Why Dragons’ Den’s Duncan Bannatyne was totally wrong

Last month, our attempt to win over the Dragons with our online health and beauty price comparison site was aired on BBC Two. For those who saw it, you’ll know that we faced a bit of a grilling! 

We did our research, spent hours preparing, practised our presentation in front of peers, friends and family and did everything we could to ensure our pitch went smoothly. 

Our business ticked all the boxes too (we thought!). We were successfully trading, were making a profit, had steady and growing traffic and hundreds of clinics signed up to work with us. It seemed like we had it in the bag! 

But despite all of this, the Dragons still weren’t really able to understand the market we were in or see the potential we had to capitalise on what is currently a £5bn industry. 

Hindsight is 20-20, but I think our major stumbling block was that they didn’t really have a clear understanding of the buying motivations of normal, everyday people seeking out health and beauty treatments. 

In particular, Duncan Bannatyne was quite scathing about our references to people choosing health and beauty treatments based on recommendation and price. Duncan Bannatyne believed that price simply wasn’t an issue when it comes to cosmetic treatments, laser eye surgery and so on. 

Unfortunately, in the current marketplace, with increasing pressure on people to juggle the expenses of modern living, most people don’t have the benefit of an endless pot of money to draw on and so price does become a key factor in their decision making. 

But the reality is that people DO choose treatments based on price. Sorry Duncan, you got this bit totally wrong. And ironically, I reckon that had Lord Sugar been sat in the chair, he would have understood the concept far better than any of the Dragons did! In The Apprentice last year, when discussing Dr Leah Totton’s cosmetic business concept, Lord Sugar said “young girls and men that want [treatments] done will go first by recommendation and then by price”.

That is exactly the concept that is driving the success of Treatment Saver and I just think he would have instantly understood what the business was about and why it would be a worthwhile investment.

While the show was only aired a few weeks ago, the filming actually took place last May, so we’ve had some time to reflect on our experiences in the Den. Since then, we’ve been ploughing our time and energy into growing and expanding the business. The site has doubled its traffic to 50,000 visitors per month, has more clinics and more offers listed and has saved its customers in excess of a million pounds by booking their appointments online. 

We’ve continued to grow via natural, steady and sustainable organic traffic, rather than through the aggressive, high volume PPC campaigns which Peter Jones insisted were necessary. 

We also understood Deborah Meaden’s view, that in order to do the investment justice she’d need to invest at lot more than £100,000. Wouldn’t that have been nice! But even without a large cash injection, we’ve still continued to grow the business, albeit at our own pace. 

We invested our own money into starting up the business and have continued to expand and develop, reinvesting the money created by the business as we go along. It’s a slower but steadier approach than we’d have taken if we had a Dragon on board, but we’ve already come leaps and bounds since the show and will definitely still get there in the end.

Naturally we were disappointed not to have the opportunity to work with one of the Dragons but we firmly believe that our business has potential. So, it’s definitely a case of “watch this space!”. That said, if Lord Sugar is listening, we’d love to chat!

Ganesh Rao is co-founder of online health and beauty comparison site TreatmentSaver.com.

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