'The hardest part of being on Dragons' Den was arguing with Peter Jones'

Touker Suleyman interrupted the entrepreneurs just four seconds into their Dragons' Den pitch

Dragons' Den Sam Moss and Charlie Gilpin. (BBC screengrab)
Dragons' Den entrepreneurs Sam Moss and Charlie Gilpin. (BBC)
  • Food entrepreneurs Charlie Gilpin who cooked on tour for Katy Perry and the Spice Girls and Sam Moss have secured a £50,000 investment from Steven Bartlett on Dragons' Den. Bartlett got a 6% share in their business Stocked, which provides nourishing delicious meals that are stored in your freezer in a block.

  • The childhood friends and business owners detail their tough experience of pitching their business in the den and reveal how they get on.

Arguing with a dragon is an incredibly difficult thing to do. They do give you a tough time in the den but you do go in expecting it. It wasn't a walk in the park.

Touker Suleyman interrupted us four seconds into our pitch. We're saying, "Hi I'm Sam and I'm Charlie. We're Stocked and we make revolutionary meals from modern lives. And we're here today asking for £50,000 in return for two percent of our company." And Touker cuts us off and says, "How much?" We thought this has not got off to a good start.

It's such an unnerving, unique experience to stand on the set of Dragons' Den. We had seen the set before when we got a walk around but the lift doors opening for the first time and the dragons sat in their chairs was the most surreal experience. Once we had got into the lift, we honestly just forgot all of our pitch but it came back to us just in time. It was pretty crazy.

It is intense standing there. It's built to be an intimidating room. We were starstruck by the set of the den as it is such an iconic room. One of the biggest challenges though was being able to continue to back ourselves while being faced with these titans in the industry who were giving us a hard time.

We had a bit of back and forth with Peter Jones and Touker, the two nemeses in the den. We have a huge amount of respect for them both.

Peter Jones wasn't impressed. (BBC Studios)
Peter Jones wasn't impressed. (BBC Studios)

Standing there on the spot in the den, talking dragons feels exactly as it looks on telly. But when you're sitting on the sofa watching it, and you see someone stumbling over their lines and you're thinking: "Come on mate." Maybe that was quite a humbling experience.

In our day-to-day other investor conversations, we can speak with a lot more conviction. So that exchange definitely threw us a little bit. Steven Bartlett said afterwards he could sense we were close to an argument with the other dragons.

There are certain elements that as a founder you know the answer to but the dragons speak with such confidence and they have so much experience that sometimes it feels like you can't really respond to them. It's because of their authority. That was a challenge for us.

We have been working on this concept pre-launch and now post-launch for four and a bit years. So we are super confident, not only in the product, in the scale we can take the business to, and in ourselves as people.

Touker Souleyman interrupted the Dragon's Den pitch. (BBC studios)
Touker Souleyman interrupted the Dragons' Den pitch. (BBC Studios)

It's unlikely we will ever have a more intense pitch than Dragons' Den. Going through that builds a lot of resilience in defending you, your vision and your product. We say to each other all the time that we wish we spoke up in the den. There was a comment Peter made. He said that he doesn't invest in a single business with less than 70% gross margin. It would have been great to have questioned him further on this.

But we were so in awe of the whole experience. We were in the den for two hours and they edit it down to 10 minutes so they could do anything with us. They could make us look really smart, they could make us look not so smart. So we'll see how it goes.

We're a food subscription business. I don't think it's a particularly popular business model with the dragons. They had a big boom in COVID, like Hello Fresh. There's a perception now that they're starting to recede and the cost of living crisis doesn't help. But what they're missing is that the market is still growing rapidly, driven by convenience players like Hello Fresh. But it does take 40 minutes each night and generates waste if you can't keep up. Whereas we are pure convenience and can give people a meal under £3 in under three minutes.

Stocked get a deal from Steven Bartlett. (BBC Studios)
Stocked get a deal from Steven Bartlett. (BBC Studios)

Getting the offer was the most relieved we have both felt in a long time. We had a tough time but we are so pleased to have Steven Bartlett who we think will be really positive for the business. Steven and his team are so knowledgeable about brand and marketing. By bringing those people on board, we can really build a team to get where we want to go. It is going to open so many doors.

Our experience was so authentic and the conversation was completely uninterrupted by the camera crew. Only one time we were told to step back on the mark for the cameras. For close to two hours it was just conversation about business and they're asking proper questions we get from investors outside of the den.

It was a whirlwind. It was so surreal and something we had always thought about doing.

First when Dragons' Den approached us we thought it was a scam. So many cold emails, so many scam emails. The email did look slightly suspicious because it wasn't a BBC email address. But we had to hear it out – having grown up watching the show, it means a huge amount to us. When we found out it was legit, the excitement just started building.

Charlie and Sam are childhood friends and business partners. (PR)
Charlie and Sam are childhood friends and business partners. (PR)

Not going to lie, it took us about 30 times to film our application pitch. There were a lot of edits. But we wrote it relatively quickly, we are used to talking about our business.

Now we're seeing ourselves in the kitchen every day, every weekend to keep up with the demand! We've got some really exciting stuff coming up this year we're planning for – including exploring what a retail product would look like.

We have always been in each other's lives. At the same school but in different years, we had mutual friends and our parents live five minutes away from each other. Over the years we stayed in touch but now we spend more time together. We align really well on the big stuff, and we do have differences from time to time, but we've never had a major argument. And now we can't wait to take you on this journey with us.

Charlie Gilpin and Sam Moss told their story to Lily Waddell.

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