This week has been particularly busy because of Dragon’s Den on Sunday night. Since my pitch on the show was aired, I started off with a lot of local press in Northern Ireland (we're based in Bangor), then radio in a few places and even on Spanish radio – they have a big British expat population so they were interested to hear about a baggage courier company over there.
I set up SendMyBag originally because my girlfriend at the time had to move her stuff in and out of her university college every term (it was a rule there). One time we got stung for an extra baggage charge with an airline. This is a growing trend - in the US they have gone from around $400m revenue in baggage charges to more like $3.3bn today. I realised there is a niche for people wanting to move baggage around with being slapped with fines, so my company started by using couriers at a knock down rate to move people’s bags for them.
There’s been a lot of chatting to the media this week so it has driven a lot of traffic to the website. We’re getting into the tens of thousands of emails from people wanting to find out more, but also it has been beneficial because it’s helped iron out some of the creases. I’ve spent a lot of time working with the web developers doing a lot of tweaking and getting the site up to scratch where people have found issues.
I knew that the Dragon’s Den experience would generate a lot of interest and traffic in the business – it’s no accident that I had the newly designed website launched just a few weeks before the programme aired. When I actually went to the Den, I knew I would get a bit of abuse for my pitch. The team there does a lot of due diligence before they let people through the door. They said to me on more than one occasion ‘are you happy with the offer you’ve made?’ They were suggesting that if I had gone for a lower valuation then I might have secured some investment.
But the numbers you heard on the programme, they’re the numbers I’m working with. I practised my pitch a lot, and I knew I would be grilled, but the important thing was that I got all the way through without fumbling or hesitation – it was important for anyone watching the programme to see that I have a good handle on the business.
I remember walking out at the end of it all thinking that it had been a lot of fun. The atmosphere in the room is actually worse than it appears on TV. There is a sense of trepidation when you first get in there: they are sat there with steely eyes looking exceptionally grumpy. They look at you like you’ve just kicked a dog or something. But I did warm to Duncan Bannatyne. You don’t see much of it in the actual episode, but he asked me a lot of direct questions about the business, drilling down into the numbers. They weren’t questions tailored for TV; instead they were a real business discussion. In the overall cut of the show, they only really show the argument about my valuation, but in real life there was a lot of in depth talk about the other numbers.
The best thing about my job is that I spend my whole time trying to come up with new ideas and push them forward: experimenting and evolving the business. I don’t think I’d be good at running a business where I have to do the same thing every day. At SendMyBag, we’re constantly looking at how we can specialise the service or get into new countries.
The toughest thing used to be the money concerns. I was much younger when I was running my other business, a musical instruments store. If I had to go and get £100,000 worth of stock and get a loan for it, it could be a bit scary at times. That is not as much of a concern anymore, so my wife would probably tell you that my biggest problem is not switching off from work enough. If you work too much, even if you think it’s not affecting you, it probably still is.
Being an entrepreneur is great. If you need to take an afternoon off or want to take a holiday, then you just can and you don’t have to ask anyone. But it’s the creativity too: it is important to me that as a young company, we’re not just cheaper than the competition, but we’re better, too.
Watch Adam Ewart's pitch on Dragon's Den here