Knock-on effect of the Dragons’ Den on UK manufacturing

Posted on 27 Sep 2012
Dragon' Den cropped for landscape web
The current dragons: Duncan Bannatyne, Hilary Devey, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones

You might think that walking into the Dragons’ Den and not receiving investment would automatically make your idea a failure. You might even be tempted to rip up your concept and go back to the drawing board.

But for some, not receiving any cash in the Den has actually proved beneficial. The extra exposure has attracted interest from potential buyers and, most importantly, investors.

The tenth series of BBC show Dragons’ Den is currently on our TV screens and has been a staple of British television viewing since its debut in 2005. Many have braved the wrath of the dragons, but how has appearing on the show benefitted those who didn’t receive any dosh? And how has this had a positive knock-on effect on UK manufacturing?

TM’s Kimberley Barber caught up with three companies who failed in the Den, but are prospering now and, through their success, so are UK manufacturers.

Captive Media

Captive Media went into the Den this series to seek investment in its high-tech urinals. Gentlemen can control a game on the screen above the urinal through activating carefully positioned sensors with their ‘flow’.

Captive Media Unit
Captive Media Unit

The dragons didn’t take too kindly to the product and didn’t invest, but this has not stopped Captive Media. Since the filming of the show, Captive Media has secured investment of a higher amount than it requested in the Den. This year, it has received over £100,000 in business, with orders from 50 different countries still to come.

Surprisingly, the electronic product is not manufactured in one of the electronic manufacturing-heavy countries like China, but in High Wycombe by Melford Electronics.

Captive Media chose Melford Electronics because of its focus on producing high-end specialist displays. Its UK location meant Captive Media could become more hands-on in the production process, but also shorter lead times and the ability to order smaller product runs.

Captive Media director Mark Melford (no relation to Melford Electronics) said: “If we were making one million a year, we might make them out in China. At the moment it is convenient for us to make them in the UK as we have more control over the product and its development. Because of this and other factors we felt it important to manufacture them here.”

Shewee

A portable urination device, the Shewee is something of a taboo subject although not for the MOD who have just ordered 20,000 for female soldiers to carry in their kit bags. The idea of women standing up to pee isn’t a novelty to the armed forces, but a necessity when it involves taking off protective clothing in a war zone.

Entrepreneur Samantha Fountain holding a Shewee
Entrepreneur Samantha Fountain with a Shewee, her product to assist women who're caught short

Shewee appeared on Dragons’ Den in 2005 and failed to secure funding from the dragons. This has not held inventor Samantha Fountain back. In fact, the publicity helped to put the Shewee into production and helped the product to go global – now being sold in 20 different countries.

Samantha told TM that she initially struggled to find plastic manufacturers that were willing to work with her and her rather unusual idea.

Samantha said: “Right at the very start, I knew I wanted to work with a plastic injection moulding company in the UK. I was fearful of going abroad as I didn’t want to get ripped off.

“I wanted someone I could trust. I found a company called Broanmain Plastics nearby in Dorking that was fantastic. They helped me with the design, the packaging and to get it to market.”

She added: “It costs a couple of pence more but it is worth it for the peace of mind and for the fact that we can say it is 100% made in Britain.”

Last year Shewee sold 140,000 units, and it is projected to sell 350,000 this year. A Shewee retails from £6.50 upwards and are stocked by most outdoor and camping stores.

Trunki

Trunki, a ride-on children’s suitcase, appeared on Dragons’ Den in 2006. It didn’t secure investment but has become known as ‘the one that got away’ as its popularity means it is now available in over 60 countries.

Designer Rob Law with a Trunki made at Inject Plastics
Designer Rob Law with a Trunki made at Inject Plastics, Plymouth

After facing rising costs in China, earlier this year Trunki announced its intention to bring production back to the UK, choosing Inject Plastics in Plymouth as their UK manufacturer.

Currently half of all Trunkis are made in this factory, with an intention of further ramping up production over the next year. Trunki has the ultimate a goal of manufacturing 100% of all UK-sold Trunkis at Inject Plastics by the end of 2012.

Designer and creator Rob Law said: “Although UK manufacturing isn’t about employing lots of people on long production lines carrying out repetitive jobs, we’re using more robotics and lean manufacturing.

He added: “At the end of the day, I would rather be paying a UK factory for products and see the cash go back into the UK economy than see it going off shore.”