For the first time, the Den opens its doors purely for commerce at Christmas. Entrepreneurs pitch their festive companies in the hope of securing a much-needed cash injection.
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These are the Dragons. Five of Britain's wealthiest and most enterprising business leaders.
Tonight in this Christmas special, the famous financiers will make
or break the dreams of some of the UK's most festive entrepreneurs.
My children's jumpers. Dog jumpers.
Maybe I could wear one on Christmas Day.
2011, I turned over roughly about a million pounds.
Ah! He's got me.
-Can I have a cup of tea, please?
-I'm going to make you an offer.
-And later we'll be catching up with some of our Den entrepreneurs
during their most crucial time of the year.
It's empty down there. Why are they all up here?
The Dragons have the credentials, the contacts, the commitment and the cash ready to invest,
but will they be spreading Christmas cheer for any of our entrepreneurs tonight?
Welcome to a special Christmas edition of Dragons' Den.
For most of us it might be the season of goodwill,
but for many entrepreneurs it's the season to make good money.
Hopeful business men and women are waiting to face the Dragons,
desperate to secure a cash injection in order to gear up
for their most profitable time of year.
But don't expect talk to be of mince pies, fairy lights and the office party.
This is business, after all.
Hello. My name is Melanie. I'm known in the industry as Mrs Christmas.
My main business is events. Hopefully today, with your £100,000 investment and 20% return,
you'll see that I'm so much more than just Christmas.
So... Years ago, we always used to visit the big man in he red suit
and occasionally we'd get a cuddly toy or perhaps a photograph as well.
So what I decided to do is think, "Right, what can I do that can stand out from the rest?"
So then I pioneered Wish For Ticket, which is an online ticketing solution.
Rather than waiting in a queue for two hours to see Father Christmas,
people could book online at their leisure.
So then to make the experience more exciting and bigger, I created Rocket the Reindeer,
which is a 12-minute animated 3D film.
Suddenly the footfall was increasing enormously.
And that's when I created some costume characters
called Rocket and Cheeky that are based on the film.
And once you've seen the film,
you come out and there's a whole merchandise there of DVDs and stuff, all sorts of different things.
But not only that, in 2010 I turned over roughly about a million pounds and my profit was £300,000.
So thank you for listening. Would anyone like a hug before we carry on with questions?
Santa Claus, sparkly grotto and cuddly characters.
Duncan needs a hug.
-I'm OK, thank you.
-You need a hug. I can tell you need a hug.
Surrey-based Melanie Hurley has certainly thrown all the festive trimmings at her pitch.
She's hoping the Dragons will invest £100,000 in her Christmas-experience company
in return for a 20% stake.
Having bid farewell to Cheeky and Rocket, Hilary Devey is ready to get down to business.
-What was the name of the event company?
-And that's the only company you've got?
We have two other companies. Wish For Ticket Limited and Rocket The Reindeer Limited.
OK. And how long have you been trading?
Well done. Right, this business is very, very seasonal.
-So who do you work with?
I work with the big boys. I work with Selfridges. I've done that for six years in London.
The Manchester Trafford Centre, Westfield.
I've pioneered the technology that you see at the Christmas grottos and experiences today in the UK.
-Tell me about you.
-I've always done events.
I've always been a leader, never ever a follower.
-I'm very creative.
-Tell me how?
Right, I was asked to put in a Christmas event three years ago
and I had to try and increase the footfall into the experience at Christmas.
And the figures were 9,000, that's what I had to inherit.
In year two when I took it over, we increased that to 27,000 people that came through.
Last year was 47,000.
Right. And this revenue, the one million revenue
-in the previous 12 months' turnover with the 300,000K profit.
-Is that net or gross profit?
-That's gross profit.
The business is making money, the business is making good money.
Sure-footed responses from the experienced entrepreneur.
But how will she fare under the scrutiny of Deborah Meaden?
-Can we just explore those numbers a bit?
-So you're got GP of £300,000 in 2010?
So what does that produce in terms of net profit?
At the moment there isn't too much left in the pot for profit,
because I've reinvested everything I've got. I've bought costume characters and my films.
So I'm in a position now where I've got assets and I'm almost asset rich but cash poor.
Let's talk about your balance sheet - what does that look like?
So 2011 is looking like the million turnover. My gross profit was £500,000.
-Yeah, that's profit and loss though.
So you talked about assets. I'm looking at the balance sheet. What are your fixed assets?
OK. And what's the number at the bottom? Your net assets for the company?
