Earlier this year, we set about raising the funds we needed to create an enormous wildflower meadow in our Crowdfunder, and in the process I accidentally ended up attracting a notorious TV star (of Dragons Den fame) and pitching to one of the most famous investors in the UK.
At the end of the exhausting process, despite being offered the investment I had asked for, I declined the dragon, yet walked away with far more than I’d ever hoped to find. Read on to find out how the heck it all happened….
How it all began
It all started back in November 2021 when Seilich was shortlisted for an RSPB Nature of Scotland Award. A famous star of TV show Dragons Den fame was presenting the Award (I don’t want to name any names, however for those of you who watch the show i’m sure you can guess who I’m referring to!), who I’ll from here on refer to as Famous Face (or FF for short).
As a result of Covid restrictions, the RSPB Awards wouldn’t be taking place in person however, and we were disappointingly invited to a ‘digital’ awards night whereby Famous Face would talk to us through the screen.
What happened after the RSPB Awards
After the ceremony (and several glasses of wine I should add) I thought, had it been an in person event I’d have more than likely sidled up to FF and asked for her help in spreading the word about the Meadow Fundraiser, “and it seems very unfair that Covid should take this opportunity away from me” I tipsily thought… so that evening I pinged a quick email off to the RSPB asking if they might consider passing on a letter of introduction from myself.
The next day, the lovely people at the RSPB said yes of course they would pass a letter on to their events people, who may or may not pass it on to FF’s PA, who may or may not pass it on to FF herself. So here goes nothing I thought, and penned a carefully crafted letter, introducing myself, Seilich and my plans to raise funds for the meadow.
Awaiting the response
In the marketing world (which I am currently trying to get my head around), you’re told to always include a ‘call to action’, and so I included one; I clearly asked FF if she might consider posting something about the Meadow Fundraiser on her social media feed. Nothing more, nothing less.
And then I waited. A week went by, nothing, as expected. And then ping, into my inbox I got an email from FF’s PA with a one liner “FF has requested that you send on your proposal/deck”.
OMG!!!! She’s read my letter, this was soooo exciting!!! And she wants to see a proposal? For the meadow? Or does she want me to propose a social media post, but surely she has people for that? And what on earth is a deck anyway?
In the middle of my mental flap I had a moment of clarity and got in touch with the one person I know who I thought might be able to help; the wonderful Corinne Thomas of Ethical Pioneers who has helped me out on numerous occasions! Corinne very kindly explained that what FF was asking for was an investment proposal, she wanted to know my future plans for my business, and more importantly how much money I needed to see my plans come to fruition.
Figuring out the next plan for the Seilich business
Errr… what? Plans? What are those? But this was a seriously serious opportunity… I firmly pulled on my thinking cap. If someone were to give me some money, what would I do with it?
If I spent it on establishing the meadow that would be lovely, but as a proposition in itself that wouldn’t be of any value to an investor (there’s no financial gain, no incentive for them), I needed something more… So I crafted an elaborate plan involving detailed costings, projections and risk analyses.
It took me weeks of careful consideration, late nights in-front of a spreadsheet tinkering with numbers, and days pulling together pictograms that brought my ideas to life. Finally it all came together with an amazing realisation, if I can scale Seilich up then I can create more meadows! And more meadows means more ingredients, and more ingredients means more products, and more products means more profits and more profits means more meadows! It works!!!
Having dedicated what seemed like a lifetime to pulling together this investment deck (and with a lot of help from Corinne and my brother (who is a general genius)), I sent it back to FF’s PA. And then once again I waited…. hours… days… weeks… until eventually I had a reply. Famous Face would like a meeting. Cue me jumping around like a salmon and yippee-ing at the top of my lungs.
But then the full horror dawned on me.
I’d seen Dragons Den, and I knew it wasn’t pretty. If this meeting was going to go well I’d need to prepare, I’d probably need a pitch, to know my figures inside out and backwards and to be prepared for any question FF might throw my way. And so again I hunkered down and studied hard…
Meeting with the dragon
The day of the meeting arrived, once again Covid restrictions meant that we couldn’t meet in person but would be consigned to a virtual meeting instead, but regardless I was suited and booted, hair brushed and ready for action. What quickly became one of the most surreal experiences of my life (imagine sitting in your kitchen staring at the computer when a Famous Face suddenly appears on your screen!)
FF swayed between polite graciousness and go for the jugular interrogation; questions like “what’s your year 4 turnover” and “what percentage of products will be sold wholesale by 2025” were peppered between niceties such as “isn’t the weather pleasant for this time of the year”.
By the end of the meeting I was absolutely exhausted, yet elated with the conclusion being that she wanted to invest (yay!) and she was prepared to offer the full amount I needed for the percentage I was offering (double yay!).
Not the outcome expected
However the conversation that followed threw me completely off track. I thought it reasonable to ask what she would be bringing to the table, and this is where things got a bit strange as FF suggested that she would help us to sell meadow grown ingredients to other skincare companies… as in scalp the meadow of its natural assets to sell in bulk at wholesale prices to other businesses.
Errr… what? At this point it quickly became apparent that although FF liked the idea of the meadow, she really didn’t understand that its prime reason for being was for nature conservation.. that we take the minimal amount from it and otherwise leave it well alone.
It suddenly became very clear that FF really didn’t quite understand what I was trying to achieve at all, and that if we joined forces we’d be pulling the business in very different directions. So, with my head held high I politely declined the deal… saying something about her ideas not quite being in-line with my own.
It took me a while to recover from the stress of our meeting and for days I hunkered down… but then I went back to my plan, and built up my reserves.
My plan was good. My plan was solid. And my plan was worthy of investment!
Only this time I needed to find someone who really understood what I was trying to achieve, someone who really did care about nature conservation and the environment (not that FF doesn’t I should add, but I think its fair to say her primary interest is financial reward), and so I set about looking for another investor. And this time I found one. Someone who really does care as much as we do!
Learning more about myself and Seilich’s values
In the entirely accidental process of seeking an investor, I can honestly say I've learnt so much about myself and my values, which in turn have become Seilich’s values. There are exciting times ahead for the business, and I really look forward to sharing the journey with you!