Dragon’s Den Episode Nine: Hilary Devey proves she has a heart while Peter Jones gets a new employee

by Matt D

Dragons Den 2012

At the start of this week’s instalment of Dragon’s Den, Evan Davies asks us to put ourselves in the minds of the Dragons. A daunting prospect, however I suspect that Peter Jones would be thinking about how much taller he is than everyone else and Hilary Devey would be wondering why she still can’t get her horse out of the barn when she offers him bacon in the morning.

This week’s episode though seemed to be about hearts as much as it was about minds as in tonight’s first pitch there was an incredible display of generosity that showed that the Dragons can be compassionate when they want to be.

Hannah Windrass

That pitch came from retired nurse Hannah Windrass who wanted £85,000 for 15% in her invention which would make using the toilet easier for those who suffer from crippling back pains. Hannah gave an impassioned speech where she talked of her own back pain struggles and how her toilet raising device would save people from having to add those ugly extended toilet seats to the top of their bowls. Hannah came across as a lovely lady and shooting her down would be like kicking a puppy but as ever these Dragons had to probe into every area of her business if they were to part with their money.

While earlier questions from Debra and Peter were met with competent responses it was only when Duncan claimed to have seen similar products during his time in the care home industry that Hannah’s time in the den started to go downhill. Questioning that she didn’t have the rights to the product he agreed to read through her patent while Theo’s interrogation led to a further revelation that Hannah had spent the majority of her life savings, £94,000 in total, on the product. After discovering this Theo surmised that there wasn’t enough demand for her product so he pulled out with Peter following soon after claiming that there was other ways to raise a toilet though he did wish her well.

After Debra advised Hannah not to waste too much more of her time with her product, Duncan told her that she hadn’t read her patent correctly and essentially that the lawyers had ripped her off. With four Dragons now out Hannah already had a dejected look on her face however Hilary did offer her some time to help discover if the Prince’s Trust or any other care facilities needed products such as Hannah’s however she also couldn’t offer her a monetary investment. It isn’t often that I’m touched while watching Dragon’s Den but Hilary’s gesture did move me slightly but ultimately I did feel that the Dragons were right not to invest in Hannah’s product.

Ashley Sayed

Next up was product designer Ashley Sayed who wanted £150,00 for a 25% share of his business Karuma Ltd which specialised in easy-to-use electronic tablets for children. His two current products are the Playbase Go, which is designed to be as light and thin as possible, and the Playbase Plus which is the world’s first anti-bacterial tablet as it kills 99.9% of all screen germs. Ashley also revealed that he’d been talking to distributors and retailers around the world and has just received his first offer from the largest electronic retailers in Singapore the country in which he is currently based.

When the Dragons began quizzing Ashley they discovered that he had quite an impressive background having been a designer for Motorola, where he was headhunted by Philips, before finally heading off to Singapore to invent his own product. When asked what made his product unique he cited the anti-bacterial screen claiming that he had a patent however when Debra drilled him a little more he actually revealed that it was pending as he only sent off the application a couple of weeks prior. Theo also had his reservations as the price Ashley was charging was way above what the product’s competitors were asking for and said that though he’d enjoy working with Ashley it was too risky a proposition.

Three more Dragons pulled out in quick succession as Duncan claimed that technology wasn’t his area while Hilary and Debra both had issues with just how unique the anti-bacterial screen actually was. While the other Dragons had been giving their verdicts Peter had been peeling the skin off one of the tablets with Ashley revealing that it was simply a prototype and his boffins in Singapore were currently developing a second wave of designs that would come with wireless charging.

As Peter began weighing up his options he admitted that he thought Ashley was incredibly employable and if he’d come looking for a job then he’d definitely give him one. Eventually he formulated an offer where Ashley would come to work for him and develop a product which he would then take to market under a division of his company which Ashley would have a 25% share in however if within a year that product hadn’t been successful then the pair would go their separate ways. Even though this was a fairly complicated offer it seemed that Ashley didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth so accepted the offer and shook hands with his new employer.

Purepotions Skincare

Friends Natalie and Wheeze were up next asking for £90,000 in return for a 15% in their business Purepotions Skincare a company that produces ointments and cream for those with incredible dry skin. The pair tell of how it all started when Natalie’s daughter Lula suffered from a dry skin condition and after not finding anything suitable on the high street Natalie made her own concoction in the kitchen sink which eventually ended up becoming one of the products that the duo now sell.

Wheeze made the product sound quite successful as she talked of how Holland & Barrett were stocking their items while they were also on some NHS lists as Doctors had started to prescribe them. So far so good but when the questioning begun things started to unravel starting with the discovery that the pair had already owed money to a consultant who promised to introduce them to investors but then never did. This revelation worried Peter so much that he pulled out claiming that he didn’t want to invest his money only for them to turn round and tell them that they didn’t need him anymore.

There were more surprises when the Dragons discovered that the girls had given £26,000 worth of free stock to Holland and Barrett for their trial in the hope that they would get money when the health food outlets stocked them full time. Hilary wasn’t impressed with this and felt there would be too many hurdles to jump before she made her money back so she pulled out followed by Theo and Duncan both of whom didn’t see it as investable product. Debra was the final Dragon left and she did claim she was initially interested however because she didn’t feel completely comfortable investing in the pair she decided she had to pull out. Personally I feel the Dragons made a mistake here as I think these skincare items could do quite well given the right opportunity but at the same time I do agree with their reasons for pulling out.

Keith and Anne Proctor

The final pitch tonight came from husband and wife Keith and Anne Proctor who wanted £75,000 for a 10% share in their business which specialised in creating waterproof covers for mobile homes. In what Evan Davies described as ‘a rather subdued pitch’ the couple demonstrated how the material on their covers kept the water off while Keith also described why people liked using their covers.

Peter really didn’t seem to be interested in the product which he just saw as a cover with a pole in it while adding that he thought the pitch was boring however when he heard how much the product had sold he seemed to change his mind. The other Dragons then wanted to know what they wanted the money for which turned out to be more machines to complete orders quicker and hopefully expand their market into Europe.

Hilary then discovered that the Proctors would one day like their children to take over the business however when quizzed by Duncan the pair said they would change their minds if the right buyout came along. Debra was still struggling with the thought of investing in a family business claiming that as a minority shareholder she would inevitably feel left out so instead she declared herself out. Peter and Theo both followed suit with the former still not enthusing over the product and the latter lacking any real experience in the market which they would be going into. Duncan though saw something in the couple offering half the money for 16% of the company while Hilary offered the same however the Proctors didn’t want to give away almost a third of the business. They then presented a new offer to the Dragons which would see them get 13% each something Hilary agreed with and even though Duncan took offence to her formulating an offer for both of them he eventually declared himself on board and the quartet went into business together.

While this wasn’t the best episode of Dragon’s Den this series it was certainly memorable due to Hilary’s offer of help to Hannah and Peter essentially gaining a new employee in Ashley. While I’m waiting for next week’s episode I’ll still be pondering what the Dragons are thinking but I’m guessing I’ll struggle with Theo as his thoughts will be all Greek to me.

What did you think of this week’s Dragon’s Den? What do you think the Dragons are thinking? Leave Your Comments Below.