Dragons’ Den: Safe as houses? – S19, ep 9

There was a wine to make you more ‘relaxed’ this week, but it was a skincare range for toddlers which got the dragons hungry to invest

Tonight’s show was one of investable personalities. Sure, business plans didn’t line up and contestants left the building without the money they were hoping for, but there was no lack of admiration from the dragons this week.

First up the lift was Cornwall-based entrepreneur Anne-Marie Hurst accompanied by her partner, Christian.

Anne-Marie dubbed her sparkling botanical wine Floreat “unusual and very innovative”, asking for £50,000 in return for a 5 per cent share for her “new category of drink”.

Before starting up Floreat, Ann-Marie worked at a large alcoholic drinks company for 11 years, where she came to understand that customers drink wine to relax. Like, duh. So, she added herbs to aid that relaxation process into her low-alcohol wine — theory being, you relax without the negative effects of alcohol.  

“It feels quite weird reading this,” Peter Jones said. “I’m drinking what seems to be alcohol, and it says it protects the liver and can regenerate liver cells.”

This feelgood alcohol sounded all well and good until Deborah Meaden questioned whether its efficacy had been tested.

‘There is no money left,’ Anne-Marie admitted. ‘But I have just sold my house’

It was then that Anne-Marie’s pitch started to run out of fizz, while her admission that she had already spent £560,000 of her own money on the brand with little return left a bad taste in the dragons’ jaws.

“There is no money left” Anne-Marie admitted. “But I have just sold my house.”

Safe as houses this gamble certainly was not, however.

“I think you have a beautiful looking product. However I worry about you,” Sara Davies sighed in her warmest Lancastrian. “You’ve clearly had a very successful career but how somebody with all of those credentials can end up spending £560,000 on a business before it has turned over £100,000 is a massive worry for me.”

“The £50,000 you need today is a drop in the ocean,” Touker Suleyman added after the other dragons dropped out. “You’re going to need serious money to make this brand where you’ve visualised it. You’re going to need a million.”

Next up was a nervous looking Paul Westerman with RBR Legflow – a deep vein thrombosis prevention device. He was looking to secure £50,000 for 15 per cent equity in his business.

“Nine days before my wedding day, I collapsed on the floor dead,” he revealed to the shocked panel. “I had injured my knee a few weeks beforehand, and unbeknownst to me, I had developed a deep vein thrombosis in my right leg.”

His pitch revealed that just by sitting 90 minutes at a desk, for example, blood flow to the lower limbs decreases by 50 per cent. His product, he claimed, had been found to increase blood flow to the lower limbs tenfold.

It was looking all rather promising for Paul when Peter revealed he was all too aware of the effects of sitting for too long a period on a long-haul flight, but then Paul was brought back down to earth when he revealed he was at a net loss.

A £24.99 retail price didn’t help matters, either.  

“How would you persuade a someone to buy a product if they weren’t aware of the problem in the first place?” Steven Bartlett wondered.

It all seemed over for a dejected looking Paul when Deborah realised a big threat with IP. “This is so easy to copy,” she said. “There’s already something out there that does that, did you know?”

Thankfully, Touker offered a lifeline by offering £50,000 for 35 per cent.

“Do I go to the wall? There’d be no point,” admitted a grateful Paul.

Third up the lift was Yvonne Aboagye-Hobson with Nett Exfoliator, an exfoliating cloth which can reach the back – particularly useful for those with mobility issues. She was looking for £25,000 in return for 25 per cent of her business.

The £25 retail price initially shocked Peter, but Yvonne claimed the product can be used for three years and therefore would be cheaper in the long run. A successful PR campaign and a spike in sales following it also piqued the dragons’ interest.

That didn’t wash with Touker and Peter though, who questioned her business model.

Steven then made Yvonne come clean over the drop in sales after her PR wave, while Deborah worried about the plastics used and Sara raised questions about competition putting out a much cheaper version.

In the end, there was no bathing in glory for our Yvonne.

Last through the doors was former RAF employee Hannah Saunders and her product Toddle, looking for £60,000 for a 5 per cent share in her skincare range for the under threes.

Would she leave the den flying high? Her turnover of over £194,000 certainly impressed Peter.

Then came the barrage of compliments. “My word you are impressive” Sara praised. “I think you are superb, Hannah” Peter agreed.

It was all going so smoothly for Hannah, who inspired the dragons with her drive to prove her parents wrong, who years ago said she would “never amount to anything”.

She certainly had all the answers to their questions.

“It’s made me a little emotional, which is quite rare because I’m so inspired by you,” Steven confessed before offering £60,000 for 20 per cent.

Deborah then offered all the money, wanting 15 per cent.

Sara heaped on the praise to try and sway Hannah towards her own offer of all the money for just 12 per cent of the business.

A trip to the wall followed before she asked for revisions to the offers. Steven again was the first to chip in, asking for 13 per cent, with an option to drop to 10 if the revenue target of £670,000 this year was met.

A battle followed with Deborah joining forces with Steven and Sara, dropping her offer to a ten per cent stake.

“I really like you” Hannah said to Sara, before accepting Steven and Deborah’s offer.

“When I can’t find fault in an entrepreneur, I have no choice but to invest,” summed up a delighted Steven Bartlett.

Hannah was unsurprisingly stratospheric over the outcome.

“To hear their kind words and say how well I was doing, was a dream come true,” she beamed.

More on Dragons’ Den

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Dom Walbanke

Dom Walbanke

Dom Walbanke is a feature writer for Growth Business and Small Business, focused on matters concerning start-ups and scale-ups. He has also been published in the Independent, FourFourTwo magazine and various...

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