In only six episodes, series 12 of Dragons’ Den has already given us plenty of brilliant and just enough terrible pitches.
We’ve seen mini-tanks, taxidermy, flavoured peanut butter, healthy marshmallows, dog deodorant and light up cycling helmets with a bit of dancing, Duncan napping, and a tasty dog food snack along the way.
So to keep us from not missing the Den too much during the mid-season break, here’s a look at, in my opinion, the best and worst of this series so far.
“I’m going to make you an offer…”
Skribbies – Episode 1
Episode one filled us with hope for the series as Jennifer pitched her customisable children’s shoes. These kid’s trainers with their whiteboard style surface could be adapted in an endless amount of ways, and keeping it brief yet informative, mentioning her clients and adeptly answering questions proved Jennifer to be a lady who is undoubtedly going to succeed. Kelly and Piers both took an interest, each investing £30,000 for 12.5 per cent equity.
Spoon Cereals – Episode 2
The first half of series 12 gave us plenty of food and drink based ideas, and this was my favourite. Currently at a London Underground location, Spoon Cereals offer a granola based breakfast pot with a fresh topping of choice, and have a range of cereals to be sold in supermarkets. The market knowledge shown here by Johnny and Annie impressed me greatly, but what I love more is the idea of a breakfast outlet that is quick and also very healthy.
The pair walked away from the Den with £50,000 split between Deborah and Peter for a 30 per cent share of the business.
Lost My Name – Episode 2
This pitch is one that came through despite a few antagonising factors, including unfair terms regarding other investors, and the request of £100,000 for only 4 per cent equity. However the product, children’s books personalised into a story based around the child’s name, won me over completely. As a child I never had the joy of owning something proudly displaying my name on it, and this ability to customise a book for a child is not only something that will make them feel special but it will also be a memory they will never forget.
Piers did offer all of the money, requesting 5 per cent and for the same terms as the other investors, who all later agreed.
Fat Lad at the Back – Episode 4
The only pitch in this list to be unsuccessful in the Den is here because I feel it deserves redemption. The Dragons simply did not understand the intention of this cycle wear designed for larger people, saying it could offend. But I disagree. I understand the self-deprecating humour behind it and how someone would wear it to say “yes I am larger and I want to be healthy, and what?” rather than attempting to fade into the background. And not only this, I fully believe that a product like this gives larger people empowerment to get fit, and would provide the confidence they may have previously been lacking. That definitely can’t be a bad thing.
Just for Tiny People – Episode 6
Rounding off the top 5 and proving that products for children tend to do well in the Den is Effie with her business, Just for Tiny People, creating tepees and accessories. Everything about this pitch was very promising; sales were good and demand high. The investment would help Effie increase her currently small production line. As a business seemingly made for Kelly, Piers and Peter both backed away from making an offer, but Duncan and Deborah wanted in. As Kelly and Duncan decided they could split the investment, Deborah requested a bigger share of the business.
Ending the first half of the season on something of a curveball, Effie chose Deborah, but her previous success has set her up perfectly to keep her on track along with Deborah’s help.
Victor’s Drinks – Episode 3
First of the worst from the series so far is the cider home brew kit invented by Ralph and Alex, students who wanted to easily make their own cider. Piers was correct in saying that this product is aimed at people who don’t really care about the taste of their cider, they just want to show their mates, and as a “just add water” product, it effectively is cider squash. Because of their poor market knowledge and the fact that they didn’t need the money due to another business, the Dragons began to withdraw from making an offer, with Deborah saying that she did not like the idea of encouraging cheap drinking.
After negotiations, Duncan, the last remaining Dragon, took away 25 per cent of the business after investing £40,000, with the promise of his share dropping to 15 per cent if the unrealistically optimistic target sales were achieved. He must have seen something that I and the other Dragons did not.
Morella – Episode 4
Born into a world where we face the terrible problem of having to carry an umbrella, a drink, and a smartphone all the same time, Morella brought to us an umbrella with a drinks holder built in. It wasn’t just the fact that high sales figures would be needed to make a return that turned the Dragons off from this product, it was the fact that it is unnecessary. Nobody needs to hold any more than an umbrella and a drink at the same time, especially when there is a wonderful invention called a bag. Nobody should be walking and looking at their phone at the same time, and anybody who would need to stop to look at their phone would surely find a little bit of shelter first.
To reiterate what I said at the time – we shouldn’t have to rely on smartphones so much that we can’t even travel a short distance from one place to another without looking at it. Whilst they are useful and convenient things for us to have, you can’t be on your phone whilst driving so why do you need it when you’re walking? There is, after all, that other wonderful invention called hands free.
Pants on Fire – Episode 6
From a product unnecessarily looking to the future, also among the bad this series is a product stuck in the past. Pants on Fire board games were pitched in a very awkward and monotone way, and didn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before. However Duncan wanted to take a gamble, and offered £25,000, half of the requested amount, meaning that remaining Dragon Peter would also need to make an offer. After discussions, Richard and Stuart had no choice but to accept from both Dragons, who took away 20 per cent equity each, to clear them of their debts.
The small numbers and low profit margins alongside this product that is unlikely to be successful, and with the history of debt, I’m not convinced this was the best investment the Dragons could have made.
Magnetic Ease – Episode 6
The solution to all of our golfing troubles – having to pick up tees! I hate it when I can’t find a tee that cost me a few pence, or worse, when I can’t be bothered to bend to pick it up… Well, Rob and Nigel have the answer. Make them magnetic. But as well as making them magnetic, they will cost approximately 70 times that of a standard tee. Sounds like a great idea, right? It’s not.
Stowaway Designs – Episode 6
Episode 6 contained an abundance of useless and badly thought through products and ideas, and Stowaway Designs was the epitome. Jim’s product was garden furniture using a mechanism that raised tables and chairs out of decking. Its £300 RRP, along with the fact that it’s an add-on when purchasing decking, meant that it is a much too expensive product for what it is. And coming along to what it is, it’s a clever way of eating off of the floor, as Piers put it. I’m sure nobody wants to eat off of their floor, nobody wants a table made of decking, it would be impossible to clean, and most people like to move their garden furniture around.
Jim’s claims of this being a new trend that “everyone has” are very optimistic and very untrue. All Dragons rightfully did not make any offers.
Luckily for us, there’s still the second half of series 12 to come, and we can expect more genius ideas, and of course more pointless and bizarre pitches.