Channel 4’s Buy it now TV show, Episode 19, May 2018
That’s what’s going through my brain. I’m talking to the crew of Channel 4’s Buy it Now programme. The floor is so beautifully shiny that it reflects the lights. It is also an ice rink! … and I’m in leather soles shoes and my pitch involves running round the stage!! I really am going to fall flat on my face on National TV.
It’s moments like these you wonder how you got here. It started with an out of the blue call from Studio Lambert Production company saying they’d seen the Motionlab bag and asking if I’d like to appear on a brand new TV show called “Buy It Now” where you get the chance to pitch your product to retail buyers.
Well, to be honest selling via retailers wasn’t on my business plan but Business Plans are just a series of untested assumptions, right ?! So why not? And so it began. A few phone calls later with an explanation of what I’d need to do, and a video interview with a demo of my 90 second pitch. And suddenly I’m lined up for a TV appearance.
“Buy It Now” is a new show that gives startups the opportunity to pitch their product to a random audience. The format is that you do a 90 second pitch, the audience have lights to show their interest or not, and then they can ask questions about you and your product. You then do your big reveal of the retail price for your product and if at least one person in the audience wants to buy your product at that price then you have the opportunity to chat to three Retail buyers who are waiting in the wings. Those retail buyers can then discuss placing any orders they wish for your product.
Filmed in a studio on Southbank the entire process involves a lot of waiting around. We had some production delays so I was up all night putting together the latest set of prototypes ready for this TV appearance and ensuring I had jumped through all the hoops they set. There are a lot of rule not only to ensure that the images are right for TV but also that Channel 4 doesn’t breach its agreements with paying advertisers. No checked clothes, nothing white, nothing black, no labels of any kind, no promotional materials … the list went on and on.
So there’s nine of us, sat in a room, waiting to be called up for our turn. No phones allowed. We just chat amongst ourselves about our respective products, how we got there, which of us recognise the host Brian Conley. The great thing about events like this is you get to meet some really fascinating people. Fellow inventors and entrepreneurs always have great stories and its fun to hear from people who have avoided the humdrum 9-5.
The Studio Lambert production assistants buzz in and out, handling various different jobs, making sure we’re all ok, helping us run through our pitch if we want, getting us something to eat, and answering to the schedule of the Production team. They’re very sweet but the nerves are building and we don’t know the schedule, so we just wait our turn. We each set up our stand in a backstage room and explain how we want it to appear on stage. None of us have seen the stage so its a bit of guesswork. We were supposed to get a chance to do an on-stage run-through but as it turns out the day’s schedule doesn’t allow it.
One by one each of us gets called through to makeup, some backstage interviews and then through to the stage. Once it happens no one is allowed to discuss the outcome so everyone is bustled away. It becomes like waving someone off to the guillotine. “Good luck” “Thanks” and off they go, never to be heard from again.
By 7pm I’m one of the last left. By this stage I’ve been up for 36 hours straight, having spent all the previous night getting the latest prototypes ready for show. I’m tired. I should have eaten but I’m too nervous. I go through for makeup. Then interviews, then some takes, then suddenly they’re walking me downstairs and suddenly I realise I’m about to step through onto the stage. Whoa, its suddenly happening. I can hear the audience being kept entertained on the other side of the screen while we do final prep, attaching microphones. And this is when I realise I can barely stand on the stage. Too late now. Everyone clears the stage and I feel a wave of nausea as the screen starts to revolve, revealing the audience in front of me. There’s the clock, sitting on 90 seconds. I look to the host. We’re all waiting, I look back at the clock and It’s already started counting down. I should have started already, my mind goes blank.
I just try to remember the first few words, and then the pitch comes back to me. All that practicing, I switch into autopilot and off we go.
In the end the pitch is a bit rushed towards the end, but I get through it saying delivering the message I wanted to get across and I didn’t fall flat on my face. The audience are clearly just not the right demographic for the MotionLab Active Commuter bag, and I’m not surprised that interest is limited. Just the luck of the draw.
Still, its a great opportunity. Hopefully the TV audience will generate some more interest, but I know without a lot of audience engagement the editors will cut my bit short. The Studio Lambert team and Channel 4 were lovely people to work with and for a startup like mine any publicity is good publicity.
It proved not to be the breakthrough I was hoping for but maybe next time we’ll have a more relevant audience for the MotionLab bag. You have to take all the opportunities you’re given. For now its on to the next event, continue to demonstrate the product and get ready for our Kickstarter launch. Retail sales will wait. Right now it’s back to the original plan of direct sales using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to launch in Summer 2018.
Watch this space …