Chika Russell is the founder of Chika’s Foods, a business she presented on Dragons’ Den in 2015. She received five investment offers and initially accepted the offer from Peter Jones, but ultimately decided to keep running the business with her own team. She has since raised $9.8m (£7.36m). Chika is one of the judges for our Take Flight business competition.
How did you feel when presenting your business on Dragons’ Den?
I was more excited than nervous. I think that you only need to feel nervous if you’re unsure about what you’re doing. And for me, because I’d already been running the business for more than a year and had my vision, what I was trying to achieve was crystal clear in my mind.
I didn’t feel like I was delivering a pitch. I felt like I was telling them a factual story. It’s also part of my job to present the brand and the product to retailers. So I’d had lots of practice. It was really enjoyable and I would highly recommend it.
What do you think made your pitch so compelling?
My passion. I brought the brand to life in a very still, dark studio.
The other things that I think made all five Dragons want to invest was my background in finance, my training and that I was already executing the opportunity I was presenting to them.
What top three pieces of advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise funds?
Know your market and your offering inside and out. That includes your margins, your opportunity, your route to market and your vision. You have to have it all nailed and very clear in your mind.
Then, when you have that all clear, do not let any other person tell you that you cannot. However, in the same breath, always be open to soak up information and never be shy about asking for help.
And finally, and this is key: GOWI - Get On With It. Don’t do tomorrow what you can do today.
How do you push forward with projects that seem intimidating?
If you’re ever worried about something seeming insurmountable or too difficult to accomplish, break it down. And if it still seems too daunting, break it down again.
Keep breaking it down until you have a tiny mole hill you can step over. And then one day, when you’ve stepped over all those mole hills, you’ll look behind you and think, how did I do all of that? When I was starting my journey seven years ago, I never thought I would be running a £40 million revenue company one day. Now I am sure of it.
Which resources would you recommend to entrepreneurs looking to fundraise?
There are so many books out there but I’m going to recommend one that people don’t hear of that often. It’s called Into the Magic Shop. It’s about having clarity and believing in yourself.
There are lots of things that every successful person needs to have in business - confidence is one of them, clarity of thought, self-belief. And whilst there are lots of business books that tell you about understanding your purpose, calculating margins, making sales, fundamentally what each person needs in order to be successful is confidence.
What are your thoughts on crowdfunding and do you have any tips?
I would look at crowdfunding platforms as a marketing opportunity, as opposed to a way to raise meaningful money. You can do a small amount of fundraising on a platform (there are fees involved) and use it to boost brand awareness, which is essentially what happened on Dragon’s Den.