At the moment it's £40,000.
-That's what my profit will be for 2012.
-No, you're talking profit.
-So balance sheet, what's your net worth?
That's my assets.
-Melanie, I can see Deborah's frustration here cos...
-Try another route.
I'll try another slightly different tack, but it's the same question.
-In total, do you have any stock?
-What's the value of that stock?
-At cost price?
That's DVDs and some of this merchandise.
-So if on the right-hand side of a piece of paper you've written £50,000.
On the left-hand side of the paper, do you owe anybody any money at the moment?
-And does anybody owe you any money?
Now if we take the difference between £57,00 and £20,000, we get what?
-I'm one step ahead.
-That's all right.
-So totalling up, £37,000 goes on to the other sheet.
-Where the £50,000 was.
-Numbers are not your game, are they?
-Not my game.
-Do you have any cash in your bank at the moment?
-Erm... about £20,000, I think.
-OK. Do you have any loans?
-About £45,000 to finance the second film.
-OK. So in general, I've come out with a net asset value of your company, £62,000.
-Peter, can I just check one thing. You said you had £200,000 worth of assets?
We've got Wish For Ticket in that as well. We haven't discussed that yet.
-Give me a few seconds.
My head is smashed now with numbers!
I'm going to say to you it is smashed.
Confusion reigns and much of Melanie's earlier good work is undone.
Can retail expert Theo Paphitis help bring the likeable businesswoman's pitch back on track?
I've been sitting here listening to everybody asking you questions
thinking the penny's going to drop any minute.
-And you're great and it's very visual
and you're a really enthusiastic, strong person, that we love to see here.
If I had my sheets here and I could tell you,
I don't remember numbers. I honestly don't remember numbers.
-I'll make you loads of money!
-If you're making loads of money, what are you doing here?
-I'm not yet.
I have a creative head and it just needs somebody like you to grab hold of me
-and say, "You know what, I'll do your finances, you go and get the money."
-I can't understand your business, never mind invest in you.
-Right. OK, let's do this.
You've got Melbry Events, which is a ground operation,
so I have hundreds of costumes, staffing, the best in the country,
and what I did is created Wish For Ticket as an add-on and then I made a film.
I came up with Rocket the Reindeer. I wanted a 3D experience that no-one else had done.
-Can I have a look at the films?
-Yes. They're here.
-And how many did you sell?
-Last year it was seen by about 600,000 people across the county.
-So, Melanie, stop there.
-That was the film.
-No, no. No, no. Hilary asked you a question and you came out with a complete different answer.
Yeah. She said how many did you sell and you said last year it was seen by 600,000 people.
-How many did you sell?
A couple of hundred last year because it came out a week before Christmas.
Doesn't matter. You sold 200?
-We just teased -
-You sold 200 at what price?
-At six pounds.
-What did it cost you to make the film?
Right. So you spent £80,000 making a film, then you sold £1,200 worth of DVDs?
But I sold the licence as well.
-How much for?
-For £6,000. Six times I sold it.
-So £36,000 you sold the licence for and you sold £1,200 worth of DVDs.
-It cost you £80,000 to make the film?
And you sold the film for £37,000, making a loss of £42,500.
It's a very, very simple business rule.
You're not understanding the concept of business.
There's a huge licensing opportunity for this product.
I wish you a very, very merry Christmas, Melanie,
but I am... out.
Numbers once again prove Melanie's downfall and she loses her first Dragon.
And Peter Jones is not looking impressed either.
It's great to be creative, but you've invested money in these other areas and they haven't paid off.
-No. I'm so sorry, no.
-Because of the gate figures.
No, gate's irrelevant, because they'd still do the gate without watching that movie.
Peter, I've now got these assets and they're paid for.
They're not assets, they're ideas to generate additional income and you've just proved
that by introducing them at the cost that you have that they don't generate any income.
I've now got people from abroad wanting to work with us.
I can clearly see you've had a business for 15 years,
it's amazing what you could have done if actually you had aligned yourself
-with people that could help you run the business.
-And that's why I'm here, Peter.
You've done well to stay alive, frankly.
You clearly are very entrepreneurial,
you've got a real passion for events and you clearly are very good at it,
but I think a reality check needs to happen.
I'm going to say I'm out.
Right, there's other people that have got characters, other people have got booking engines,
and other people do events.
So you've out all these three together. But while doing all of that, what is absolutely clear
is you make little or no money.
You're a million miles away from where you think you are.
That doesn't mean you can't get there.
