'I secured one of Dragons' Den's biggest investments thanks, in part, to Meghan Markle'

Dragons' Den stars get £250,000 investment into lab-grown diamond brand loved by Meghan Markle

Steven Bartlett poses with Sidney Neuhau and Jessica Warch, who co-founded the lab-grown diamond jewellery brand loved by Meghan Markle.
Steven Bartlett poses with Sidney Neuhau and Jessica Warch, who co-founded the lab-grown diamond jewellery brand loved by Meghan Markle.
  • Jessica Warch is one of the founders of lab-grown diamond jewellery brand Kimai and has landed a huge investment from Steven Bartlett on Dragons' Den. It is already a brand loved by the stars - including Meghan Markle, Emma Watson and Jessica Alba - and the business steals the show on Thursday.

  • Appearing on the BBC show alongside her childhood best friend and business partner Sidney Neuhaus, they secure the largest amount of money that Bartlett has invested in the den - £250,000. Yahoo spoke to Warch about their secrets to finding success on Dragons' Den and what it was really like taking part in the process.

Meghan Markle helped launch us because she wore our beautiful earrings two months after we started our business in 2019. Her favourite Felicity earring sparkles with 26 brilliant-cut diamonds. It brought a lot of visibility to the brand and it was a great introduction for us into the jewellery space. So it was incredible!

Because it's a luxury product, it's about being on the right people and building that visibility. It's not always easy though, but we are so lucky that Emma Watson and Jessica Alba are among the stars who love our brand too.

My co-founder Sidney is my childhood best friend and we are good business partners. A lot of people think it's challenging to go into business with your best friend. But what makes it work is really the fact that we're very complementary, meaning that we don't have the same skills at all.

We have the same passions, one of them being jewellery, and we moved to London to study here together when we were younger - even living together as flatmates.

Five years into our business journey together, we took on Dragons' Den and it was a completely different experience. As a luxury brand, we are different to most businesses that go onto Dragons' Den. And of course, our business has been around a bit longer.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 10: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visits Smart Works on January 10, 2019 in London, England. Kensington Palace announced today that The Duchess of Sussex has become Royal Patron of four organisations including Smart Works, The National Theatre, The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and Mayhew. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Meghan Markle visits Smart Works in January 2019 wearing the Felicity earrings. (Getty)

For us, it was not about the money. It was about learning from the dragons. We watched to pitch on Dragons' Den to get access to their expertise and their network. We knew it was a great opportunity to be on the BBC, to be on TV to educate customers on lab-grown diamonds. A mix of both things made us decide to go on there.

We were scared at first

We were scared at first but it went well. Often when you're watching it on TV, all of the dragons - Steven Bartlett, Deborah Meaden, Sara Davies, Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman - look very tough.

And of course, they're asking you questions. But in reality they're very nice people.

We were the tough ones when it came to our negotiations. In our mind, we didn't want to go below that figure. It's different for us because we've gone through the fundraising before a long time ago. So we were used to it in a way.

Over the years, we have learned to be really confident in our price and in our value. That was our winning mindset when we went on Dragons' Den. I think when you are starting out, it's different. But because we have that experience behind us, we could see no other way of us negotiating.

That doesn't mean we don't get nervous like everyone else though. Although we know the business inside out and we've been doing it for five years, it's totally different to pitch in front of people when usually it's a conversation.

The best friends appeared on Dragons' Den where they received three offers (BBC screengrab)
The best friends appeared on Dragons' Den where they received three offers. (BBC screengrab)

It was something we had to train on and pitching with my co-founder we had to work out who says what at what time. And of course you are on TV, so it's a completely different experience. I was a little bit stressed, maybe you will have noticed while you were watching.

The main thing was how do we prepare for it? How do we pitch? The pitching was the most stressful thing for us. It took about two to three weeks to practice. The pitch wasn't any longer than five minutes but the whole filming itself was much longer.

We weren't too stressed about the questions from the dragons though. It was something we enjoyed, it was more of a discussion, and the dragons were really nice.

What really caught their attention was the lab-grown diamond and its sustainability aspect. And then design itself. Often the sustainability comes at a trade off in terms of design quality but we have found the balance of both. The lab-grown diamond aspect is definitely something that is still new to see on the market in general in the UK. There aren't many brands doing it.

Kimai jewellery shop in London (Adam Kang/KIMAI)
It is a brand already loved by the stars including Meghan Markle, Jessica Alba and Emma Watson. (Adam Kang/KIMAI)

It is no secret too that we are a proven business. We've proven there is a demand for it and that people - including celebrities - love the product.

We were very surprised to get any offers because our business is more advanced, the amounts and valuations are higher than businesses that usually go on Dragons' Den. We were scared about this but we were very happy when we got three offers in the den.

Secretly we went into the den hoping we would get Steven - and we did! His expertise in marketing, building communities and knowledge of the digital space is definitely something we were looking for. It was what we were hoping for.

We are super proud to have accepted to work with him on our business. Working with Steven, honestly it's been great. We are excited for the future and can't wait to see the response from our Dragons' Den appearance.

Edited by Lily Waddell

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