'I overcame my severe anxiety on Dragons' Den and walked away with four offers'

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Dragons’ Den contestant Caroline Sims has shared her experience on the BBC business programme, which saw her walk away with four offers and two investors, despite nearly giving into her nerves and missing out on the opportunity.

Caroline, founder of plant-based skincare and health supplement brand Botanycl, overcame her severe anxiety and fear of public speaking, winning the hearts of viewers across the nation and the offers of Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies, Steven Bartlett and Peter Jones.

Ultimately, she chose to go with Steven and Peter, gaining a £60,000 investment in return for a total 25% equity share in Botancyl.

Her emotive pitch saw Caroline open up about suffering from skin problems as a teenager and into adulthood, which caused a lack of confidence and self-esteem issues, before she launched the Botanycl SkinClear Elixir in 2018 to help other people going through the same thing as her.

Caroline had originally been offered the chance to pitch to the Dragons in 2019, but backed out due to her anxiety, but, at the second chance, she knew she couldn’t let it get the better of her, despite almost not going ahead with her pitch.

‘I was really, really nervous, I was given three days to prepare the pitch,’ Caroline began, telling Metro.co.uk that she declined rehearsing her pitch to producers before entering the Den so she could use that time to ‘compose’ herself.

‘I almost drove back to London, I was so, so petrified. I do have long term anxiety, and I do take medication for it, I’ve been taking medication for it for about four years.

‘Which to be honest, if I wasn’t taking the meds for it, I don’t think I would have actually gone into the Den, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s been a lifesaver for me.’

But the reminder of how big the opportunity was for her business made her keep going, even though she was convinced she wouldn’t get an offer.

‘I didn’t think that I would get a single offer. I guess my self esteem is quite low. I obviously have so much confidence in the product itself, but in terms of confidence in myself, I’m not that confident.

‘So I didn’t practice that much negotiating because I didn’t think I would get to that stage. I just rehearsed the pitch like that was the main thing that I focused on, the financials and the pitch.’

Walking into the lift before facing the Dragons, Caroline admitted a feeling like never before.

‘Even just thinking abou tit now makes my breathing start increasing,’ she said. ‘It just felt like I was going to have a panic attack any second. I was so nervous the whole day and panicking.’

‘I started pacing around the room, I couldn’t sit down, I was just pacing,’ she continued.

‘At that I point, I went into this zone of this is happening, there’s nothing you can do about it, you just have to control your head. I went into self control mode, where I was just like, you have to get a grip and get control of yourself.

‘That was the mindset, I’ve never felt those emotions before, it was crazy.’

Overcoming her anxiety not only left her full of ‘adrenaline’ with the response from the Dragons, but also inspired viewers.

Speaking about the reaction she’s received, Caroline told us: ‘I’m actually really touched because, the producers said to me, “maybe you should deactivate your personal account, because people can get you know, nasty comments on the show”.

‘[But] I didn’t deactivate them and I just thought let’s just see how it goes. And I’ve been like completely overwhelmed. Everyone’s been so nice. They sent me really nice messages to say, you know, “Your story is inspiring, I have anxiety too and you’re able to overcome it,” just reading comments like that has been incredible.’

In the Den, Caroline was offered a stool to sit on to help her in case she needed it, but things actually turned around when Peter warned her to take a seat before making his offer.

‘I didn’t really think I needed a stool because I’ve never collapsed from anxiety or anything like that, so I basically said, “No don’t worry about it”, and then when I walked in the stool was there, so I was like, fine, but actually obviously in hindsight, it’s really good that the stool was there, because it formed a main part of the show which was Peter’s offer.’

Caroline added: ‘I didn’t think that he was going to make me an offer, I went in there thinking that I wasn’t going to get any offers.

‘When he asked me to sit down on the stool, I think for some reason, it just didn’t click for me.’

‘I was blown away,’ Caroline added, highlighting the support of the Dragons and the crew, which helped her ‘overcome’ her nerves.

At one point before her pitch, a producer took Caroline outside and reassured her that if she wanted to leave and go home, she could have done.

‘He was reassuring me but also saying you don’t need to do this, but I thought, you know, I’ve come all this way.’

Dragons’ Den is airs Thursdays at 8pm on BBC One and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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