You need to stop, reconsider and have a new battle plan.
So for that reason I'm going to wish you luck and please take the advice, but I'm out.
It's profit, not passion, these Dragons are after as two more investors walk away from the deal.
Is Deborah Meaden willing to offer the financial lifeline Melanie badly needs?
Melanie, the trouble is I have no idea
-whether you have a got a fantastic business or business that's about to fall over.
-It's a fantastic business.
-(LAUGHS) I've got no choice, I can't invest.
-No, and I wouldn't invest. (ALL LAUGH)
It's so frustrating, because you will get your investment back.
-I just feel like if I ask you a question, I'm not going to be able to believe the answer.
So I'm out.
Melanie, I really like you, I like your enthusiasm and I like your passion.
-You don't know your numbers, but that's not a crime.
-Yeah. It's not my strength.
My advice would be before you go off at tangents spending more money,
write a three-year business plan.
-Reluctantly, I won't be investing in you today, so I'm out.
-OK. OK, Thank you. Bye-bye.
These Dragons may be high on Christmas spirit,
but that doesn't mean entrepreneurs will be getting an easier time in the Den today.
Melanie leaves with nothing.
That's probably the investment of the year that we all missed.
-We'll never know.
-I know what she should put on her Santa list.
-(BOTH) Or a calculator.
Where would we be at this time of year without our longstanding yuletide traditions?
Frank Hersey and his mum Babs hope to capitalise on one such custom with their festive jumper designs.
Four years ago I had to make him a jumper because we couldn't find one anywhere.
-Now we're looking for your help in our business Woolly Babs.
An impressive, if noisy, range.
Children's jumpers. SQUEAKING
T-shirts. Jumper dresses.
SQUEAKING Dog jumpers.
But for one Dragon, Frank and Babs' novelty knitwear was a step too far.
-Maybe I could wear one on Christmas Day.
-I'd love to see you wear one.
But I don't think I would. And I think if anybody else did who came to visit me...
(LAUGHTER) We do have the Bah Humbug one for you.
Peter Jones did try to root out their money-making potential.
What's your forecast for this year?
A turnover of £70,000 this year.
So what will be your Christmas sales in relation to that £70,000?
-Around about £55,000 out of the £70,000.
-Are you making a profit on the ones that you're selling?
You probably made that profit before deducting the rent on the office,
somebody's salary, VAT on the sale of the jumpers.
So if you scale it, you see where your profit's going?
Down the plughole.
So no investment, but Frank and Babs did at least leave with words of comfort from the Dragons.
You're lovely and this is lovely
-and they just look lovely and I'm desperately trying to...
I'm desperately trying, but I honestly can't get that it's scaleable.
-I'm sorry, I'm out.
It's one of the great paradoxes of modern society -
the more industrial we become, the more we crave handcrafted homemade goods.
This is something our next entrepreneur, Allison Whitmarsh from Huddersfield,
has taken advantage of.
Hello. My name's Allison and I'm here today to ask
for a £50,000 investment for 10% equity in my company ProperMaid and Ladies Who Bake.
My vision at the very beginning was to create an army of ladies
baking cakes with the same passion for home baking as I do myself.
But I knew passion alone wouldn't be enough
to get a slice of the £600 million home baking market as it stands today.
So what we've created is a range of traditional cakes alongside our unique flavours.
So I'd just like to give you an introduction to four of the cakes.
The first one is the Victoria vanilla.
This to me represents everything good about my home baking.
The second is our liquorice cake and this won a Gold Star at the Great Taste Awards last year.
The next one is dandelion and burdock cake.
The final one is a Christmas dinner cake
which has all the elements of Christmas in minus the turkey and the gravy.
-So in this one you've got sprouts, carrots, parsnips, cranberries, chestnuts, oranges.
And it's all mixed together with some Christmas spices.
And believe me, it tastes delicious.
Never before has the Den seen such a mouth-watering display.
-So we've got a bit of each one?
-You've got each one I just talked about. Lovely!
But is Allison's Whitmarsh's business as tempting?
-Which is the Christmas one?
-That one there.
Can I have a cup of tea, please?
She's hoping the Dragons will see potential in her Huddersfield-based home-baked cake range
and take a 10% stake in exchange for £50,000.
Hilary Devey looks intrigued.
Hi. I'm Hilary.
First of all, go through your own background and how you had the vision.
I've spent my whole working life in food manufacturing.
I started off developing recipe dishes for well-known retail brands and then I moved into manufacturing.
