a job
Dragon's Den star Abeer Iqbal impressed Peter Jones so much he offered him a job. (BBC screengrab)
  • Dragon's Den star Abeer Iqbal was approached to apply to the BBC show with his sleep and wellness brand Remy. While he didn't receive an investment, Iqbal got a job offer from Peter Jones which he turned down to focus on his business.

  • The entrepreneur took Yahoo behind the scenes of filming Dragon's Den and his positive experiences on the show.

Going into Dragons' Den, it feels like you are on stage.

There are cameras all on the side. You have the dragons in front of you, you have your display on the right, you have the elevator behind you but on the left-hand side, there's no wall there. It's all cameras. They have spotlights on each of the dragons and they have a spotlight on you. It's very surreal.

You are nervous the entire time you're in the back room. But when it was finally my turn and I am waiting in that fake elevator, the nerves start coming in and they even showed it on TV. I walked in, I did a big exhale and I thought: 'I've got one chance to deliver this.' So it's definitely intimidating on that front.

It's all on one floor. You have to press the button on the elevator for TV but it's not real. It's two sets of doors. You wait inside for the next set to open and then you're ready to go in.

I set up Remy with my wife because we believed there weren't sleep products out there that were benefiting people's sleep and their anxiety at the same time. Ever since COVID, sleep has been the most googled topic from the three pillars of wellness (which are fitness, nutrition and sleep). A lot of the sleep companies out there are selling things related to the bedroom rather than actually trying to improve people's well-being.

When I was at the Balance Wellness Trade Show Festival in London, I got a call from one of the producers at Dragons Den and they said, "You should apply." It was quite late in the process. I think they start following up with applications at the beginning of the year around January and this was around May for us. They were looking for more entrepreneurs, maybe more seasoned entrepreneurs.

Dragon's Den star Abeer Iqbal dived into the bean bags after his pitch. (BBC screengrab)
Dragon's Den star Abeer Iqbal dived into the bean bags after his pitch. (BBC screengrab)

We do a really good job of advertising and PR. So the producer had seen us and thought that we would be the perfect fit and what we were doing was a bit unique, with our bean bags and weighted blankets. We had to go through the entire application process like anyone else would. We didn't get any special treatment for being reached out to.

It was a very gruelling application process, going through due diligence and doing interviews. But we had to do it all within four weeks because early June was when I was asked to go up to Manchester and pitch in front of the Dragons. I didn't know that they actually reached out to businesses and entrepreneurs themselves. I found out that about 50% of everyone who is on the show or pitches has been reached out to. I was completely surprised - and it was quite flattering too!

There are four or three entrepreneurs in the morning and again in the afternoon. I got there right before noon and didn't go into the den until nine pm or even later. You have to get your display and your pitch approved by the producers backstage. Then once you've got your display approved, once you've got your pitch approved, once you've done hair and make-up, you can be called in whenever. They said I was going to be either second last or last. It's a bit intimidating in the back room when you are there because there are four entrepreneurs, then there are three, then there are two and then it's just you. Once one of the entrepreneurs goes into the pitch, you don't see them again.

The bean bags featured on Dragon's Den. (Remy)
The bean bags featured on Dragon's Den. (Remy)

I was rehearsing my pitch again and again and again. The two-minute pitch that you do in the beginning is the only thing you can actually practice because you don't know what questions they're going to ask. You can prepare for some questions but they give you those two minutes uninterrupted. For me, it was like, don't mess up, don't say um, which I typically have a tendency of saying! Just be as confident as you can be in there.

TV producers changed my pitch from a valuation standpoint. The sweet spot for dragons investing is between £50,000 to £75,000. In my original pitch, we were actually asking for £100,000. They said £100,000 is at the high end maybe you should adjust it. It was brought down to £80,000 and we also changed the valuation.

Now I completely understand because we were at the higher end asking for £80,000, maybe it was one of the reasons they weren't interested. If I had gone in and asked for £25,000, would the result have been different?

The producers have seen hundreds of pitches. I just had to rehearse my pitch again to make sure I didn't slip up and just do some new math to make sure my evaluation is still how much I needed. They suggested I jump into the bean bags after the pitch which I thought was great for TV!

The back room is also where I met Jasmine Wicks-Stephens. She pitched right before me. We waited there for hours and we got chatting about business. We always stayed in touch to see how things were going. She has a wonderful PR team, now she's using our services and I'm using theirs. It's a big positive that came out of Dragon's Den. The entrepreneurs and the connections you make.

Jasmine Wicks-Stephens appeared on Dragons' Den.
Jasmine Wicks-Stephens also appeared on Dragons' Den. (BBC screengrab)

In the den, I didn't get a chance to go to the back wall. One thing I do regret is the final scene where Sara Davies is disagreeing with the rest of the dragons. She is saying that she believes in my passion and the industry we are in but the valuation is something she can't get behind. I do regret not replying with: 'I'm open to hearing your thoughts.' I think she would have entertained that conversation and maybe she would have said, 'Ok I'll give you half the money for the same percentage' which at least that's something I could have gone to the back wall with.

I did get a job offer from Peter Jones though. They show it very quickly on TV. One of the dragons says they're out and then the next dragon says 'I'm out'. But in real life, it is a conversation between me and each of the dragons for a good 10-15 minutes. The words from Peter that resonated with me were, 'I'm not going to invest, I'm out'. I was already thinking, 'I need to focus on Sara and I need to win her over.' So in the moment I didn't think much of the job offer. But when I went into the back room to do the post stage interview, it was the first question they asked me: How does it feel that Peter offered you a job on the spot?

Peter Jones on Dragon's Den
Peter Jones didn't offer investment but he wanted to hire the entrepreneur. (BBC)

I finished filming just before midnight and it was too late for me to pack up the display so they said come back tomorrow morning. I ran into Touker Suleyman and Peter in the car park. Peter said 'I was serious' about the job offer and he started pitching it to me.

I told him: 'Peter, thank you so much but I'm on a mission with my current business right now. Let me finish this job in front of me and then I'll reach out.' When he said it away from the cameras, it really validated it. It was very real and it showed I had impressed as an entrepreneur.

There were a lot of positives that came out of Dragon's Den.

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