Friday, October 13, 2006

Dragons’ Den Dying Duty.

BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den has been presented on U.K. television since 2004. I love it. There in the cavernous, sparsely furnished warehouse - the Den - budding entrepreneurs show off their weird, whacky and sometimes, downright bizarre creations and inventions to a panel of self-made millionaires - the so called Dragons. The rules are very simple: The contestants try to persuade the Dragons to invest their hard earned cash in their respective enterprises in return for a share of the equity of what, all of them naturally spout, will be the next best thing since sliced bread - once they have the Dragons support. Standing with their presentations, they do their pitch before the seated Dragons, (four formidable men and one woman) and they must receive the full amount asked as financial backing or else they walk (crawl) away empty handed.

Most fail. Many hopefuls collapse in fear, sweating profusely from the combination of high powered studio camera lights, but worse of all, the ice cold calculating eyes of the Dragons. Some of the people are complete whackos and are rightfully ridiculed to an early exit, whilst others fall on their own swords as their financial figures are savaged to death by the hardcore professionals. Some people receive backing even if their demonstrations failed. One man who had created an electrical heater to boil eggs without water could only explain that whilst he had cooked thousands at home successfully, that for some unknown scientific reason, in front of the Dragons they flatly refused to coagulate. The poor mans pitch trickled away at the same time his last luke warm raw egg slithered out its ruptured shell. He still got his backing though.

Another well intentioned gentleman presented a ‘Cricket stroke learning device’, but he was sadly hit for six when one of the observant Dragons, between bouts of hysterical laughter, correctly pointed out that it was just a ball on a spring. But unquestionably the program has provided a massive boost to the aspirations of people with fresh original ideas. The tenacious passion they use to try their damdnest to win not just the money, but also the Dragons expertise that comes with it, for they don’t want to lose money either, is for the television audience watching, fantastic entertainment. The lessons learnt in the reality of making money cannot be overlooked. There is no easy way to make big bucks.

The last aired program of the 2006 season looked back at the original series to find out eighteen months down the line what happened to a few of the hopefuls.
One in particular really caught my interest. Cardboard coffins! Not shaped shoeboxes for snuffed Woofys, Pussys, Hammy hamsters etc, but for real human beings…the dead kind.

Even an entrepreneurial novice such as myself, could see that the pitch was wrong. The short repeated extract shown had our hapless, frightened stiff directors of the fledgling firm emphasising an environmentally friendly, back to nature sort of burial. Since most of the Dragons environmental awareness was rather apparent in the shows opening scenes which shows each of them zipping around from one business deal to another in gas guzzling, air polluting forms of transport, such as Bentleys, Lear Jets and helicopters, the comment from one of them, “I wouldn’t been seen dead in one of those”, buried any hopes of resurrecting a dying business based on saving the planet. The Dragons, when it came their time to shuffle of their mortal coils, would be buried with almost certainty in designer clothing costing several thousand pounds and the idea of lying in state in a cardboard box costing less than 90 quid left them as cold as the bodies they were designed for. No more words were needed - the sarcophagus was well stuck in the oesophagus.

Whilst they thought this was a casket basket case, I thought the idea rather cool, so I decided to do some research, thinking I could make a quick killing by spotting a niche market that was very much alive and dying to kick it cheaply. Googling away morbidly, I soon unburied a grave full of material that our Dragons’ Den candidates had not uncovered. The passing over of basic research led to the early end and the demise of their dreams of eternal peace, but I had a plan to resurrect termination and fill my wallet with the proceeds from promoting fast food for worms.

A few clicks on the net and lo and behold, there are several manufactures making coffins from recycled paper and best of all, just like Ikea furniture, they come flat packed! Obviously these weren’t designed for any newly departed who was accidentally run over by a steam roller, but designed to be put together at home on the dining room table. No tools required, simply fold on the dotted lines and fold over the tabs and push them through pre-cut slits. The slightly more expensive ones supplied leak proof linings, (we don’t want Granny’s intestinal fluids leaking onto the carpet) and there is a choice of wood look finishes. The real cheepies came in plain white for painting any way you liked, but there was a warning that some crematoriums will not accept coffins that had been sprayed with flammable paint. It seemed there could be living hell in the furnace and the whole lot might explode shooting out flaming wads of meat on the bone!

I wondered why Do It Yourself stores haven’t clocked onto this great business opportunity and ordered in bulk. None of the big stores offered them on their websites. With D.I.Y. profits dying as fast as Ex- communist hand workers invade Britain, you would think this would be easy pickings. Clever variations could be displayed; such as different shapes and sizes for all ages and weights. A whole range of optional extras could be provided such as special eco-friendly fertilizers to mix in with the soil from the grave to help your recently departed dear one push up daisies faster. (Or any range of fast growing flower seeds.) Various coloured large bin liners as cheap alternatives for leaky family members. They could be sold in a roll at a discount for the large family hit with bird flu. Or perhaps a range of fruit tree cuttings. Imagine a few years down the line giving your children a Granny Smith apple that she grew herself. Grave stones with R.I.P. would now mean Rot In Pieces. The plain white coffins could be stacked next to a whole range of flame proof paint to get that personal touch.

The opportunities when cashing in your chips makes the mind boggle. Mail order catalogues could harvest a killing field. Imagine the advert on television for Argos - The family is eating breakfast; Father looks like he is on deaths door after another night out at the local boozer and Mother shows him the special offer on page 666, ‘one size fits all’ for £66, 60 pence, posted to your door. The catalogue small print would point out that it doesn’t help to put the recipients name on the order in case he is too dead to sign for it.

Fast food chains like McDonalds, who are responsible for so many fat people expiring and then using up acres of rain forest to make their fancy hardwood coffins could offer vouchers towards a free paper one, complete with their huge reverted yellow sagging mammary glands emblem on the lid and sides. Kiddies’ meal bags could have miniature ones for the little sweethearts to put together and bury yet another neglected Christmas present pet.

Or…they would be perfect for the average necrophiliac and his blow up doll. Instead of stashing pasty white Suzie Wong in the cupboard, he pops her in his black painted paper coffin leaning against the bedroom wall.

However, I thought that this end of the British market could be well covered by local tradesman of death, such as Polish gas fitters, and so I put my deadly skills to an area where it is guaranteed the customers are queuing sky high. The overloaded morgues of Zimbabwe! A recent newspaper article had grabbed my attention -

Pauper burials are on the increase in Zimbabwe as people grapple with an unprecedented economic crisis most critics blame on President Robert Mugabe's mismanagement of the economy.

With the cost of burying a single body estimated at between Z$30 000
and $40 000, some Zimbabweans have resorted to abandoning their dead relatives to lie in mortuaries for months on end. With an average 3 000 Zimbabweans dying every week, the mortuaries at most major hospitals are filled up to the brim with dead bodies. – ZimOnline

The next logical step was to find a local manufacturer. As Zimbabwe’s paper machines (those that still work) are fully engaged printing out bearer cheques slightly slower than their 1200% inflation, and therefore well engrossed burying what’s left of the economy, it was logical I look to their wealthy neighbour- South Africa. And that’s when my great coffer of money idea became a paper-mache funerary box – it has been tried several times before, and failed.

For of all the ironies that the Whiteman’s presence has created in ‘civilizing’ Africa, being buried like one in a wooden coffin is the last status symbol. The fact that millions living in shanty towns with nothing more than a cardboard box as a home is a fact of life, it is not accepted to be a fact of death to be buried in one.

So until we see the Dragons and better still, Bob Geldorf, Al Gore and David Cameron being shown on the Nine o’clock News shopping for their paper coffins – its curtains for this good idea.