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Levi Roots, Chocbox and Skinny Tan: The seven best Dragons Den investments

·6-min read
 (BBC)
(BBC)

Last week, the Standard revealed how the business titans of the BBC’s Dragons Den have missed out on billions after declaring ‘I’m out!’ to entrepreneurs who have gone on to enjoy spectacular success.

But it hasn’t always gone so badly wrong.

As the 18th series prepares to air, showing for the first time on BBC One rather than BBC Two, researchers from money.co.uk have pulled together a list of seven biggest success stories to emerge from the den, adding millions to the wealthy investors’ fortunes.

Levi Roots

Official Levi Roots
Official Levi Roots

Dragons: Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh

Investment amount: £50,000 for 40% equity in the company

Back in 2007, reggae singer and chef Levi Roots pitched his spicy Reggae Reggae Sauce to the Dragons’ and successfully managed to secure £50,000 to manufacture his product. In return, Levi Roots was offering 20% of the equity in his business.

The jerk sauce was a secret recipe from Levi’s grandmother - with whom he lived in Jamaica until to the age of 11 when he moved to the UK to join his parents - and was first sold from a street stall at Notting Hill Carnival, where he was spotted by a talent spotter for the show.

Despite being told there’s “no future for this business” by Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh saw something else and invested £50,000 for a 40% stake.

Soon afterwards, Sainsbury’s took an order for 600 stores. Levi went on to publish books, produce records, open a restaurant and appear on Mastermind (he came second with 13 points).

Reggae Reggae sauces are now stocked in all major UK supermarkets, taking Roots’ worth to an estimated £30 million according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Peter Jones remains a shareholder and advocate for the brand, claiming “it’s one of my most successful investments from the show”.

Magic Whiteboard

Dragons: Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis

Investment amount:£100,000 investment for a 40% share

Founded by husband-and-wife team Neil and Laura Westwood back in 2006, Magic Whiteboard is basically a roll of A1 whiteboard sheets that will stick on anything thanks to static. It is now stocked in all major office supply stores with a global customer base.

The product is now said to be Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis’ most successful investment with the portable whiteboard achieving impressive growth since appearing on the show.

In September 2014, the Westwood’s bought back their shares from Meaden and Paphitis, giving the investors £800,000 return on their £100,000 investment.

Having increased sales from £45,000 to £1.2 million a year, and consistently delivering healthy profits, the founders wanted to give their children, Ella and Morley the shares to secure their future.

Chocbox

Chocbox
Chocbox

Dragons:Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan

Investment amount:£150,000 in return for a 36% stake in his business

Entrepreneur Peter Moule invented a plastic cable device as a way to store electrical wires safely.

He pitched his idea to the Dragons’ in 2007 and secured the support of Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan who invested £150,000 in return for a 36% stake in his business.

Just three months later, Moule had made his first million and the gadget has gone on to net £25 million in global sales.

It now ships to 152 countries with an annual sales target of 100 million units.

Caan describes it as hit favourite investment, last year telling investors: “It’s rare in the den that an entrepreneur comes in with an existing, high-performing business. Peter Moule’s business was already generating excellent revenue.

“ Peter was less concerned with acquiring an investment and more concerned with acquiring a mentor. He wanted to grow his business internationally, but this was something he had no experience of. He hadn’t done it before and he didn’t have any contacts that could help make that happen.

“For me, it was a no brainer and it really paid off. I helped Peter secure a multi-million-pound order with a German company who loved the product. They signed an exclusive three-year deal and that contract was a game-changer for the business. After three years, I was able to sell my stake with an excellent profit.”

Skinny Tan

Skinny Tan / Instagram
Skinny Tan / Instagram

Dragons: Kelly Hoppen and Piers Linney

Investment amount: £60,000 for a 10% stake

Skinny Tan, a self-tan brand, went from startup to global success after its founders Louise Ferguson and Kate Cotton pitched to the Dragons’ in 2013.

It didn’t take long until Skinny Tan became one of the fastest-selling tanning products in the UK.

Launched in 2012, the brand boasted profits of £600,000 in its first year.

After hearing the success after a year, all five Dragons showed interest, with Kelly Hoppen and Piers Linney sealing the deal with an offer of £60,000 for a 10% stake in the company.

On the back of the investment, the company secured a deal with Boots and expanded to Spain, Canada, South Africa and Dubai.

The company was sold for an undisclosed sum in June 2015, both co-founders and Hoppen and Linney remain shareholders.

Wonderbly

Wonderbly
Wonderbly

Dragon: Piers Linney

Investment amount: £100,000 for a 4% stake in the company

Founded by dads Asi Sharabi, David Cadji-Newby, Tal Oron and Pedro Serapicos in 2012, the creative fiction books for kids were pitched to the dragons back in 2014.

Originally named Lost My Name, Wonderbly creates personalised children’s books that feature its readers in the stories.

The idea impressed, Piers Linney, who invested the full £100,000 requested for a 4% stake.

The company has gone on to sell more than two million books across the globe, with Dragon Piers Linney reporting it as "the most successful business to have ever passed through the Den’s walls" in 2015.

Razzamataz Theatre Schools

Razzamataz/instagram
Razzamataz/instagram

Dragon: Duncan Bannatyne

Investment amount: £50,000

Founder Denise Hutton-Gosney pitched her dance schools to the Dragons’ back in 2007. She secured an investment of £50,000 from Duncan Bannatyne.

With the dragon’s support, the company was able to pursue an aggressive expansion with scores of franchises opening across London, the UK and overseas.

In 2014, Hutton-Gosney bought back Bannatyne’s stake in the company for £70,000 and now owns 90% of the company.

It was this year announce as the winner of the 2021 Best Franchise award, with a turnover of around £10million and plans to expand around the world.

Mainstage Festivals

Snowboxx / instagram
Snowboxx / instagram

Dragon: Piers Linney

Investment amount:£100,000 in return for 15% of their company.

Founded in 2011 by Rob Tominey and Aden Levin, Mainstage Festivals offered “once in a lifetime” low-cost clubbing holidays for the 18-24 market.

When Tominey and Levin pitched to the Dragons, the business had already hit revenue figures of £1.6m and £257,000 profit with projections of £3.5m and £500,000 profit.

The entrepreneurs received multiple bids and accepted Piers Linney’s offer for £100,000 in return for 15% of their company.

It has now grown to become a market leader in overseas festivals, running events from the Snowboxx festival in the French Alps and New Zealand to Kala, Albania’s first ever international music festival in 2018.

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