'I don't like you, I don't like your product'
Despite having decades of business experience between them, the Dragon’s Den judges don’t always get it right. Here’s 7 Dragon’s Den rejects whose ideas ended up making them millions.
1) Shaun Pulfrey
Product: The Tangle Teezer
When hair colourist Shaun Pulfrey used his years of salon experience to develop a rubber hairbrush that cuts through knotted hair more gently than a normal brush, he hoped £800 000 of investment for a 15% share would tempt the judges. But they lined up to insult it. Deborah Meaden said it looked like a ‘horse brush’, Peter Jones called it ‘hair-brained’ and Duncan Bannatyne said it ‘made me want to pull my hair out.’ But the rejection didn’t deter him. The Tangle Teezer hairbrush is now sold in 60 different countries and has celebrity fans in Victoria Beckham, Nicole Scherzinger and Cara Delevingne. He’s now on the verge of selling his invention for a staggering £200million.
2) Harry and Charlie Thuillier
Product: Oppo Ice cream
‘The reward doesn’t justify the risk’ Nick Jenkins said of Harry and Charlie Thuillier’s luxury healthy ice cream business plan. Richard Branson didn’t think so – and nor did tennis star Andy Murray. Both have since invested in the ice cream business, which now sells in more than a thousand different stores, including Waitrose.
3) Natalie Ellis
Product: Road Refresher no-spill dog bowl
Ellis’s travel dog bowl, a specially adapted design which allows pets to drink in cars without the water slopping everywhere, was dismissed as ‘just a bowl’ by the dragons. But Ellis went ahead undeterred and by 2010 the bowls were selling like hot cakes and making her £1million a year in profit. Her patented invention is now sold in 42 different countries, including Walmart in the US, and even President Obama’s dog Bo has one.
4) Rob Law
Product: Trunki Ride-on Suitcases
You know those colourful ride-on suitcases you see parents pulling their small children through the airport on? Their inventor Rob Law pitched them to the dragons back in 2006, but was told by Peter Jones that ‘your Trunki Ride-On Suitcase company is completely worthless.’ An estimated 20% of British children between the ages of three and six now own a Trunki suitcase and the company turns over £7million a year. The mental health of parents in airports has also been improved.
5) James Nash
Product: Plastic cup-a-wine
Duncan Bannatyne gave Nash pretty short shrift when he presented his single glass of wine product. ‘People do not want to buy wine in plastic glasses like that’ he snapped, while others on the panel dismissed it as ‘tacky’ and ‘a gimmick.’ Marks & Spencer disagreed, snapping up Nash’s product and selling 250 000 in the first few years. The cups are still hugely popular with picnic-goers and commuters wanting a quick drink on the way home.
6) Guy Jeremiah
Product: Ohyo water bottle
Despite being told by Theo Paphitis that he would rather stick pins in his eyes than back him, Guy Jeremiah forged ahead with his specially designed Aquatina water bottle (later rebranded as Ohyo) – which collapses when it’s not full to save space – and the bottle is now sold in 15 different countries, including at Marks & Spencer in the UK.
7) Dan Cluderay
Product: Cut-price food through his website Approved Food
Entrepreneur Dan Cluderaycame up with the idea for a website which could sell food past its best-before date at a cut price. The idea was rejected by the dragons, but Cluderay’s business Approved Food – which originally began as a stall – is now booming, selling products (other than chilled or frozen ones which carry a health risk) to cash-strapped families. Approved Food is so popular the company’s website has crashed several times under the weight of demand. In 2014 the company’s annual turnover was £4million.
The moral of the story? If at first you don’t succeed, try try again…
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