And I did that until I had children and then I found it very difficult
to manage a senior production manager role, so I packed it all in and became a dinner lady.
So then after being a dinner lady, I started in my home kitchen just baking.
I did my first farmers' market, sold out completely and then it's just exploded.
We've doubled our turnover year on year and this year we're on track to hit a quarter of a million pounds
with a net profit of £36,000.
And... I forgot what I was saying then.
-And, you know...
-You're demonstrating your passion?
Whether it's the cake or not, Allison is clearly endearing herself to the Dragons.
Duncan Bannatyne wants to drill down into the business itself.
-You're saying it's going to make £36,000 net profit this year?
So who is your biggest customer?
My biggest customer is a corporate caterer and they supply all the museums in Leeds.
How much is going to come from that customer?
They spend on average about £800 a week.
-£40,000 a year?
-And how many people do you employ?
-12 people. So 12 ladies and one token man.
How do you physically get the cakes delivered from your unit?
-I have a delivery man.
-So if someone 100 miles away wanted some cakes?
-Then I do use a distribution company.
We're at the stage now where a lot of our new customers are further afield.
We've just picked up a contract to supply all the music festivals,
so that one will be a national distribution.
That contract, who is it, how big is it?
It's a company called Eatopia and they do all the backstage catering for all the music festivals.
What kind of quantity do you think?
Depending on the festival, it could be anything from 3,000 units up to 40,000 units.
What's that worth to you in value terms?
On that contract alone about £40,000.
What do you think is going to happen in the future? What's the next point?
I think if we worked more smartly, we could take possibly a million pounds on where we are now.
But I do believe that what we have created could be extended all over the UK.
Expansion plans and lucrative new contracts,
it's not just the products that are appealing to the multi-millionaires.
Can Peter Jones find a reason to invest?
-I think you've done amazingly well.
As everybody said, the cakes are fantastic.
I am sitting here, though, thinking as you start to really grow this business,
how do you retain the home-cooking style?
There's two ways we could go, we could either build a massive factory so we could increase the output,
-but I think we'd lose everything about the brand, so...
It is difficult. So do I do it that scale or can I do what we've created in Huddersfield
and replicate it somewhere else in Scotland or in the south?
And then logistically we can still keep all the elements of the brand like the local sourcing.
-That's a huge duplication, isn't it?
You need to really work through the economies of scale to get those costs down.
I can't see at the moment a way that you could make this a really big business.
When I say big, I mean turning over several million
and making a couple of hundred thousand pounds a year,
which is what you'll need to do as you grow if I've invested £50,000.
So I can't find a way to invest in you because I think this is a localised, unscaleable business.
So, Allison, I'm not going to invest today. I'm going to say that I'm out.
A worrying analysis of her expansion plans, it's a first setback for Allison.
And Duncan Bannatyne looks to have made up his mind too.
Unfortunately,... this business has been driven by a fantastic, energetic lady called Allison,
who loves what she does, loves the people who work for her and loves her business.
You take Allison out and you have a problem - how do you fill that space?
I do think there's other people like me out there, I really do.
And I'd like to at least open another one.
It's just employing the right people.
-I'm not there a lot at the unit now and I still think I don't need to be there any more.
-Where are you?
I'm selling, I'm on the road a lot.
So you're still there in the business, on the road,
but going back and making sure your cakes are baked the right way.
Unfortunately, I think this business relies a little too much on you
and I think it's gonna be hard to expand it.
So for that reason only, I'm going to have to tell you where I am.
-Allison, I wish you the best of luck but I'm out.
How much do you think it costs to send a cake from Huddersfield to, let's say London, to keep it simple?
Well, I've been quoted anything from £50 a pallet to about £80 a pallet.
OK. So what's the shelf life of a ProperMaid cake?
-Seven days. But...
-In a refrigerator?
Some need refrigerating, some don't.
If it's got the cream cheese on, then you would have to refrigerate it.
But we've also got customers now that want to take it frozen as well.
I've just been in discussion with NAAFI, who are very interested in taking the Christmas dinner cake.
I'm not surprised. I think they should. I would.
-They're quite keen to get it out to Afghanistan over the Christmas period.
I don't normally eat cake. That's lovely.
And they would take it as a frozen product.
Right. I couldn't...
disagree more with Peter and Duncan.
I actually think you can scale it.
I think you can certainly get the turnover that Peter mentioned, several million.
I think the dilemma is not whether you can do it or not,
the dilemma is, is that what you want?
Yes, it definitely is.
