Deborah Meaden tips to deliver the perfect business pitch

From cucumber condoms to personal phone boxes, multi-millionaire entrepreneur Deborah Meaden has sat through some unique and downright weird business pitches in her time at Dragons’ Den.

Now in its 15th series, there is an expansive catalogue of past shows for start-up hopefuls to trawl through in a bid to learn from the mistakes made by those who went before them.

But some people just don’t learn, according to Meaden.

Deborah Meaden (centre) and fellow multi-millionaire entrepreneurs Touker Suleyman, Jenny Campbell, Tej Lalvani and Peter Jones invest in budding businesses on Dragons’ Den

One of the worst business pitches she endured came in the latest series of the show.

It was delivered by inventor Michael Gormley who sought to secure a £200,000 investment in exchange for a 5 per cent equity stake in his invention – a device that keeps the fizz in champagne bottles.

After a solid initial pitch, the mood in the Den quickly soured when Gormley estimated the value of the business at £4million without having sold a single unit of the product and admitted he was still in the process of securing a patent.

For Meaden, the death knell for Gormley’s hopes well and truly sounded when he revealed that 90 per cent of the business was owned by another investor who was not present at the pitch.

She said: ‘He was not in the position to negotiate the terms because he did not own the company. It was a complete waste of our time. 

‘He also got a bit chippy when we questioned him, which is a big no-no when you are asking someone to invest significant amounts of money into your business.’

With the experience fresh in her mind, Meaden outlined three basic tips on what to do and what not to do when pitch to investors. 

The pitching don’ts  

Deborah Meaden offers some tips on delivering a business pitch

Deborah Meaden offers some tips on delivering a business pitch

Some people are guilty of over-rehearsing their pitch. Yes, it is good to listen to a pitch that is eloquently delivered, but what is the point if you are blown off course because you can’t answer the questions put to you?

I want to hear honest pitches. I don’t really care if there is the occasional stutter – so long as the person pitching is able to demonstrate that they know their business and the market in which it sits inside out and can answer the questions I throw at them.

Many business owners are also guilty of being overenthusiastic with their forecasts. I have heard countless pitches where the person who owns the business under-speculates on cost and is overoptimistic on the profits they will generate. When I see crazy profit targets, it makes me think that the person hasn’t got a clue and they instantly lose credibility.

The pitching dos

You don’t have very long to capture the investor’s attention so you should structure your pitch by what, who and how

Think what is the business and what is your plan for it? 

Why are you the right person to take the product or service to market and how are you going to capture the market? 

This will enable you to deliver a concise pitch that hits most of the points an investor will be looking to raise.

When to give up on the dream 

Meaden also wades in on when entrepreneurs should call time on their ventures. 

There is a time in every business’s life where it’s like a baby. You have to give it everything it needs for it to survive but there should be a moment where it goes off on its own. 

If you are caring for a business 30 years on from its inception, you are probably not doing the right thing.

There are times where you think you run a business but, in fact, the business runs you. Remember the business’s job is to look after you.

I love business because it is a fun thing to get involved in. If you no longer enjoy being in business then stop. 


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