Levi Roots, Chocbox and Skinny Tan: Dragons Den’s best investments

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ast week, the Standard revealed how the business titans of the BBC’s Dragons Den have missed out on billions after declaring ‘I’m out!’ to entrepreneurs who have gone on to enjoy spectacular success.

But it hasn’t always gone so badly wrong.

As the 18th series prepares to air, showing for the first time on BBC One rather than BBC Two, researchers from money.co.uk have pulled together a list of seven biggest success stories to emerge from the den, adding millions to the wealthy investors’ fortunes.

Levi Roots

Official Levi Roots

Dragons: Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh

Investment amount:£50,000 for an impressive 40% equity in the company

Back in 2007, Reggae singer and chef Levi Roots pitched his spicy Reggae Reggae Sauce to the Dragons’ and successfully managed to secure £50,000 to manufacture his product. In return, Levi Roots was offering 20% of the equity in his business.

The sauce is a secret recipe from Levi’s grandmother and must be hot stuff because despite being told there’s “no future for this business” by Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh saw something else and invested £50,000 for an impressive 40% equity in the company.

Reggae Reggae sauces are now stocked in all major UK supermarkets, taking Roots’ worth to an estimated £30 million according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Peter Jones remains a shareholder and advocate for the brand, claiming “it’s one of my most successful investments from the show”.

Magic Whiteboard

Dragons: Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis

Investment amount:£100,000 investment for a 40% share of the company

Founded by husband-and-wife team Neil and Laura Westwood back in 2006, Magic Whiteboard is basically a roll of A1 whiteboard sheets that will stick on anything thanks to static. It is now stocked in all major office supply stores with a global customer base.

The product is now said to be Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis’ most successful investment with the portable whiteboard achieving impressive growth since appearing on the show.

In September 2014, the Westwood’s bought back their shares from Meaden and Paphitis, giving the investors £800,000 return on their £100,000 investment.

Having increased sales from £45,000 to £1.2 million a year, and consistently delivering healthy profits, the founders decided to ask Theo and Deborah to sell back their shares. Neil and Laura wanted to give their children, Ella and Morley the shares to secure their future.

Skinny Tan

Skinny Tan / Instagram

Dragons: Kelly Hoppen and Piers Linney

Investment amount: £60,000 for a 10% stake in the company

Skinny Tan, a self-tan brand, went from startup to global success after its founders Louise Ferguson and Kate Cotton pitched to the Dragons’ in 2013.It didn’t take long until Skinny Tan became one of the fastest-selling tanning products in the UK.

Launched in 2012, the brand boasted profits of £600,000 in its first year. After hearing the success after a year, all five Dragons showed interest, with Kelly Hoppen and Piers Linney sealing the deal with an offer of £60,000 for a 10% stake in the company.

The company was sold for an undisclosed sum in June 2015, both co-founders and Hoppen and Linney remain shareholders.

In April 2020, Kate and Louise revealed that they plan to extend to Spain and South Africa next.

Wonderbly

Wonderbly

Investment amount: £100,000 for a 4% stake in the company

Founded by dads Asi Sharabi, David Cadji-Newby, Tal Oron and Pedro Serapicos in 2012, the creative fiction books for kids were pitched to the dragons back in 2014.

Originally named Lost My Name, Wonderbly creates personalised children’s books that feature its readers in the stories. The idea impressed, Piers Linney, who invested the full £100,000 requested for a 4% stake.

The company has gone on to sell more than two million books across the globe, with Dragon Piers Linney reporting it as “the most successful business to have ever passed through the Den’s walls” in 2015.

Razzamataz Theatre Schools

Razzamataz/instagram

Investment amount: £50,000 

Founder Denise Hutton-Gosney pitched her dance schools to the Dragons’ back in 2007. She secured an investment of £50,000 from Duncan Bannatyne.

With the dragon’s support, the company was able to launch all over the UK and abroad.

In 2014, Hutton-Gosney was able to buy back Bannatyne’s stake in the company for £70,000 and now owns 90% of the company.

Chocbox

Chocbox

Dragons: Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan 

Investment amount:£150,000 in return for a 36% stake in his business

Entrepreneur Peter Moule invented a plastic cable device as a way to store electrical wires safely.

He pitched his idea to the Dragons’ in 2007 and secured the support of Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan who invested £150,000 in return for a 36% stake in his business.

Peter’s gadget went on to net £25 million in global sales since first appearing on the show.

In an interview with North East Exclusive magazine in 2013, Bannatyne described Chocbox as one of his best investments from the show.

Mainstage Festivals

Snowboxx / instagram

Investment amount:£100,000 in return for 15% of their company. 

Founded in 2011 by Rob Tominey and Aden Levin, Mainstage Festivals offered “once in a lifetime” low-cost clubbing holidays for the 18-24 market.

When Tominey and Levin pitched the Dragons, the business already had revenues of £1.6 million.

The entrepreneurs received multiple bids and accepted Piers Linney’s offer for £100,000 in return for 15% of their company.

It has now grown to become a market leader in overseas festivals, running events from the Snowboxx festival in the French Alps and New Zealand to Kala, Albania’s first ever international music festival in 2018.