How three brothers secured the largest investment over the last two series of Dragon’s Den (since 2015)
It’s been a challenge and bearded lips have been sealed since May 2017 but, drumroll please, the time has come to share the excitement and reveal all about the day the Mo Bro’s took on the dragons. It’s a day that marks a turning point in Mo Bro’s history…and it’s also a day that very nearly didn’t happen…
From sofa to spotlight
Back in January 2016, the phones were ringing at Mo Bro’s HQ as usual, but one call was different than any they’d answered before. It was from the Dragon’s Den research team in Manchester asking the Mo Bro’s to consider pitching to the entrepreneurial giants we all know so well from our sofas.
The Mo Bro’s declined. They felt they weren’t ready for that level of exposure.
But that call had dangled a carrot and in September that year Kunal printed off the application form for the show He read it over and over but admits he was too scared to fill it in and send it off. However, fate stepped in and the research team called again in January 2017. In fact, they called several times. Both the London and Manchester teams had spotted the Mo Bro’s potential and both teams loved the Mo Bro’s story – the collaboration of three brothers. Between them, they were battling it out to be the ones to secure them for the show. But the Manchester team were first, so in true loyal Mo Bro’s style - that’s who they decided to go with. So, what changed their minds?
Despite this unanimous decision, the brothers nearly backed out in April following the announcements that some dragons had dropped out.
The Mo Bro’s knew who they wanted.
They waited eagerly for the dragons to be confirmed and when they heard the name Tej Lalvani they knew they needed to go for it. They connected to Tej’s story: – Indian heritage, family man, successful father, products in high street stores like Boots and Asda. Tej started on the production line and worked his way up to CEO. Although his father owned the company, he had to prove himself and wasn’t handed anything on a plate.
Keval: We’re British but have the benefit of an Indian mindset – we always say we’re like Hovis because we have the best of both. Our strict upbringing has kept us grounded.
Savan: Our tough upbringing has made us hungry for success.
Kunal: I’ve always had a positive mindset - it’s important to stay grounded and aware of your roots but to aim high too.
The brothers knew their business model was successful in the UK but the dragons could help them establish themselves across the globe.
Preparing to pitch
Now they’d committed to the show they needed to prepare their pitch. Kunal wrote the proposal and the brothers locked themselves in the boardroom for three days – working until midnight each night and practised over seventy times.
So how did they decide who would take the lead? “We split it three ways, just like we do with everything” explains Kev “We believe in an equal share of everything and follow the hierarchy of brotherhood – the eldest should go first”
Their first priority was making the pitch right:
- Keval was in charge of the intro, brand, products and formulations.
- Savan was responsible for the marketplace, research and trademarks and
- Kunal was numbers and financials
Dressed to impress
“We’re always last minute with everything” reveals Kunal “anyone who knows us will tell you that. So, the day before the pitch we locked ourselves in the boardroom to practice. We decided to wear the same outfits to show unity, so we went to Next in Leicester. Sav and I sorted our outfits but Kev had to order his from Sheffield – this wasn’t a problem, it would just be a slight detour en-route to Manchester – we thought. However, when we got to Sheffield, there’d been a mix-up and we had to wait two hours for his order…so we were two hours late checking into the hotel and had less time to practice our pitch.”
On arrival in Manchester
When the Mo Bro’s arrived in Manchester Kunal and Savan went straight to the bar in need of a drink. Keval was more concerned about getting enough rest and went to his room to practice. Savan spent most of the night practising his pitch and only managed to get 3 hours of sleep in! Kunal spent the majority of his evening pitching to the hotel receptionists!
D-day had finally arrived
On the day of the den the hotel did their wake-up calls but Sav had beat them to it and had already knocked on his brothers’ doors. Upon Kunal opening his door, Savan presented his un-ironed shirt to him (Kunal ironed it, as his big brother – just as Kev has always done for him).
They all sorted each other’s outfits then went to breakfast together before being picked up by the BBC van 5.30am!
On arrival at the studios, the brothers met other contestants in a ‘green room’ and felt more at ease. They went into make-up and made sure their beards were well-groomed and looked the part for the showdown.
They had a pre-interview in a room called the anti-chamber where they were asked questions like “Who would be your ideal investor?” and “Why will people buy your products”. Next, they were escorted to back to the green room. Kunal recalls “We knew we could be asked to pitch any time from 9am to 7pm so were on edge as you’re not told when you’ll be on …we were called to go in the den at 3pm.”
The brothers weren’t left alone. They were followed to the toilets, on cigarette breaks - all to ensure they didn’t bump into the dragons and that their first impressions of each other were conceived only in the den environment.
“It’s a strategic move by the production team but it’s tough when you’re waiting” explains Kunal. To stay calm Kunal and Keval kept talking practising their pitch, Savan on the other hand, was fed up with his brothers talking too much so decided to go to close his eyes! But he was woken after just half an hour and they were called to go on. The lack of sleep from the night before had finally caught up with him!
When the three brothers are together, everything turns into a joke or runs the risk of them digressing so they agreed a ‘brocode’ to help them focus. This consisted of a look, the elbow, knee knock or foot tap (depending on circumstances). This would be their secret code of communication to take over the conversation or to hint at another to stop talking. And their time had come…
As soon as you enter the den you’re automatically under the spotlight. But the Mo Bro’s were determined not to let anything distract them from successfully getting the investment.
Keval: When we entered, the dragons were all sat before us. Peter had his head down with a poker face looking at the floor. Tej smiled at Kunal, Deborah looked very stern! We introduced ourselves as Keval, Kunal and Savan aka Unruly, Patchy and Scratchy and the atmosphere instantly changed.
Kunal: 1.5 hours seemed like five minutes. It flew by as quick as a flash!
Savan: Kun got excited and started reeling off figures before they asked us for them.
After studying the programme format, the brothers knew that figures were the key thing scrutinized by the dragons so they wanted to get it right. However, due to the pressure, Kunal forgot the figures, but because he’d rehearsed so much out loud, Keval knew the figures and could fill in the gaps.
There’s an awkward silence as the dragon’s make their offers – strategically they psyche each other out to see who’ll break first. But on this occasion, it was Kev! He asked confidently “So Deborah, what do you think” and she shot him down with “No, that’s not how this works!” And that wasn’t the only etiquette breach, Touker asked a question but because he’d said he was ‘out’ the Mo Bro’s didn’t answer!
But the brothers were doing something right – and the dragons started making offers.
The dragons made several offers! The brothers went to the back of the den three times to consider their options.
But the Mo Bro’s wanted Peter and Tej so focused on their offers…so much so, they forgot to decline Jenny and Deborah!
After much deliberation, the Mo Bro’s shook hands on a collaboration with Tej and Peter – the two dragons’ first time working together. Each dragon received a 10% share for £150k investment.
Kunal: Without a doubt, Dragon’s Den was one of the best days of our lives to date. We pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zone and achieved a great result. But more importantly we shook hands on a dragon growing a beard for the first time in his life…can you guess who?
Since the show…Mo Bro’s:
- Products are in high street stores including Next
- Have had one of their videos go viral reaching over 30 million people!
- Have enjoyed product placement in the new Paddington film
- Are the first company in the world to employ men for stress therapy – creating beard-stroking stations in their retail centre pop-up shops
- Will open Start-ups.co.uk in January in 2018 in the hope of inspiring other entrepreneurs.
Top 5 tips for anyone considering pitching against the five dragons:
- Practice, practice, practice
- Research the dragons and investors
- Negotiate well
- Be yourself
- Plan your outfits well in advance!!