Charles is the founder of Umbrolly; Charles Ejogo pitched Umbrolly to the dragons on the first episode.
The Episode was aired on the 4th January 2005. The idea he presented to the Dragons was that of a number of vending machines for umbrellas, including an LCD screen to display advertising of a very high quality, to be placed on the streets of London.
YHP asks Charles Ejogo about his experience on dragon den and advices for entrepreneurs especially those thinking about pitching their ideas on dragon's den
What do you think a programme like Dragon’s den gives an entrepreneur from your experience?
The programme is unique in the sense that it does not really portray the real cycle any entrepreneur goes through to secure investment for their business. I still enjoy watching the programme, but not for the reasons that I feel it should be so widely watched for. Its become car-crash TV in the sense that people (myself included) watch primarily to watch people have their dreams crushed, and be humiliated. To me it is a pity, as the programme has a large young following, and I think the focus should be on the business side, the entrepreneurial side, not so much the dog-eat-dog, ruthless aspect of the programme. It is a pity that the Dragons feel they need to put people down in such a sharp manner, as effectively they are crushing peoples dreams, however I respect James Caan as he is always polite, respectful and displays humility, which are great traits to have, no matter what your position is.
What are your advices for anyone looking to go to the dragons for investment? What are the fundamentals they should know or have?
I think that if you are REALLY looking for funding for your business there are a myriad of alternatives available rather than going into the Dragons Den. That said, I think that the majority of applicants now are not so much looking for the money (as the terms typically secured are frankly exorbitant), but the exposure, and more importantly the connections and leverage that working with Dragons such as Peter Jones or Theo Paphitis can bring. Regarding what you should know before you step up? In a nutshell, know your business inside out, and more importantly know your numbers! Any investor will want to be comfortable that you know your numbers inside out, as they will be relying on you to deliver them. I still cant believe every time I watch someone standing in front of the Dragons, getting their profit margins, or turnover figures wrong.
How do you prepare for a pitch for investors?
Well in advance! As in the Dragons Den, you only get one chance with ANY investor, so you have to be well-turned out, have an intimate grip on every facet of your business, and other than that need to be honest.
What do investors want to know?
A lot of investors are actually make their investments into the people behind the business, as you can predict how a business will be run, if you can read the person. I always notice that investors will look for the background story – the how did you get to where you are now? story – to understand the motivations and aspirations of the entrepreneur. A lot of the time parts of the story may mirror their own, or touch a nerve that can trigger empathy, and a connection which I think apart form revenue generation is what many investors look for.
How is it like having two geniuses in the names of Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne. On board?
I don’t actually work with Peter or Duncan, but I am sure that they would love being called geniuses! Our deal fell apart about 3-4 months after we filmed the segment for the programme. In some ways it was fortunate as the business was not ready for the investment or massive interest that followed, and it also allowed me time to realise what needed to change, and get rid of my previous partners who were having a negative effect on how the business was developing. After the deal fell apart I was crushed, but like any entrepreneur I pulled myself back up, reassessed my position, and started again. Fortunately for me, I am a quick learner, and very single-minded, so I was able to put the past in the past very quickly and start again.
What have you learnt about being an entrepreneur?
That it’s a state of mind, a way of life, and importantly, to never give up! If I had, I would have never achieved the success that I have to date. I often go out and see one of my vending machines being used, or someone carrying one of my umbrellas, and that makes me feel great.
What are the fundamentals that you feels make one a better entrepreneur?
Always being open to new opportunities, being quick to react to changing circumstances, or opportunities, and above all, to always be open to learn new things. I am still a young pup compared to Peter Jones, and Duncan Bannatyne for instance, and this inspires me. Peter went bankrupt in his early thirties and was forced to start again, which shows resilience. Duncan only found his feet in is thirties after receiving a discharge form the Navy, when he saw an opportunity to start an Ice-cream business. They epitomise turning a bad situation into a positive one, and I like to think that I am doing the same in my own way.