Dragons’ Den rejects who went on to make millions – from BrewDog to HungryHouse
1st April 2021

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Telly viewers will step back into the Dragons’ Den tonight – as a new set of brave business hopefuls look to secure investment.

With Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis, inset, among the tycoons coughing up their own cash for a slice of the action, the show has been promoted to BBC One.

Since it began in 2005, more than 1,000 people have entered the den, with Dragons making 276 deals and pledging £22million.

But they haven’t always got it right. Here we look at the rejects who went on to make millions…

BrewDog

James Watt, co-founder of the craft beer giant, revealed he only made it as far as the screen test before being deemed “not investment worthy” in 2009.

He’d asked for £100,000 in return for 20% of the business. That would now be worth a mind-boggling £360million – the best deal in the programme’s history.

Trunki

Back when we could travel, these colourful kids’ ride-on suitcases were regular sights at airports.

But company founder Rob Law was given the thumbs down in 2006 ­after Theo Paphitis said he didn’t like the design.

It has since reached annual sales of more than £9m and is stocked by 2,500 retailers, ­including John Lewis and Boots.

Tangle Teezer

A saviour for anyone with knotty locks, when Shaun Pulfrey pitched this detangling hairbrush in 2007, he asked for £80,000 for a 15% stake.

But he was told by Duncan Bannatyne that he would never make any money from it, while Peter Jones dismissed it as “hair-brained”. Now it’s loved by celebs including Cara Delevingne and has annual sales of close to £30m.

HungryHouse

In 2007, Shane Lake and Tony Charles presented their idea of an online takeaway order and delivery service called HungryHouse.

The Dragons made them an offer, with Duncan asking for 50% of the business, but it fell through. The company was later valued at £2billion before being bought by Just Eat in 2018 in a deal that was worth up to £240m.

Cup-A-Wine

In 2009, James Nash’s idea of a plastic cup filled with a single serving of wine and sealed with a foil lid was rejected.

Duncan Bannatyne said: “People do not want to buy wine glasses like that,” and it was branded as “tacky”. But Marks & Spencer picked up the product and used it to sell their Le Froglet wine. It’s now a favourite of train travellers and picnickers.

Road Refresher

Natalie Ellis pitched this clever idea in 2008 – a non-spill portable bowl for dogs, perfect for taking in the car for long walks and trips.

After being rejected by the Dragons and told to forget her dream of breaking America, she made her first £1m in 2010. She even made a Road Refresher styled like the White House for then-President Obama’s dog Bo.

Destination London

Portsmouth entrepreneur Rachel Lowe invented her destination-themed board game while working as a taxi driver and asked for a £75,000 investment from the panel.

They turned her down but it became a hit, outselling every board game in Hamleys one year, even Monopoly and Twister.

Dragons’ Den starts at 8pm tonight on BBC One.

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