Dragons' Den series 14 episode 1: child sized pens and adult sized beanbags




Dragons' Den, the show where a person’s best business idea can either be validated by capital from multi millionaire celebrity investors or completely shut down on national television, is back on air. Some of Britain’s most famous and prolific business people return to a carousel of new business ideas that range from, as newcomer Dragon Sarah Willingham put it, “completely bonkers” to “moments of brilliance.” Following pitches that highlighted these polar opposites of quality business ideas the first episode of this series seemed to also frame a different theme: family run business. Let’s take a look at the first few brave entrepreneurs to enter the Den this series.


The Business: Craft Gin Club

First up was a business run by two best buddies John and John, who admittedly drank more gin and tonics together than they attended class at the business school where they met. So what are two lush businessmen to do? Turn their love for drinking into money, obviously. That’s where they came up with the idea for Craft Gin Club, a subscription based business that sends its members a bottle of craft gin plus a magazine, each month. John and John are looking for £75K for 3% equity in their business. Cheers.

Initial reaction:

First off the Dragons played it as cool as the cucumbers in their gin drinks served up by the Johns, with Nick Jenkins calling the valuation “ludicrous.” But after a little bit of financial questioning, the Dragons could tell that these guys speak their language and Sarah Willingham, who has a background in the drinks industry, finally fesses up and admits that she is already a subscriber to the Craft Gin Club.

The offer:

Touker Souleyman was first with an offer of 35% while both Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones offered 10% for the £75K asking price and Willingham offers 15%. The Johns ask Willingham if she would consider 10% which offends Meaden and Jones so they pull out.

The deal:

Sarah Willingham agrees to £75K for 12.5% stake in the company.

The business: Write Size

Two inventors, Ross Williams and Surlender Pendress, use scale and logic to to sell the idea that pencils are currently made too big for a child’s hand. Enter Write Size: pens and pencils that are made smaller so they fit a child’s hand better, making it easier for them to write. These two want £50K for 12% of their business.

Initial reaction:

Initially the Dragons look confused. This is not a problem that needs solving they say and Peter Jones quips “I’m not teaching my 5 year old to be a calligrapher.” This is when Sarah Willingham can’t “workout if this is completely bonkers or a moment of brilliance” because “if marketed right you will get loads of moms buying different sized pens for different aged kids.” Seems plausible.

The offer:

Willingham says that if they had done some research and came up with concrete evidence that the smaller pencils actually help children to write she would have considered investing. All the other Dragons decide that it’s the former in Willingham’s pondering of ‘bonkers’ or ‘brilliant’ and no offers are made.


The business: Big Man Beanbags

A market trader from Essex recounts his adolescent dreams of having a chopper and a bean bag chair. Giving way to the opinion that he is now to old to have a chopper he decides that he’s definitely not too old to own a bean bag chair company. Big Man Beanbags is a family run “cottage industry” style business where Mark Newman and his family have sold over 24,000 units and done £2.5m in turnover. He’s asking for £75k for 15% to take the business to the next level.

Initial reaction:

The Dragons take the bean bags for a test ride and find them to be quite comfortable but after asking Newman about his goals they come to the conclusion that he might be a little too laid back to be profitable. Plus the Dragons all agree that working with a family business is somewhat of a nightmare.

The offer:

The Dragons all get spooked by an entrepreneur who is not really motivated by money and decide that they should stay out of that family’s business.


The business: Boot Buddy

The 15-year-old son of an entrepreneurial family puts a scrub brush on a water bottle to clean his shoes after football and the Boot Buddy is born. After a £250k investment from bank of Mum the Boot Buddy is designed, packaged, IP protected in 22 countries and has sold 6,000 units. They are asking for £60K for 10% of the business.

Initial reaction:

Muddy. One says it has design flaws, another says there’s no need while the others question the business logic of investing £250k into the idea. They propose the possibility of Mum waiving the £250k director’s loan and she considers.

The offer:

After getting to know the Dhillon family a little better Dragons Jones, Meaden and Suleyman seem to respect mother Rashpal's support for her son’s idea and decide to go splitsies on the offer.

The deal:

The Dhillon family cleans up and will receive £60k for 30% split three ways between the Dragons.


Read our review of episode 2.


by Katherine Green on July 25, 2016

Topics: investment, Dragon's Den, review

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