Dragons’ Den: Series 15, Episode 1
With new investors and ambitious start-up pitches, find out which businesses tamed the Dragons in the 2017 series return...
12 years on from first airing on our TV screens, enterprising BBC show Dragons' Den still manages to capture the attention of audiences across the country.
This is in part thanks to its great (and not so great) start-up pitches, fiery panel of Dragon investors, and the allure of witnessing early-stage business ideas that could soon become hugely successful brands.
Series 15 of the show welcomed two new Dragons Jenny Campbell and Tej Lalvani to the Den, alongside long-standing Dragons Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, and Startups Awards 2017 judge Touker Suleyman. In the first episode, we saw two businesses tame the panel to win investment.
So, who were these winning businesses and how did they manage to clinch funding from the Dragons? We outline the winning pitches and what the Dragons thought of them below…
Dragons' Den success story: Creative Nature
Founder: Julianne Ponan
Concept: Free-from superfood products including high protein snack bars and allergen free muffin and brownie mixes
Investment sought: £75,000 in exchange for 5% equity
Investment received: £75,000 for 25% with the opportunity to buy-back 5% if 2018 targets are hit. (Deborah Meaden) – Although Julianne accepted the investment in the Den, she has since declined the investment offer.
The winning pitch
There was success for 28 year-old entrepreneur Julianne Ponan as she attracted backing from Deborah Meaden after pitching for her award-winning health food business Creative Nature. A superfood brand, Ponan – and her operations manager Matthew Ford – explained that Creative Nature uses premium, nutrient-rich ingredients “to make you live, look and feel your best yet”.
The product range, which retails with high-profile stores such as ASDA, TK Maxx, Lloyds Pharmacy, Ocado, and, more recently, Co-op, includes high-protein snack bars, superfoods, and organic baking mixes such as a vegan Chia and Cacao Brownie and a Chia and Mulberry Muffin; both of which are also gluten, nut and dairy free.
Ponan acquired the brand in 2012 aged 22 – via a mangement buy-out – following a desire to launch a free-from nutritional brand having suffered from anaphylaxis since she was two years old.
- 2015 – Turnover of £465,000 with a net profit of £36,000.
- 2016 – Turnover of £528,000 with a net profit of £15,000. “Profits were less in 2016 as I overspent on marketing and spend a lot on listing fees which was a mistake and we've now agreed no listing fees.”
- 2017 – “In the first few months of 2017 we have turned over £217,000 with a net profit of £18,000.”
- 2018 – Projected turnover of £2.5m, £1.1m gross profit and a net profit of £250,000.
What the Dragons had to say:
Peter Jones: “You're valuing your business today at £1.5m and I'm telling you it's ludicrous. I feel disappointed because this is something I would have loved to have invested in and I think you're great but I'm out.”
Tej Lalvani: “Julianne, you need to give yourself a lot more credit as you've got a good range of products and free-from is definitely a growing market. You've learnt so much and you've adapted very quickly, I just think you need to be more confident and believe in yourself. I'm very tempted but for 5% no Dragon is going to agree to that, sadly I won't be investing I'm out.”
Jenny Campbell: “You have done fantastically so far but you are at this juncture where you need some help. I find myself more drawn to making you believe in yourself and motivate yourself then I am to the product and that's not why I'm here as an investor so I'm out.”
Deborah Meaden: “What I'm particularly interested in is the gluten-free, vegan element. People are stopping wanting to have to look at the packets, they'd like to be able to go to an area that says ‘that's free of everything. I think profit margin will be your biggest issue with supermarkets as you roll-up as it will get tighter and tighter.
“I think it's a good business and you've got a great business ahead of you but you're also at the most risky phase of the business. You're going to be under massive pressure in your margins – it's that weird thing that you could quadruple your sales and end up making less money if you're not careful.”
Dragons' Den success story: Pouch
Founders: Ben Corrigan and Jonny Plein – featured in our pick of the Young Entrepreneurs to Watch 2017
Concept: A free browser extension which looks to save web users time and money on voucher codes.
Investment sought: £75,000 in exchange for 15% equity
Investment received: £75,000 in exchange for 18% equity split between Tej Lalvani, Jenny Campbell and Touker Suleyman (following investment offers from all five Dragons)
The winning pitch
For regular Startups' readers, Pouch will be a familiar name – having featured in our Young Entrepreneurs to Watch 2017 – and its success in the Den, with a royal flush of five offers from all five Dragons, is testament to its growth potential.
Founded by Ben Corrigan and Jonny Plein, London-based Pouch is a free browser extension which finds and displays the best voucher codes as you shop online, for over 2,500 UK retailers. The online shopping tool means users never need to visit a voucher code website again.
“Solving a very serious problem for retailers”, Pouch is not only useful for consumers but addresses the issue of abandoned shopping baskets – “75% of shoppers abandon their baskets” – and encourages customers to stay on the website rather than go off-site to look for a voucher code. The business model operates on Pouch taking a commission on every sale through a retail partner's website which has been made with a Pouch voucher code.
While there are two competitor businesses in the US operating the same concept “very successfully” with 4.5 million customers, Plein and Corrigan – who follow the lean start-up approach taking £500 and £800 salaries a month – asserted that Pouch was the “only business in the UK” offering the service.
What the Dragons had to say:
Jenny Campbell: “I love this and think you're very investable guys. You've done everything that an entrepreneur should do which is risk everything, pay yourself poorly, live with parents and all that good stuff… so I would like to make you an offer.”
Peter Jones: “On £500 a month, you need to think about how you're going to raise more money and then think about what's going to be left in your pouch because in a year's time you could be left with nothing. I think you need to raise well into seven figures or more this year to have a chance – this would need me to get involved and really get behind it. That's why I'm going to make you an offer as I'd like to get involved and it's got me excited because I know I could make this happen.”
Touker Suleyman: ” I've got a couple of investments in behavioral marketing and I think you guys could put your heads together, I'm going to make an offer as I can add value and not just be a passive investor.”
Deborah Meaden: “I'm not a tech expert but I do get the consumer side of things. Whether we like it or not, we're living in this world where consumers want to get the very best deal and I completely understand why, as a consumer, I'd want to use you so I'll make you an offer.”
Tej Lalvani: “I'm passionate about technology, I understand what you guys are doing and I believe there's massive potential.”