Dragons’ Den: our dragons lock horns – S19, Ep12

There was a vegan theme this week, with a plant-based cocktail and vegan skincare brand vying for investment from the dragons.

Glaswegian Paul Crawford offered the first of these with Panther Milk, the “world’s first plant-based ready to drink cocktail brand”. This vegan beverage is based on a Spanish alcoholic drink from the 1920s.

He was after a £50,000 investment for a 7.5 per cent stake in his business, looking to bring a flavour of the Roaring Twenties to the 2020s.

“Cor, strong,” exploded a surprised Touker Suleyman after taking a sip of the concoction. “Drink one of those and you’re gone.”

Paul was projecting sales of £1.89m in year two after winning over three festivals to supply the drink but it was clear he didn’t have a clear marketing strategy, admitting he didn’t know much about launching a business.

Touker, recovering with a dizzy head (well, it does say 15 per cent on the bottle), thought Paul’s business was too small for the investment he was after – a view shared by Peter Jones.

‘I’m never second choice,’ Touker huffed, with the bitterness of a schoolboy not picked for the playground football team

Steven Bartlett thought it would be too much hard work and he would need to own 90 per cent of the business to make it worth him getting out of bed. On a positive note, he did say he’d happily finish off his salted caramel cocktail.

“You can have mine as well if you want, Stephen, because I’m not convinced,” Sara Davies declared. She was put off by floating bits at the bottom of the bottle.

Only Deborah remained.

“I think you are spot on,” she smirked.

Drinks companies, she said, had made clear in various conversations with her they were looking for new brands and ideas – especially vegan products.

The poker-faced dragon offered all the money for 30 per cent of the business. Didn’t you just know she was quietly conjuring up an offer as one by one the other dragons dropped out?

A trip to the wall followed.

“I’m praying for his sake he says yes,” Steven whispered.

“I can’t go beyond 20 per cent,” came the eventual reply.

“I would agree at 25 per cent,” Deborah stated. After a nervy pause we had a deal.

Next into the den were Edinburgh-based Caroline Kennedy-Alexander and Sarah Bell-Jones with luxury lingerie brand LoveRose Lingerie.

They were after £70,000 for 15 per cent of their uplifting business venture.

Touker Suleyman

Caroline told how she and her two sisters had breast cancer, which can bring psychological scars alongside physical ones. LoveRose offers a luxury choice to those who have gone through surgery.

Deborah was first to applaud the idea but wondered how many other brands were doing the same thing, worrying about the lack of patenting potential.

Cue some dragon drama.

Touker claimed the duo should have come into the den with a wider range of lingerie.

“I think it’s the opposite, I have to be honest,” countered Steven.

“I’ve been in this business for 45 years,” Touker said defensively.

“And I’ve been building the biggest brands in the world for the last ten,” boasted Steven.  

These two really rub each other up the wrong way.

“Invest then,” Touker sulked.

He didn’t.

Despite being inspired, the other dragons didn’t either and Caroline and Sarah left empty-handed.

Next up was Zara Saleem with her skincare remedy business, Delhicious. She was after £50,000 in exchange for a 15 per cent stake.

This all-natural, vegan, cruelty-free skincare brand, originally from India, was founded after Zara developed a dry skin condition while pregnant. Not wanting to use creams that contained chemicals, she tried out natural remedies passed down generations in her family. It was then, she said, that she discovered her “magical ingredient” – Indian black Assam tea. Bet you weren’t expecting that.

“My skin transformed within a week,” she assured them.

But before you reach for the tea caddy, Delhicious also contains essential oils, sugar and salt and sweet almond oil. Up until now, Zara has been making all of this from her kitchen.

While Deborah was lauding the smell and essence of the body balm, Peter Jones was in the corner struggling to use it.

“I wonder if that’s a design fault,” the confused dragon pondered, making a mess of the product.

“Yeah, I’ve done that and look what’s happened,” Steven added, getting mush all over his fingers.

But it was the confession that sales plummeted during the pandemic, while the rest of the beauty sector was growing, which ended any hopes for investment for Zara.

It was a blast from the past last up for Deborah and Peter as Peter Neath and Ian Hutchinson returned after making an appearance in the den in 2009. After leaving the den without an investment, their barbecue fat-collecting product went on to be a success and now they were back, hoping they wouldn’t get another grilling from the dragons with Saucestream.

“As barbecue aficionados…” Peter opened, with Ian giving a “told you so” nod to Peter Jones.

They were after £75,000 for a 10 per cent share in their plastic-free squeezers, which clip onto glass bottles to encourage a move away from single-use plastic. One sauce brand alone, they say, produces 650 million of just one of their sauces every year.  

“One thing I could definitely do for you is sourcing,” Touker quipped.

Steven saw the potential of millions of the products being sold on Facebook and asked which dragons the two were looking for. The answer? Why, Peter and Steven.

“Well, that’s made my life easier,” Deborah said.

“There’s a gameplay tactic here,” Sara said. “What you do is sit on the fence but you’re well and truly off the fence.”

The resulting grovelling and mumbling didn’t help the pair, who found themselves in a pickle of their own.

“I can give you a massive spade if you want to keep digging, mate,” Sara snapped.

And just like that, Sara was out.

“I’m never second choice,” Touker huffed, with the bitterness of a schoolboy not picked in the playground football team. “You weren’t even third, no offence,” Sara corrected.

At this point Ian was clearly feeling the heat.

Luckily, first-pick Steven saw the social media potential and invited Deborah and Peter to join him in a deal.

“I think you could get three dragons onboard today who would absolutely knock this out the park,” Peter said excitedly.

Deborah however was big enough not to be piqued at being second choice and said she would share with Peter and Steven.

In a unique situation, it was the three dragons who could have benefitted fro a trip to the wall as they whispered what percentage they would offer for the money.

In the end, they offered all of the money for one third of the business between them.

What a saucy deal.

More on Dragons’ Den

Dragons’ Den: Smell the coffee, S19, Ep 11


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