I was delighted to interview the BBC Dragons Den TV series newest stars today.
James and Richard Gold and Lewis Blitz have grown their business Skinnydip to £500,000 turnover in just eighteen months with a startup investment of just £45k
James and Richard, 25 and 23 respectively and Lewis, also 25, have been friends since they were children and decided when they were 15 that they’d like to work together.
After university, with no loans to pay back (!) they got jobs and saved as much as possible while developing their business ideas. Two years ago, with some help from friends and family, they invested £45,000 and went to work to build Skinnydip a brand of fresh and fun tech accessories including cases, headphones and speakers.
First order from Debenhams
With no proptypes and just some design ideas they hit the phones and got an interview with Debenhams buyer and left with an order! From there, their products are now stocked in all the major retailers in the UK.
The guys were so impressive that three of the dragons were fighting to invest £120,000 in them. Deborah Meaden wanted just 20% of the company, Theo Paphitis wanted 25% and Peter Jones 30%. Ignoring the retail specialist and the marketing specialist, the guys opted for the amiable Peter Jones. They described the decision as ‘not just about the money’ and they liked that Jones had offered to drop his shareholding down to 25% as soon as they paid back his investment.
The five minute clip we saw on the TV show was part of a two hour gruelling interview when the business and the guys who run it were taken apart and examined in great detail. They described the moment when they were given space to consult with each other before accepting any of the offers as a ‘blessed relief’. There was a five month gap between the show being filmed and going out on air and the hardest part in all of it was that James, Richard and Lewis couldn’t tell anyone except their very closest family members, and they were sworn to secrecy. The strategy obviously worked as I googled their names the day before the show aired and got zero results …. impressive.
What was also impressive is the work and preparation that goes on in the gap between winning the investment and going public. The winners had time to get their website ready to accept a lot of traffic and they themselves had obviously been well groomed in how to handle the PR machine. During the interview they gave me answers they wanted listeners to hear whether or not I’d asked the question but, fair play, that’s what the game is about and they did it very well. Their natural charm and good manners were still firmly in place and I’m sure their parents must be glowing with pride.
Why are they different?
I asked James and Richard what made them different from the millions of other people who have good ideas and never get them off the ground and they replied, with what I guess will become a trademark charm, that were lucky to be surrounded by talented people who believed in them and wanted to be involved in their company.
That wasn’t quite what I meant but we only had ten minutes so I hope to get a more detailed answer to that next time as I’m sure they’ll be back for more interviews.
Looks like a bright future for the Skinnydip brand and the enterprising young men who started it!