For those that don’t know Zombie Boot Camp was featured on Dragons Den on Sunday the 27th December 2015. We were originally asked as far back as February 2015 to consider being filmed. After much wrangling with the production company we agreed to go ahead. I was asked to attend an audition in Manchester at the BBC studios, this was a fairly painless process and all I had to do was look pretty and talk into a camera. They were interested in the origins of the ideas for Zombie Boot Camp we discussed conception, growth and the future. Shortly after this process I was sent my call up papers to attend the actual filming back in Manchester in mid-June.
Even on my arrival at the studio prior to filming I didn’t really have a pitch, what did I want? Honestly I couldn’t let an opportunity like this ride by. I certainly did not want to give away any equity in my existing business it’s profitable and has good sales. Zombie Boot Camp belongs to me warts and all so I sat down to come up with a pitch.
I decided to ask for £100,000 for equity in a plan B. Plan B is to develop a more werewolf centric themed event loosely following the story line of the cult British film Dog Soldiers. Our current Wolfmen event has seen great sales this year especially when sold as an overnight package.
I sat down to practice my pitch, beads of sweat running down my neck and the feeling of crushing anticipation. Would I fluff my lines could I bluff the dragons?
I was surprised during the production phase of how receptive to ideas the BBC was about our opening theatrics. Initially they suggested we came out of the lifts firing machine guns and wearing balaclavas. We would then after scaring the dragons to death swipe the cash and leg it. I am glad we didn’t as the show would probably not have been aired due to the recent terrorist atrocities in Paris. We stuck to the riot cop and zombie pitch which everyone had the chance to watch and enjoy. I do believe we were granted 18 minutes of air time. The zombie was asked to be a violent as possible and the BBC asked if the zombie could grab hold of Deborah Meadens leg and drag her towards him. He nearly did it and Deborah’s composure almost cracked.
I was very nervous about entering the den even after the carnage the lads caused with the dragons the blood trail the zombie left behind when dragged of the set caused the production team a headache as they had to replace a number of floor boards. Peter Jones congratulated us on being the 1st company to have drawn blood in the den. I had to wait about 15 minutes in the den before I could pitch to the dragons. It felt like a lifetime the pitch initially went well until Deborah cut me off in mid-sentence. This threw me totally off balance and I initially struggled to gain composure the gloves were off and I was in for a scrap.
They didn’t like the pitch and wanted equity in the existing company; Nick Jenkins and Touker Suleyman suggested that I should have asked for investment in zombie boot camp. I actually questioned my own integrity at this stage then reminded myself that I didn’t. I wanted investment in the other project “the dog soldiers project” not zombie boot camp. I tried without success to pointout that Plan B would be equally profitable. After a sharp retort again from Deborah I almost blurted out the words “you asked me to come on the show”.
About half way through the torture of the ordeal; Peter asked me how my ex Colonel would feel if he/she saw me standing on national TV, with my hands in my pockets. I replied if I hadn’t been cut short during my pitch then you would have realised that I am still a serving member of the armed forces. At this point the mood in the den changed in an instant in my favour. The questions now were less frosty and more supportive. The experience became surreal as I am offered some great advice and positive endorsement of my business. A lot of the easy going chit chat is not featured on the show but I can tell you on the record that they are a bunch of caring and thoroughly decent people. I knew they weren’t going to invest but they had the decency to tell me why. Sarah Willington said she loved the whole idea of immersive horror but just doesn’t get it. However she said her husband would and loved zombies. So we are waiting for a booking from Sarah this year. Peter surprised everyone at the end and offered the full £80,000 asked for but for 30% equity in zombie boot camp which I kindly turned him down however I think he was been a gentleman knowing that I wouldn’t relinquish any equity in a brilliant product.
Would I recommend the dragons den experience to another budding business person yes I would. We received 500,000 hits after the show unfortunately crashing the site at 200,000 hits but that means people are interested in what we do. I have chosen not to use the phrase entrepreneur; entrepreneur conjures up the idea of some smart arse who knows it all. I am a guy who had an idea £10,000 and the determination to take it to a profitable business. I could be a shopkeeper, plumber or a hairdresser.
What’s the next big thing an app for an entrepreneur? A good business doesn’t need to be out there or no one else has thought of it before; a good business just needs to be viable and based on common sense. If you go on dragons den and tell the world that you have re-mortgaged your house and spent 5 years marketing skate boarding for hamsters then you are an idiot not a business person. A good business person will drop a plan if it’s not profitable and move on. A hobbyist will keep at it until they are worn out or broke. Well zombie boot camp, wolfmen and the asylum are here to stay and will only get better there is a bright future for well-run immersive horror experiences.
So for anyone out there who wants to survive this exciting industry here are a few tips:
- Pay your tax
- Be industrious
- Pay your staff
- Be honest with your customers they will catch you out someone once said all publicity is good is bullshit bad reviews on trip advisor are disastrous
- Don’t start a business in a derelict building that is scheduled to be knocked down
- Spend your money wisely
- Love your customers