Dragons’ Den: Taste the money, S19, ep10

Dragon Sara Davies on series 19 episode 10

Tonight’s episode featured a chilled chocolate brand, but would greed come back to bite the founder?

First up the lift was Joe Wiseman and Dan Mills looking to play the dragons into investing in their mystery puzzle game, The Detective Society. They were looking for an investment of £75,000 for 7.5 per cent of this mystery-solving business.

Could the dragons find clues that this business could prosper?

Their game mixed the tangible with the digital, featuring maps, fictional websites and criminal databases online. “We want the player to feel like a real-life detective,” said Dan.

Touker Suleyman quizzed the duo on whether they thought valuing their business at £1 million was wishful thinking. Poor Joe was already gulping with nerves.

“I think what you’ve put together is exceptional,” said Peter Jones. Not so fast, Mr Jones. This was just the presentation box with a sample of all the things you could receive with your puzzle.

“You’ve got a couple of pieces of paper and a padlock for £30,” corrected Steven Bartlett. He, Touker and Peter thought the twosome were living in a fantasy world of their own by estimating a year-three turnover of £3 million.

Deborah Meaden was playing the long game, though, having sat quietly as all the other dragons bar Sara Davies dropped out. She offered to share the money with Sara for 12.5 per cent each. “Would you be willing to drop your offer to 20 per cent?” Joe asked in an optimistic last roll of the dice. A shake of the head from Deborah forced the duo to accept.

Next up was Molly Masters, with Books That Matter. She was looking for £50,000 in exchange for 5 per cent of her feminist book subscription service.

Could this be a new chapter for her business?

Well, it wasn’t so much the words as the numbers the dragons were most impressed with. An £800,000 turnover to date almost caused Touker to fall off his chair.

For Peter Jones, it all made perfect sense after discovering 80 per cent of books at GCSE level are written by men.

The two females in the room weren’t as impressed, though. “Why would you restrict your audience?” Deborah asked. “My boys wouldn’t want to read a book that came out from a pink box” Sara added.

Touker made a point that perhaps Molly should diversify her offering before offering the whole £50,000 for 30 per cent – but also left the door open for Stephen to join him with a shared deal. Stephen declined but did advise Molly not to give away 30 per cent for a measly fifty grand. Which she didn’t, leaving Touker with an embarrassing double rejection.

At this point it was time for Peter Wayne to face the dragons. “They’re either going to get it, or not get it” he said ominously before entering the room. He was after £70,000 for 15 per cent of his heated desk business.

Would this take ‘hot desking’ to whole new level?

“I love it when people solve a real problem” Sara said excitedly.

There isn’t a lot of profit to make in the furniture industry, our Peter admitted. But what was more concerning to Touker was the fact that none of the desks had yet been tested on the market in a retail space.

Maybe there would be some reassurance from website sales. “We’ve sold less than 20” came the sorry reply.

Was there even a plan?

“There’s no marketing strategy.”

Amazingly, from there it got worse as it was becoming clear Peter couldn’t take the heat in the den. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone copied it,” he confessed before revealing two other businesses had tried the idea before without success.

Back to the drawing board, anyway.

Last up the lift was duo Steve Russel and Giles Atwell with their confectionary offering, Russell & Atwell.

“I describe myself as a Willy Wonka” Steve announced cheerfully before heading through the doors. “I’ve got chocolate in my veins” added Giles. Hmm, not sure that’s healthy, Giles.

They were looking for £90,000 in return for nine per cent of their very own chocolate factory, which uses sustainable cocoa, organic honey, Dorset sea salt, organic cream and no palm oil.

Steven was equally impressed with the branding as he was with the taste and it didn’t take long for him to propose an offer of half the cash for 15 per cent.

Cue the swathe of dragons wagging their own golden tickets. Sara has been making her own hand-made chocolates for the past ten years, apparently. “I haven’t tasted chocolates as good as my own, until just then,” she sweet-talked, joining Steven in offering half the money for 15 per cent.

Touker chipped in and Peter jumped on the bandwagon, too – clearly looking for a partnership with Steven after singing his praises. Deborah, sitting quietly until the end, declared she would make her own offer for 25 per cent or half the money with a fellow dragon.

“The ‘but’ for us is, it’s too much of our business” Giles winced. “We won’t give up a big chunk of our business.”

It was enough to persuade all the dragons to drop their shares to ten per cent.

But then Giles was on the verge of greed, offering the dragons to taste their new hazelnut and orange chocolate if they dropped another percentage. “Is that how you value one per cent of your business?” said Steven to laughs all round.

“Do you know what, I’m actually going to withdraw” Deborah suddenly announced to cut those laughs short.

What does she have against flavoured chocolate?

Oh no, it’s because she felt if the two couldn’t say “yes” emphatically to an offer, there was no point going into a partnership at all.

Well, that changed the duo’s tack. They quickly pointed to Peter and Steven as the combination that excited them the most for their enticing blend of retail and marketing knowledge (before any other dragon had the chance to follow Deborah’s lead).

“On that basis, I’m not going to stand by and be an option” remarked Touker, dramatically ruling himself out. Sara followed suit (I thought it was the best chocolate she’d ever eaten?) and suddenly, it seemed like Giles and Steve were in some sort of chocolate quicksand.

“I’m starting to feel a bit uncomfortable as well” Peter agreed, as if there wasn’t enough tension in the room.

“We’ve gone from 30 per cent to 20 per cent, and you’d have two powerhouse dragons on your team,” he continued.

With that, the deal was all wrapped up. But boy didn’t they make a meal of that.

“And I’ll be a customer” Touker chirped.

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