Who won Dragon’s Den? We rank 16 of the biggest success stories
Can you believe that we have now had FOURTEEN SERIES of Dragons’ Den? The terrifying dragons – currently Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Nick Jenkins, Sarah Willingham and Touker Suleyman – have invested literally millions at this point. Some of those investments were very smart, while some were… not. And they must be kicking themselves about letting some business opportunities go, too.
But which of the brave entrepreneurs who entered the Den have done the best? Who has made the most of appearing on the show? And which products did you forget were even on Dragons’ Den? Here are 16 of the best, ranked:
16. Bedlam puzzles – Danny Bamping (2005)
Original offer from the Dragons: £100,000 for 30% from Rachel Elnaugh and Theo Paphitis
What happened next: Danny initially accepted this deal from the Dragons but after filming he decided against it after all, instead going for a bank loan. And it paid off, because his 3D puzzles went a bit crazy and started selling rather well indeed. Unfortunately, the company has since come to a close, but not before Bedlam made it into the Guinness World Records (the speediest time to assemble it was 11.03 seconds headed by, erm, Danny – while Aleksandr Iljasov holds the blindfolded record of 27.21 seconds).
15. iTeddy – Imran Hakim (2007)
Original offer from the Dragons: £140,000 from Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis
What happened next: The iTeddy was definitely something of a hit. A soft toy with a screen and USB cable so kids can watch and cuddle at the same time, the product did really well after its launch as Argos signed an exclusive deal before it was later sold in shops like Hamleys, Harrods, Toys R Us and Tesco. Imran even secured a distribution deal in 45 countries and iTeddy went Stateside with a deal for popular US shop Target. In fact, at one point Imran was expecting turnover of £11m. It all seems to have quietened down a bit now, but you can still buy an iTeddy on Amazon if you really want to.
14. Swing Patrol – Scott Cupit (2014)
Original offer from the Dragons: £65,000 for 20% from Deborah Meaden
What happened next: Who doesn’t love a bit of a boogie? That must have been what Deborah Meaden was thinking when she invested in Swing Patrol, a company that now offers weekly classes, festivals, dance workshops and four performance troupes. Since being on the show, Swing Patrol broke a Guinness World Record for the largest Charleston, Scott got crowned Dance Teacher of the Year and have performed at various festivals. Oh, and one of their troupes was featured on The Apprentice this series as the treat for the winning team. It all comes back around…
13. Razzamataz Theatre Schools – Denise Hutton (2007)
Original offer from the Dragons: £50,000 for 25% from Duncan Bannatyne
What happened next: As long as there are cute little kids, there will be theatre schools, but Denise’s Razzamataz franchise was such a success that it ended up popping up all over the country and even internationally. What’s more, Denise signed a deal with First Choice so that her company could supply teachers to Holiday Villages. A couple of years ago, she even bought back Duncan’s stake in the company.
12. Magic Whiteboard – Neil and Laura Westwood (2008)
Original offer from the Dragons: £100,000 for 40% from Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden
What happened next: Who knew that a whiteboard in a roll would be such a success? The Magic Whiteboard ended up being stocked nationwide, including in Paphitis’s Ryman stores along with Sainsbury’s and Viking Direct. In fact, their website says they’re available in over 20 countries and 500+ stores and they’ve expanded their range too: you can now, if you wish, buy a Magic Blackout Blind and Magic Cling Notes. As with Denise, Neil and Laura bought back their share in the business – and Theo and Deborah apparently got an £800,000 return on their investment. Not too shabby.
11. The Wand Company – Richard Blakesley & Chris Barnardo (2010)
Original offer from the Dragons: £200,000 for 10% from Duncan Bannatyne
What happened next? We might be a bit biased putting The Wand Company in our ranking – and so high, too! – but let’s be honest: it appeals to our love of all things geek. Who knew that a universal remote control could ever get us excited? But The Wand Company managed it by turning them into Doctor Who Sonic Screwdrivers. They’ve even now released a Star Trek Bluetooth communicator. Basically, then, their creativity paid off, and Duncan previously said they grossed £1m in the first year. Nice work.
10. Skinny Tan – Kate Cotton & Louise Ferguson (2013)
Original offer from the Dragons: £60,000 for 10% from Piers Linney and Kelly Hoppen
What happened next? Sure, there’s lots of fake tan on the market – but not all of it also fights cellulite at the same time. That combination got Piers and Kelly interested, and it seems they were right to be as reports suggest the product made profits of £600,000 in its first year. It’s now sold in Superdrug, while huge beauty giant InnovaDerma bought 80% of the company and seems to be very pleased with it. Even Made in Chelsea star Lucy Watson is a fan – she’s Skinny Tan’s brand ambassador.
9. Cup-A-Wine – James Nash (2009)
Original offer from the Dragons: Nothing!
What happened next? In proof that the Dragons aren’t faultless, they sometimes miss a real opportunity. That was the case with Jim Nash, who proposed plastic glasses of wine with a tear-off lid. The lack of investment didn’t hold James back, and his Le Froglet brand soon began being sold in M&S – who struggled to keep up with demand for the product.They’re now a mainstay of M&S’s food-to-go aisles and have even won awards. So there, Dragons’ Den.
