Dragons’ Den blog: Episode 4 Series 9

Posted on by Nell Frizzell

As the camera pans across a smoke-streaked scene of what appears to be the ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ number from Mary Poppins, and the whistling industrial guitars of a particularly sinister rock opera shrieks in, this must be Episode Four of Dragons’ Den.

The five dragons have “the credentials, commitment and the cash,” claims the voiceover. Which is slightly ironic as most of the contestants they will see are clueless, crass and should be committed.

Still, thousands of entrepreneurs have applied so, in the words of a long-suffering boxing teacher, we’d better let them have a go. It’ll be funny to see their pain if nothing else.

I am very interested to see that Hilary has opted, yet again, for that timeless “eagle dressed as an astronaut” look with her voluminous white jacket.

Former radio DJ Bob Davis is first up. Oh look, he’s wearing a bow tie! And he sounds like Noddy Holder – this can’t possibly go wrong. Bob-a-Job is looking for £50,000 in return for 20% of his company. And what does this magical company do, to lure its CEO away from the glamorous world of late night phone-ins and spinning discs, I hear you ask? It manufactures Bob’s Box, of course: a huge bingo-cum-crystal-maze fun tank for corporate events and, one assumes, fetish nights. Hilary gets in straight away; lucky she’s wearing her personal protective equipment a.k.a the shouldernator.

“It looks like a very large bingo blower” spots the eagle-eyed Deborah Meaden. Honestly, you can’t get anything passed this woman. So far, Bob has made £600 a day and is looking to share his box with the nation. But let us hear more about the man behind the box: he’s known in the entertainment industry as the “car event king.” Imagine The Stig, if under that white suit was a red-faced man from the Midlands wearing a bow tie. Oh, and he also plays Thomas the Tank Engine at corporate events. Despite these rock-solid credentials, Peter Jones is worrying about Bob’s debt. In fact, he’s calling a grown man in a bowtie who used to pretend he was a train naïve. Who would have thought it?

Duncan then weighs in and forces Bob to climb the stairs all over again and re-present his pitch, for his existing company. Which, to Bob’s credit, he does very well. Although he doesn’t actually dress up as a monkey and play the drums, he does manage to convince Hilary to invest.“I know the other dragons will think I’ve lost my marbles, but I just loved being in the box.”

The second contestant, Camilla, loses out because of her slightly unpersuasive financial projections. Oh well, at least she’ll have a “fabulous home” to go back to.

Next up is former car dealer Fraser Allen, who is pitching his little piece of poolside revolution: The deckchair safe. He wants £150,000 but is offering just 5% ownership of the company. Which is a little like paying £25 for a beach towel, only to be handed a flannel. No wonder Deborah Meaden gives him  a dressing down. Thank god he didn’t do the pitch in his trunks.

Remarkably, at this point, Dave doesn’t just climb in to the small blue box for a little cry. Instead he turns to Peter Jones for salvation. Sadly, it’s a no from Peter, which prompts Theo to go in to some ludicrously tortured analogy about a mythical balloon party.

Now we have the high speed contestant montage including labradors, shorts, sieves and something that looks quite like a urinal. Oh, sorry, no. It’s a mobile steaming shave unit. Imagine Man in the Iron Mask, as designed by Armitage Shanks. The dragons simply suggest holding one’s head over a bowl instead: a position I imagine many of them take after a night out in Rotherham with Hilary’s haulage lads and a 14 litre bottle of whisky.

Next up is Mexican chef Marcella and her amazing band of Mariachis. This is like watching The Ten Amigos. Now, I don’t want to play the psychic here, but I have just the tiniest suspicion that Marcella may have seen Levi Roots’ pitch, as she sings about fresh flavours and Mexican recipes. “A vivacious pitch,” says Evan, which is one way to describe a room full of salsa, pina colada and sequined men strumming guitars.

Marcella is looking for £75,000 to turn her range of Mexican food in to a household name. You know, like Dyno Rod or Tampax. Marcella is already selling to Selfridges and is in discussions with Waitrose, which explains how she has made £50,000 so far. However, Peter Jones isn’t sure about the product name, Rico, and Deborah and Duncan are both out.

Will Theo be interested? Apparently not, although he does give her some useful business advice: to concentrate on one good product. You know, like he has. Hilary then tells Marcella that she should have pitched for £750,000 and Peter Jones believes that she has to find her brand name. So, what’s in a name? Nearly a million quid, apparently.

Following the Mexican stand-off we whizz through baths, Cornish ski-ing and plate-painting pancakes.

This week’s final contestant is Robert Lewis from West Sussex who, in the words of Evan Davis’ voiceover, is “looking to turn thin air in to hard cash”.  Have people learned nothing from Paul Daniels?

Robert is looking for a £100,000 investment in exchange for 10% of his company. His design can retro-fit advertising signs in to existing belt security barriers. It is “Neat, tidy and clean” and has produced a profit of £82,000 so far. Robert supplies to cinemas, The National Trust, a chain of pubs and bars and is currently approaching a major highstreet chemist. But why not airports, asks Deborah? This, I fear, is the business equivalent of tearing off a recently-affixed plaster and plunging your manicure in to a barely-healed wound.  Either way, Deborah seems to have taken against Robert like Superman took against kryptonite. Duncan is also out.

Theo is impressed but he can’t invest in it because of Robert. Is it his ginger hair? Is it his suit? Is it his huge container load of profit coming from America? Peter Jones says that without the paper print out of an email confirming Robert’s American order he cannot invest either. Apparently Dragon’s Den actually takes place in 1992, rendering everyone involved unable to simply take out their smartphones and check the email online. So, in an extremely canny bit of bartering, Peter Jones offers the money for 100% ownership (later dropping to 49%), inspired by Robert’s 100% confidence in the American deal. This is like watching moose lock antlers: impressive, but not quite as impressive as stags.

Hilary makes an offer of £100,000 for 45%, but Robert still accepts Peter’s offer. Which is a little odd, as the money being offered seems to be less than Robert is going to make from his two containers heading to the States.

Still, mine not to reason why. Theirs but to do and buy. Those mighty five dragons.

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