Lady Chanelle McCoy: ‘Banks treat us like we’re illegal’

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Welcome to Small Business Snippets, the podcast from SmallBusiness.co.uk. Today’s guest is Lady Chanelle McCoy – entrepreneur and former Dragon on Dragon’s Den Ireland.

We talk about her time on the show as well as the barriers to growth facing the CBD industry.

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Want to read Chanelle McCoy’s podcast interview instead?

Hello and welcome to Small Business Snippets, the podcast from SmallBusiness.co.uk. I’m your host, Anna Jordan.

Today we have Lady Chanelle McCoy, entrepreneur and former Dragon on Dragon’s Den Ireland.

Born in Galway, she co-founded Chanelle Medical, part of Chanelle Pharma, which was founded by her father. In 2015, Lady McCoy and business partner Caroline Glynn set up Chanelle McCoy Health, an R&D led pharmaceutical company. From that came cannabidiol (CBD) range, Pureis CBD.

She was recently ranked no 23 in the ‘50 incredible people shaping modern Ireland’. She was awarded the All-Ireland Business Champion Award 2018 for her outstanding achievements in business leadership.

We’ll be talking about her time on Dragon’s Den Ireland and the barriers to growth facing the CBD industry.

Anna: Hi, Chanelle, how are you doing?

Chanelle: Good. Anna, how are you? Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited about our chat.

Anna: Oh, of course, of course.

So, listeners and viewers might not recognise you straight away. But they might have seen you before on the Irish version of Dragon’s Den.

Chanelle: Yeah, that’s right. I’m Irish, home grown – from the west of Ireland. I’ve spent over 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry. I’m very lucky to get the opportunity to do Dragon’s Den, the Irish version. Dragon’s Den is owned by Sony Music, and they franchise that out to 27 countries around the world. When I did Dragon’s Den, when I started the first year, Ireland was the first country to have three female dragons and two male dragons. It was a fantastic experience to do it. I definitely made a few investments. Yeah, so it was great.

Smashing. So, based on your time in there, what would you say are the biggest differences between the Irish version and the UK version? I’ve only seen a few clips of the Irish version, but for want of a better word, it seems nicer – less cut-throat, I suppose. 

Chanelle: I mean, maybe that’s more of a cultural thing as us Irish are quite warm and friendly, maybe. But no, I think that the fact that Sony Music are the owners, and it’s a franchise, that the setting was very much the same, was very like this, the way we sit, and the seats and, and the whole kind of procedure of it as well. It is your own money that you’re investing, that you have to bring that to the table, even though the cash sitting beside you is actually not real.

We would record about seven pitches in a day. So you literally would have one after another, some of the pitches would go on for about an hour and a half, even though you only see maybe 15-20 minutes on the TV when it’s edited down.

The reality is you get no prior warning or visibility of the pitch that’s coming into the den. So you’re in between all this, like when the seven pitches are going on, in between that you leave the room, you go back backstage kind of thing. You wait until the room is set up, you come back onto your chair, the product is hidden, you’ve got no phone, you can’t Google anything. And it’s literally when that entrepreneur walks out of the lift that you get to know about the products. So, that’s why the pitches would go on for more like an hour and a half, because this is your money you’re investing, and you have to make a decision right there and then, whether you’re going to invest or not.

I mean, obviously maybe some people feel Ireland, the Irish was a bit tamer than England, but there were certainly a few of the pitches that we gave them a hard time with!

The fact that it’s every pitch is brand new to you. Why do you think that is? Is it more of like a production thing and gets an authentic reaction from you?

Chanelle: I think it’s twofold. I think that the entrepreneur coming in there pitching, knows that they’ve got this really short window to sell their story and their business to you. Those entrepreneurs coming in, most of them really need that investment to survive, and if they don’t get it, their company will close, they’re running out of cash, so there’s from their side of the fence, they know that we have had no prior knowledge of their of their company. So they’ve got to pitch really well, from our side as well.

That’s the whole thrill of Dragon’s Den is that it’s instinctive, you have to make a decision right there and then, so that builds to the excitement I’m kind of the drama of it or the appeal of it.

Absolutely. I’d like to talk a bit more about your time in the pharmaceutical industry, because it’s certainly been a year for pharmaceuticals, for CBD and for the wellness industry as well. And there’s so much to unpick with that.

Starting off with CBD, the market has grown exponentially, it absolutely exploded, and it’s becoming more popular with consumers. But there are still barriers to growth. Say for example, search engines, in my understanding, are reluctant to rank products with CBD and anything related. Tell us more about the barriers to growth in that particular market.

Chanelle: If we look at where we’ve come in the last six years. Today, the CBD food supplement market in the UK is valued at £450m. Now to put that into context, what does that mean – is that big, is that small? If you look at vitamin C in the UK today, that’s £115m. Vitamin D today is £145m so CBD today and we have eight million people that take CBD today in the UK. CBD today at £450m totally eclipses vitamin C and vitamin D together. But the exciting thing is that £450m figure will grow to £1bn in the next three years. We are delighted that our product, it’s called Pureis CBD, and we’re on the market over a year now in the UK and we’re in over 1000 retailers.

We’re the first CBD food supplement company to command the UK market that’s backed by clinical studies. And we invested over a number of years, we invested over £1.5m in extensive safety clinical studies, because that is the…

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