Brewdog, Trunki and Cup-A-Wine: Ten Dragons’ Den rejects now worth billions

·7-min read
<p>Dragons Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies, Deborah Meaden, Tej Lalvani  and Peter Jones</p> (BBC)

Dragons Touker Suleyman, Sara Davies, Deborah Meaden, Tej Lalvani and Peter Jones

(BBC)

They may be, as the opening credits suggest, five of Britain’s wealthiest and most enterprising business leaders.

But over the past 15 years - despite sealing 276 deals with 1,000 entrepreneurs worth £22million - the business titans of BBC’s Dragon’s Den have not always got it right.

As the 18th series prepares to air, showing for the first time on BBC One rather than BBC Two, researchers from money.co.uk pulled together a list of the 10 biggest ideas that got away.

BREWDOG

BrewDog produces various types of ales and lagers, it is also a multinational brewery and pub chain based in Ellon, Scotland.

Back in 2009, James Watt and Martin Dickie applied to go on Dragons’ Den and pitch to the Dragons.

However, they were later told by the producers that the business wasn’t a good-enough investment proposition for the Dragons, so at the last minute, it was decided that they wouldn’t get to pitch their business to the multimillionaires. BrewDog owners say their pitch would have seen them offer the Dragons 20% of BrewDog for a £100,000 investment.

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The setback forced them to go back to the drawing board in terms of how to finance the business. As a result, they created a model that lets the people who enjoy Brewdog beer own a part of the company. They offered crowdfunding shares totalling £2m, equating to 8% of the capital of the company, to raise money.

They now have a community of over 75,000 Equity Punk investors all over the world who are the heart and soul of the business.

BrewDog has gone on to be a success which is currently valued at £2bn and which has raised over £250m. Had they been able to pitch (and had any of the Dragons invested) that £100,000 would now be worth a whopping £360m.

 (Trunki/PA)
(Trunki/PA)

TRUNKI

Trunki is a brand of ride-on/carry-on hand luggage for children designed by Rob Law.

In 2006, Rob appeared on Dragons’ Den and was left humiliated when Theo Paphitis pulled the handle of one of his colourful ride-on children's suitcases and it broke, causing the other Dragons to question the quality of the design.

Rob asked for £100,000 in exchange for a 10% share of his business, but he left without an investment.

In 2016 Trunki celebrated its 10th anniversary and has sold more than three million Trunki suitcases, in over 100 countries worldwide, through retailers including John Lewis, Argos, Harrods, Tesco and Next since May 2006.

Children’s ride-along suitcases have become a familiar sight at airports all over the world and managed to secure £4m from the government-backed Business Growth Fund in 2013.

TANGLE TEEZER

Tangle Teezer is designed specifically to smooth away knots, tugs and tangles painlessly and quickly, leaving your hair feeling silky smooth.

Entrepreneur Shaun Pulfrey appeared on Dragons Den in 2007 with the hope of securing an £80,000 investment in exchange for a 15% stake in his Tangle Teezer business. The hairbrush, however, was ridiculed, with Duncan Bannatyne declaring: “It won’t make any money", and Deborah Meaden saying it looked like a "horse brush".

Leaving empty-handed, Mr Pulfrey persevered with his product as he self-financed the Teezer venture by using his savings and remortgaging his Brixton flat. The bold risk paid off as the high-street store giant Boots was the first store to sell the brush and was soon followed by internationally famed salon chains Toni & Guy and Regis.

The small business was a hit, with 35,000 brushes sold in the first year. Due to the rapid growth in sales in the UK, Tangle Teezer began exporting the brushes worldwide, with celebrity fans including Victoria Beckham and Cara Delevigne. The company is now worth an astonishing £65m.

CUP-A-WINE

 (M&S)
(M&S)

In 2009, the founder of Wine Innovations and packaging expert James Nash’s idea of plastic cups filled with a single serving of wine and sealed with a foil lid was rejected by the Dragons.

James was looking for a £250,000 investment for a 25% stake in his business. The dragons said the idea was “tacky” and required him to rethink his idea to make it a success.

Despite being rejected, his invention was later picked up by Marks and Spencer, which used it for its award-winning Le Froglet wine. M&S said the product has been proved popular with train commuters and picnickers alike.

 (HungryHouse UK)
(HungryHouse UK)

HUNGRYHOUSE

Hungryhouse became one of the biggest names in the takeaway food market, despite not getting any backing from the Dragons.

While co-founders Shane Lake and Tony Charles secured an offer of £100,000 from James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne during the show, in exchange for 50% of the business, the deal later fell through.

The co-founders didn’t let this rejection set them back; raising £150,000 from alternative business angels a few months later enabled them to increase their restaurant partners from 150 in 2007 to over 2,500 in September 2010.

Though the company was valued at a whopping £2 billion in 2015, it joined Just Eat in February 2018 following a successful merger and ceased trading in May 2018.

APPROVED FOOD

Dan Cluderay is now a millionaire after setting up an online business selling out-of-date food to busy mums and bargain hunters.

The 40-year-old says the secret to his success is that his business, Approved Food, provides just what the savvy shopper is looking for - quality food at prices that save mums around £60 off their weekly bill compared to a similar shop at one of the big supermarkets.

In May 2014, Mr Cluderay, together with his business partner Andy Needham, had asked the Dragons' Den panel for a £150,000 cash injection offering a 10% share in Approved Food - but got rejected from the Dragons.

Despite the setback, the duo managed to source £400,000 through loans and investments from elsewhere which has seen Approved Food achieve a £4million turnover.

 (Road Refresher)
(Road Refresher)

ROAD REFRESHER BOWL

Founder of Prestige Pets, Natalie Ellis pitched her Road Refresher non-spill dog bowl in 2008 hoping to secure a £120,000 investment for a 15% stake in her business. After being rejected by the Dragons, Natalie was on a mission and was convinced her non-spill dog bowl would go down a storm in the US.

She went to Chicago and found an agent and made a 5% deal with him, and got listed on Amazon. She claimed Barack Obama even snapped up one of her bowls.

In 2009, Ellis’ Prestige Pet Products pulled in £1m in sales, with 40% of revenues coming from the States.

OPPO ICE CREAM

Launched in October 2014 by brothers and entrepreneurs Charlie and Harry Thuillier, Oppo Ice Cream is a range of superfood, low-calorie and “guilt-free” ice creams that have fewer calories than a large apple. Oppo markets itself as the world’s healthiest luxury ice cream.

The brothers pitched their idea to the Dragons and asked for a £60,000 investment for a 7% share of the business. Despite the brothers failing to secure investment, Oppo Ice Cream announced it secured £350,000 in an oversubscribed crowdfunding round on equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs.

The company was valued at £3.11m, the deal involved 538 investors (including British tennis star Andy Murray), who backed the campaign in exchange for a share of 5.5% equity – taking the round way over its £150,000 funding target.

It was also backed by Richard Branson and the ice cream is now sold in over 1,300 stores including Co-op, Waitrose, Budgens and Holland & Barrett.

AQUATINA WATER BOTTLE

Back in 2010, Guy Jeremiah presented his idea for a collapsible water bottle to the investors on Dragons’ Den. All the Dragons dismissed the idea, with one of the Dragons telling the entrepreneur it was one of those "I'd really want to stick pins in my eyes" moments.

Guy marketed his collapsible water bottle as a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to buying bottled water. The entrepreneur has since sold over 100,000 bottles and signed a distribution deal with Marks & Spencer and is now being sold in 15 other countries.

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