A pair of Birmingham entrepreneurs who successfully took part in Dragon’s Den, winning £85k investment, have been left ‘mystified’ after being cut from the show. And business owner 60-year-old Howard Brown is sure they “would have been the talk of the series”, had it aired.
Alongside partner Alex Black, 64, Mr Brown had hoped the hefty investment from ‘Dragon’ Touker Suleyman and their ‘entertaining’ pitch on TV would have been the kickstart their underfloor heating business needed. The pair also moved Real Infra Red Ltd to a large office in the Jewellery Quarter in anticipation of ‘lots of orders’ and growth from their upcoming BBC One appearance.
But when the broadcasting company contacted them, it was to say they would not be airing their section. It was a huge blow for the duo – who now need to leave their JQ base and ‘downscale’ after revised forecasts.
The pair had successfully gained an investment after a very ‘entertaining’ pitch, with lots of ‘banter’, said Howard. They had hoped to come out of the experience with £85,000 investment for a 20 per cent share – but were pleased to agree on a third.
Mr Brown, who grew up in Handsworth, told BirminghamLive: “Our pitch was so entertaining that the researcher was saying: ‘Well that was terrific, that’s going to be great TV’. We were having a laugh and banter, the back and forth was really good.
“It went very well, it was very enlightening, a terrific experience and we got an offer from Touker so we were over the moon. We were made up that he wanted to be an equal partner with us.
“Then we get the news, three weeks ago, that they weren’t screening our segment. They just sent us an email saying it’s nothing to do with our product or the pitch, but they have decided not to air it.
“We imagine that everyone that got an investment, especially if it was good television, would get aired and we didn’t. And we just couldn’t understand it.”
Howard had informed family and friends he was due to make an appearance on the popular series, but had been waiting for months to be informed of the exact week it would air.
“We have been constantly waiting for that ‘week before’ call and it didn’t come, but the email did. We were just mystified, we were perplexed.
“When you look at the other pitches that have been aired (we don’t want to blow our own trumpet) but we would have been the talk of the series.”
The pair applied for Dragon’s Den in 2020 and were contacted last year to go through the ‘due diligence’. They filmed their 1 hour 40 minute pitch with the Dragons in June last year, with high hopes for the 2022 screening.
He added: “We had hoped for lots of orders, lots of further press, lots of further marketing. That’s standard for Dragon’s Den.
“Assuming that we were on, we moved to these offices in the Jewellery Quarter, big offices. So we’ve got to move out now because we’ve got to revise all of our forecasts and downscale them considerably.”
The deal with Mr Suleyman has subsequently fallen through as his “offer was contingent on him getting his friend, a house builder for a major construction company, onboard”.
He continued: “It’s a crying shame. It would have been a great kickstart for us.” The partners developed their brand of underfloor heating laminate with the help of Wolverhampton and Aston University, which assisted with testing of the product.
As though back in his pitch to the Dragons, he said: “You roll it out, you connect it electrically, plug it in, and cover it with tiles, engineered wood, wooden laminate or carpet. It’s a superb heating mechanism and it’s infra-red so it saves carbon emissions and it cures damp.
“It’s silent, it’s got lots and lots of pluses. It’s a non-convection system which means it doesn’t heat the air, it heats any solid material in the heated space.
“It’s very popular in Korea, Japan, Poland, Germany and Scandinavia. Alex was over in Poland and he met someone who had it fitted in their house and he couldn’t believe it.”
The partners now plan to market their product to councils, housing associations, builders and to the public. Asked his thoughts on Dragon’s Den, he urged anyone thinking of applying to give it a go.
He added: “It was a terrific experience and anybody that’s thinking of applying for Dragon’s Den, the due diligence is so extensive that it just makes you go through everything in your business, which can’t be bad for you.
“In the experience of meeting the Dragon’s, that’s a once in a lifetime experience. Everybody that has a decent idea will stand a chance. We’re proof of that.”
A spokesperson for Dragon’s Den/ BBC Studios said it is made clear to every entrepreneur that their pitch may not appear for “editorial reasons”.
Their statement read: “To avoid any disappointment, we make it very clear to all entrepreneurs throughout the casting and filming process in the Den that their pitch might not appear in the finished series for editorial reasons.
“As we also do if any contributor’s pitch is not included, we recently wrote to Mr Brown to explain this, thanking him for his participation, and wishing his business the very best of success.”
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