Mak Tok founder on Dragons’ Den appearance

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mak Tok’s William Chew faced the Dragons (pictured) to secure an investment and their invaluable knowledge. Image © BBC
Mak Tok’s William Chew faced the Dragons (pictured) to secure an investment and their invaluable knowledge. Image © BBC

Related tags: Ambient, Finance

Mak Tok founder William Chew talks to Food Manufacture about his appearance on last week’s episode of the hit BBC show Dragons’ Den, and what drove him to pitch for investment in his chilli paste company.

Chew appeared on the third episode of the 17th​ series of the show, walking away with a £50,000 investment in his company from Dragon Sara Davies for a 33% stake in the business.

For Chew, one of the deciding factors to appear on the show was the free publicity opportunity it presented. With millions of people watching the show each week, it’s little wonder that he jumped on the chance to spread the Mak Tok name to households across the UK.

However, securing an investment and – more importantly – guidance from a captain of industry was a key driver for signing up for the programme.

“We’re at the stage now that I don’t know how else to grow the business without somebody else coming onboard and leading us, so to speak,”​ said Chew. “That’s why we thought, ‘let’s try Dragons’ Den and, if we manage to secure an investment, that’s great because we’ll have somebody who’s been there and done that already helping us in our journey’.”

Catch the attention of investors

Even if he hadn’t secured an investment, Chew had hoped the exposure through the show would catch the attention of other potential investors out in the world, willing to lend a hand.

While Chew initially had his eyes on Peter Davies as a potential investor – due to his previous experience with similar products to Mak Tok – he was more than happy to accept the offer proposed by the show’s latest Dragon, Sara Davies.

“When I heard about her story – about how we are quite similar in the sense that we started our business when we were in university – it just felt that she might be the right dragon for me,”​ Chew explained. “In the den itself, it clearly showed that she truly understood what I was saying and she felt for me and my story.”

Since his visit to the Den in April – when the episode of Dragon’s Den​ was originally filmed – Chew has been working with Davies’ team to further his business.

“What she taught us was ‘let’s put on hold the money first, because we will need that money when it comes to fulfilling larger orders [and] whatever we can do with her team right now, let’s do it’.

Working with Sara Davies

“We’ve been working together for the past two months now and her team is absolutely amazing. All this time I’ve been doing it all on my own without accountants or a marketing company and now I have real experts who are guiding me through this. It’s a dream come true, to be honest.”

So, is appearing on Dragons’ Den​ something that all small food and drink manufacturers should do if they get the chance? According to Chew, anyone should take the chance to go on the show if they can.

With that in mind, he warned potential applicants to think long and hard about how their pitches will be perceived not only by the Dragons, but also the viewers. “You never know how the TV is going to show you,”​ he explained. “You’ll either be a hero or a villain.”

Despite this, the wealth of insight that the assembled investors have to offer more than makes up for any misgivings Chew might have had.

“Publicity is great, but even better is you get to talk to people who are real experts in their fields. The way they think is so unique and I was like, ‘oh, I would have never have thought of that’.

“That opportunity to be able to speak with these kinds of people is the most important thing. It’s really inspiring when you’re in the Den – and scary at the same time.”

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