Dragons’ Den blog: Episode 6 Series 9

Posted on by Nell Frizzell

“Will any of these budding entrepreneurs walk away with their money?” asks Evan Davis in this week’s Dragons’ Den introduction. Why do you ask Evan? Is Hilary going to mug them? Is Peter Jones a notorious pick pocket? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

First up we have the husband and wife team of To Chan and Karen Ho who have brought with them a tank of whitebait. Ah, no. It’s a fish pedicure. You know – the places where you can get habitat-starved fish to eat your dead skin. Like a David Attenborough deep sea documentary, only you can find them at every festival, train station and high street. To and Karen want £150,000 for 30% equity so they can open two more shops.

Peter Jones the Brave volunteers to give the fish a testmunch. “It feels very odd and it’s likely to make me sweat,” says the communications millionaire. Some people pay a lot for that in Soho, Peter.

“I do feel very different to when I went in,” Peter continues. Probably because you’ve just taken part in the most undramatic Jaws sequel known to man, beast or fish. To and Karen are more than just amateur Aquarians: both did science at Oxford and then went on to work as consultants, in Karen’s case at Lehman Brothers. So, at least they’ll have a good reading list while the fish are digesting.

Hilary explains that when she goes to nail bars she sits there and calculates their profit. You can just imagine how much fun she is at hen dos. Sadly, To and Karen’s reticence about quick, mass market growth puts Hilary’s talons out of joint and she’s out.

“Tanks and cages make me feel sad,” says part-Greenpeace-hero-part-Rainbow-presenter Deborah Meaden, so she’s also out. MC Bannatyne points out that “Everybody can copy it,” while Theo Paphitis responds with a characteristically odd “You get a tick in the box, but I don’t quite get to a yes.” He’s such a poet.

Next up is Scott and Lee (wait, weren’t they in Steps? With come girl called Lisa?) with their new fitness craze Ski-Hop. Well, skipping certainly seemed to work out for Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. However, the Dragons seem underwhelmed. “You’ve got a long way to go to convince me to invest £100,000 in a skipping rope,” says Theo, apparently much summing up the mood in the warehouse.

The most awkward pitch of the evening (possibly the entire year) comes courtesy of the Teeside sign maker Alan Pearson. Alan just about manages to stutter, sigh and wince that he sells  street name plates and some sort of plastic container – a “maintenance-friendly accessory” whatever the hell that is – before his pitch grinds to a uncomfortable, but undeniably peaceful stop. He had wanted £100,000 for 10% but as his mind goes blanker than Paris Hilton’s CV, the chances of a decent offer seem unlikely. He doesn’t know his gross from his net, 50% from 100% or margin from mark-up. He also paid himself somewhere between £40,000 and £4,000 over last year.

“You would make my foot itch” says Hilary. Oh well, at least he delivered the entire pitch like someone on the penalty line. Actually, make that the firing line.

The next pitch is a hand-held joystick for playing online poker. Duncan puts his hand in for a quick (not to mention losing) round before the grilling commences. Things go about as well as a pair of twos squaring up to a royal flush played by a psychic Mafioso.“Your previous track a record makes it likely that I will lose my money,” says Theo. Ouch.

Next up we have the fashionable East London twins Polly and Charlotte Vickery who seem to have come ready for a quick jumble sale – their clothing rail bulging with tops. Imagine Lily and Sarah Allen, but if one of them was blonde and neither of them had ever made any money.  Polly and Charlotte’s label, Brat and Suzie, makes t-shirts and tops featuring the original designs of professional illustrators. These garments have then featured in Closer and Cosmopolitan (which are magazines, for those of you reading this in a pair of John Deere dungarees or a hessian sack.) The girls finish off each others’ sentences, want to start making dresses and named the label after their childhood pets. So far, so cute. Until they reveal that for each illustration – basically the entire selling point for the garment – they only pay the illustrator £20. That’s actually less than the cost of a single t-shirt. Which, from a business point of view is fantastic. Just not quite so fantastic for the penniless illustrators and possibly not their best PR move.  Hilary “I’m really in to fashion” Devey sadly thinks the business is too risky for her investment and Polly and Charlotte leave empty handed.

After a quick bronco-bucking demonstration of a motorbike seatbelt fails to win the entrepreneur a single buck, we come on to the last pitch of the show.

Andy Bates’ career as a fire fighter came to an end a few years ago when he was involved in a high speed motor collision. So, consequently, he’s designed a really, really fast car. Well, of course. According to Evan Davis, this is “a compelling story from the passionate entrepreneur.” Y ou could also argue that this is a compelling story of a moth taking up a light bulb-engineering business, but what the hey. Andy is looking for £50,000 for 10% in his Sabre motorbike-powered car which can, apparently, be driven on actual roads too.

Despite the potential for expansion in to the American and Swiss market, most of the dragons scatter from Andy’s pitch like pigeons in front of a moped. Unsurprisingly, the petrolhead Peter Jones makes an offer of £50,000 for 35%. Duncan Bananatime then offers all the money for 50% but dropping that share to just 25% after a couple of successful years. Poor old Andy starts sweating like a pig in a Danepak factory under the strain of the decision. But, in the end, he very sensibly opts for Captain Carburettor aka Peter Jones.

So, from flesh-eating fish to bike-powered cars – it’s been a funny old show. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a brand new maintenance-friendly accessory I just can’t wait to play with. Whatever it is.

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