BBC’s Dragons’ Den look for Entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland

Last Year’s Dragons’ Den was record breaking, attracting more viewers than ever before. New Dragon Hilary Devey arrived, arched her shoulder pads and firmly established her place amongst the revered business leaders, and some of Britain’s best entrepreneurs gained the cash they desperately needed to turn their business fortunes around. Now it’s 2012 and the Den is ready to open once again.

Series 9 saw sixteen entrepreneurs accept an offer of investment from the business savvy multi-millionaires. One of the most dramatic pitches came from Chris Hopkins, who needed £120,000 to take his solar panel service nationwide. Having demonstrated his business was on a steep profit trajectory, four Dragons entered into a fierce bidding war to take a stake in the Yorkshireman’s company. A total of seven offers were made, including one notably retracted by Duncan Bannatyne. Chris finally shook hands with Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden, and with their help, he says he is now operational in eight regions and has quadrupled his sales revenue. Last year his profit exceeded £1M, and he is delighted to say, “Dragons’ Den has made me a millionaire!”

Former city worker Georgette Hewitt, who offered a stake in her children’s gift website, had an experience marked by extremes. After one of the worst starts ever in the Den that saw her fail to complete her presentation, she reined in her nerves and steered her pitch back on track. Such was her transformation; Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis agreed to invest £60,000 in her business, and it seems that viewers were won over too as she tells us her website received 1.4 million hits that night. Since then, Georgette says she is spending her Dragons’ money wisely, and reports a 70% increase in sales. It was Hilary Devey who spotted the opportunity in Liz and Alan Colleran’s memory foam sleeping bag. Impressed with their invention she invested the £80,000 they needed to improve manufacture. Now they say their influential Dragon has helped them to pursue new markets; including arranging a meeting with Richard Branson to pitch their product to his airline, and securing a major new deal that already guarantees half the turnover they achieved last year.

Previous success stories in the Den include single mum, Kirsty Henshaw. In 2010 she convinced Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones to invest £65,000 in her healthy deserts. She tells us that since her Dragons came onboard, her produce is now stocked in 665 stores nationwide, and she has achieved nearly £700,000 worth of sales. 2012 will see her new product range hit the shelves, and she is in talks to launch in America. Of course not everyone secures investment in the Den, but that doesn’t stop determined entrepreneurs going on to prove the Dragons wrong. In 2008, Natalie Ellis failed to convince the financiers to back her non-spill dog bowl, now she tells us that the product is available in 42 countries, her business is worth millions of pounds and even Barack Obama owns one!

The rules are simple: Entrepreneurs ask for a cash investment in return for equity in their business. They must get at least the amount they ask for or they will walk away with nothing. The Dragons are prepared to be pitched any kind of business but they must be convinced that it requires investment and will make money. Ideas, businesses and products that have previously gained financial backing in the Den have demonstrated one or more of the following: unique selling point, scalability, clear route to market and a planned exit strategy.

If you’re genuinely seeking investment for your business idea or invention, we’d like to hear from you. The BBC will be auditioning throughout the coming months. If you would like an application form please send an e-mail to or visit