8. minicabit – Amer Hasan (2014)
Original offer from the Dragons: £75,000 for 35% from Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden, though the deal didn’t go ahead
What happened next? We’ve actually used this one… and completely forgotten that it was ever even on Dragons’ Den. That’s the sign of a true breakthrough, right? The deal with Peter and Deborah (apparently the first time an app had ever got a yes from the Dragons) may not have been ultimately successful, but that didn’t hold Amer back. His minicab comparison site raised £1.4m in investment last year and he’s got deals going with Heathrow Airport, Big Yellow Storage and the O2 Academy Group. Not bad at all.
7. Hungryhouse – Shane Lake & Tony Charles (2007)
Original offer from the Dragons: £100,000 from James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne – though the deal didn’t go ahead
What happened next? Just like minicabit, here’s another company that a) we forgot ever appeared on Dragons’ Den and b) didn’t get held back when their deal with the Dragons fell through. The Just Eat competitor got investment from a couple of people who’d actually been watching the show, which allowed the business to expand massively. It was bought by the German company Delivery Hero a couple of years later. Now, get us a pizza.
6. Kirsty’s – Kirsty Henshaw (2010)
Original offer from the Dragons: £65,000 from Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones
What happened next? Mmm, more food. Kirsty Henshaw appeared on Dragons’ Denwith her company Worthenshaw’s, a healthier alternative to ice cream, and become the youngest entrepreneur to receive investment at the time. But things have changed a bit since then. In 2012, she decided to rebrand as Kirsty’s and focus on healthier ready meals. It was a good move, as her products are now stocked in supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, and last year reports suggested the business was valued at £4m – she’s even managed to buy out Duncan and Peter and now owns 100% of the company. Nice.
5. Wonderland magazine – Huw Gwyther (2005)
Original offer from the Dragons: £175,000 for 40% from Peter Jones
What happened next? We had no idea Wonderland magazine had started on Dragons’ Den but it was right in the very first series of the show in 2005. And it has to be one of its biggest success stories – the high-quality mag is adored by the trendiest of folk and boasts Kim Kardashian West on its latest cover (previous stars to appear on the front have included Emma Watson, Taylor Swift and that One Direction-cuddle-puppies-in-pastel-jumpers moment). Earlier this year, Huw revealed that Peter is still a shareholder and that he has “nothing bad” to say about his Dragons’ Den experience. It certainly paid off for him…
4. Tangle Teezer – Shaun Pulfrey (2007)
Original offer from the Dragons: Nothing!
What happened next? Well, this is a bit embarrassing. The Dragons summarily dismissed Shaun Pulfrey and his special hairbrush when he asked for investment, only to presumably watch in dismay as the Tangle Teezer website crashed with the demand when the episode aired. The brand has gone from strength to strength ever since, with fans reportedly including Victoria Beckham and Cara Delevingne and Boots choosing to stock the product. The Tangle Teezer has also won numerous awards, while in 2015 it was reported that the business had a turnover of £23m. Whoops.
3. GripIt Fixings – Jordan Daykin (2014)
Original offer from the Dragons: £80,000 for 25% from Deborah Meaden
What happened next? Look, we’re not going to pretend to you that we have any interest whatsoever in plasterboard fixings. We’re not even entirely sure what they are. But you know, sometimes the simplest of products are the biggest of successes – and so it was with GripIt Fixings. Jordan was just 19 when he entered the Den, but Deborah spotted something in him and good job too: GripIt Fixings are now sold in over 3,000 UK stores and 32 countries and expanded to the USA this summer. In fact, Jordan raised a further £2m of investment by crowdfunding earlier this year, so he’s not doing too badly – his company is now said to be worth £10m. We might need to sit down.
2. Trunki – Rob Law (2006)
Original offer from the Dragons: Nothing (Rob rejected an offer of £100,000 for 50% from Richard Farleigh)
What happened next? We genuinely don’t think it’s possible to go to a UK airport these days without tripping over a little Trunki suitcase. Even Duncan Bannatyne has admitted that he thinks of Trunki as the one that got away. Rob Law’s pitch to the Dragons didn’t get off to the best start as Theo Paphitis broke the strap on his sample, but that didn’t matter in the end as the company took off hugely and has been sold in stores like John Lewis, Next and Harrods (plus in over 60 countries). With a huge number of awards in the bag, as it were, and more than 3m suitcases sold, the company doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon (back in 2013, it was valued at £13m).
1. Reggae Reggae Sauce – Levi Roots (2007)
Original offer from the Dragons: £50,000 from Richard Farleigh & Peter Jones
What happened next? Really, who else could be at the top of our list? Levi Roots is widely considered the biggest ever success on Dragons’ Den after his Reggae Reggae Sauce became a store cupboard staple. Sainsbury’s was bowled over by the level of demand for the tasty condiment when it first went on sale, as it sold in a single week what it was expected to shift in a year. Ever since, Levi’s released cookbooks, expanded his range, and even got Reggae Reggae Sauce into recipes at companies like Dominos, Subway and Wetherspoons. The company just keeps expanding, too, with meal kits, soft drinks and puddings now on the menu… and there’s even a Levi Roots restaurant at the huge Westfield Stratford shopping centre.