First into the den was Honduran Wilmer Carcamo and his wife Elle with their ethically sourced Caribe Coffee company. They were after £30,000 in return for 10 per cent of their business.
Would they leave the den with the sweet smell of success or wake up smelling the coffee instead?
The couple import coffee beans from Honduras, before storing, roasting, packaging and selling online. They have a special relationship with the farmers, they said, ensuring they receive a fair price.
Steven Bartlett was the first to give their business plan a roasting, asking what their USP was. A moment of nervy silence was interrupted by “sustainability” from Elle.
‘I will make three or four phone calls very quickly and your business would treble.’
Was this enough to penetrate an already saturated market? Steven didn’t think so, and neither did the other dragons who, although liked the idea, felt there was a disconnect with the branding.
But when all seemed lost, Peter Jones threw in a lifeline albeit with a curious concession. “Would you be happy changing your brand to Wilmer’s Coffee?”
“Yeah, everything is on the table and can be changed” Wilmer quickly replied, with Elle gritting her teeth next to him.
Peter then uttered the famous words, “In that case, I’m going to make you an offer.” But what Peter offered was all the money for 25 per cent of the business.
That was too much for Wilmer and Elle, who only wanted to give away up to 15 per cent.
“My offer stands” replied Peter. Could they meet in the middle with a 20 per cent deal? No. Let’s hope negotiating that fair price with the farmers is a smoother experience.
Next into the den was South African-born former banker Bianca Rangecroft and her business, Whering. She was after £100,000 for 4 per cent equity.
She claimed picking an outfit to wear every morning became daunting. First World problems, eh? Her app, which catalogues all the clothes in your wardrobe, makes it easy to match items with outfits being recommended by the app’s AI. It also recommends rented, sustainable clothing to complement the clothes you already have.
But it all started to unravel after Bianca admitted the company has just £10,000 left in the coffers.
Steven was confused how fashion – something so subjective – could be calculated through AI and recommended to users.
Peter meanwhile was getting shirty over the valuation. “Why have you come in here with such a ridiculous valuation?” he gasped, before ruling himself out.
Flustered, poor Bianca didn’t have the right answers. Her B2B preposition about selling retailers user data on trends didn’t impress fashion mogul Touker Suleyman either, who said that by the time that information is shared, the trend would have moved on.
“Yes, but you have insights into what they actually own” came the slightly unnerving reply.
“I absolutely love this,” said an upbeat Deborah Meaden, who clearly hadn’t read the room. “It’s bang on, on what is about to happen.” Bang on it may well have been, but it still seemed too high a risk for her and Sara Davies.
Lindsay Waterson was next up. She was asking for an investment of £80,000 for 15 per cent of her vibrant acrylic walking stick business, Neo Walk.
These colourful acrylic sticks are on target to turnover £200,000 this year, but would Lindsay – who apparently flew over the Olympic stadium for London 2012 under a motorbike – pass this test with flying colours?
Because the walking sticks are scanner friendly, Lindsay said, they could be pitched to the NHS for MRI scans to avoid the patient being manhandled.
That vision just wasn’t feasible, according to Touker, who thought Lindsay was paying far too much to make her sticks.
Patenting was Peter’s main sticking point, which ruled him out, before one by one the dragons bowed out. Lindsay did have one silver lining, though, in the sense Deborah would buy one or two for her sister.
“Flying over the Olympic stadium 50 metres in the air was more scary,” Lindsay said afterwards, “but this was worse.”
Josh Cummins and Lee Hoppen were last to pitch with Let’s Sanitise. They were looking for £80,000 for 5 per cent of their lockdown-founded business.
Their customisable hand sanitiser stations and range of hand sanitiser products have been bringing home impressive numbers – with £1.4 million in sales for the year and net profit of £321,000. You could see the panel of dragons rubbing their claws with glee at that news.
Deborah, though, had questions about what exactly they were including in their cost of sales figures. Good thing she did, too, as it forced the duo to come clean that they weren’t making much profit on many of their products.
And with both entrepreneurs owning businesses in addition to the hand sanitiser brand, Peter worried they may not be focused on building this one. Sara took a different view and was more than impressed with their dedication to start a new business during the pandemic. She just couldn’t see how the business could separate itself from others in the market.
After Peter dubbed the two “entrepreneurial street fighters” he offered all the money for… drumroll… 20 per cent.
Touker wanted 25 per cent for all the money but was also willing to share with Peter for 12.5 per cent each.
A trip to the wall followed.
“Do ten,” Lee whispered to Josh.
“Ten, reduced to seven and a half?”
“No. Trust me, ten.”
You sensed a battle was about to be joined.
“We were looking to give away no more than 15 per cent in total” Josh announced to the panel. “Would you both consider reducing to seven and a half per cent each?”
“No.” Touker barked with a shake of the head, adding: “Can I tell you something? I will make three or four phone calls very quickly and your business would treble.”
“My instinct was 20 per cent because I felt that was right,” Peter added. “Touker coming back at 25 was fair as well because you’re getting double bubble.”
“I would be happy to strike at 25 but when we get our money back, drop to the 20 per cent.”
“In that case we’d love to accept your offer” Josh smiled.
“Wow,” Peter beamed.
Did Touker even agree to that proposal? It didn’t matter, it was celebrations all round and Josh and Lee walked away from the den with a deal.
“They are real trader entrepreneurs,” Touker admitted.
Steven even likened them to Del Boy and Rodney Trotter from Only Fools and Horses.