I went in this really... to build a national brand.
And I still believe we can do it, but obviously with your help.
An earnest plea from a passionate entrepreneur,
but as yet no offers of cash.
However, there are still three Dragons left in.
You're very impressive, Allison.
I think you have got it pretty buttoned down.
If you lengthen its shelf life,
-you'll become the same as everybody else.
-The same as everybody else.
The point is that you're not, that's the whole thing about this business.
And you're bang on with that.
People want homemade, they don't want the bother of homemade.
And everything nowadays, however lovely it looks, it looks synthetic.
So I get there is a big market in that. There are hurdles obviously ahead of you.
And I think this not an easy thing to scale, but actually I think you would be a good person to scale it.
-So I am going to make you an offer.
..and I want 25% of the business.
At last, an offer of investment but for two and a half times the equity
Allison initially wanted to give away.
Now will logistics expert Hilary Devey choose to compete?
My worry is that the more premises you take on, the lower the margin becomes.
And I think you need to go into high-volume places.
But I think that that's the type of customer that is now approaching me.
So I need the scale. I'm targeting the bigger players now.
-Because unless you can distribute in volume, you'll never ever make a margin.
For me, the only way you could see it happening
is to have perhaps another two or three manufacturing bases.
And, yeah, I could do all that for you. I could help you.
Look, I've... I've thought about it and...
I just don't know if there's enough in it for me... to put the time into it.
So, reluctantly, I'm going to say I'm out.
-But, I've got to say, you are marvellous.
So that just leaves me.
Deborah's already made you an offer of £50,000 for 25% of the business.
How do you feel about such a large percentage?
If you'd asked me that a few months ago, I... I would have been reluctant. But...
I'm in this, really,... My get-out plan was always I'd sell the business at 50.
-How many years have you got?
-I'm 45 now.
I do believe with your help then I could still have that dream.
Look, if that's your dream of getting this business exited in five years' time and growing it,
you're going to need more than £50,000.
So I'm thinking on my feet.
I would suggest another way to cook the cake...
..that you get £100,000,
and I would put £50,000 in.
But, for me to make it worth my while, I'd want to own at least 20%.
-Would you be prepared to go down to 20% if I got 20%?
Um...I worry that the second lump of cash is not identified.
-But, in principle, yes.
-So I'll be giving away 40%?
40%, which will allow you to get to your goal a lot quicker.
Well, I would feel, at the minute,
uncomfortable about giving away 40% of my company.
-So, at the minute, then...
I think at that stage I'm probably going to have to allow you to
negotiate with Deborah.
-Are you still interested?
So I'm still all right, then!
-I'd love to take you up on your offer, Deborah.
-Well done. Well done.
Allison has done it.
She may have chosen half the cash that was on offer in the Den
but she retains a much larger slice of her company
and still walks away with a valuable investor on board.
Other entrepreneurs who tried
and failed in the Den included Craig Head from Derby,
aka Secret Santa.
He wanted the Dragons' help with his bid for the Christmas number one.
# Pull my cracker this Christmas
# And make my dreams come true
# Put me on your wish list
# A gift from me to you... #
Duncan Bannatyne, who once invested in a record company,
offered his own critique.
When you came down and you put the music on,
my foot started to move with the beat.
And then...you started to sing. And my foot stopped.
No deal at that end of the Den, then,
and, at the other, Peter Jones had his own concerns.
So, it's a song.
I got that much.
-But compare yourself to the likes of Bing Crosby...
-..and Noddy Holder.
-And now we've got Craig Head.
-It doesn't have to be me.
-I'm giving you the song.
-Who would you say is perfect for your song?
I quite like you.
Flattery can be a good tactic in the Den but this time it wasn't enough
to stop Hilary Devey putting an end to Craig's investment dreams.
As much as I think you're lovely, Santa,
you won't make any money out of it.
Military Wives last year took almost £200,000.
But they had fabulous voices, the music, the lyrics was fabulous.
How about forgetting any commercialism
and it all goes to charity?
It's not investible. I'm out.
-Good luck to you.
-Thanks very much.
Kim and Jack Walmsley brought a more fruity Christmas cheer
into the Den with their plan to rebrand a 400-year-old drink.
Punch is not available in any shops.
My great-grandma used to make it, and what we've done is used
her recipes and we now want to bring them to market.
The hospitable Liverpudlians started well by hosting their own party for the investors.
-That's a gin punch.
-That's Mother's Ruin.
-We have a rum punch.
-Green one is Sexy Twist.
It's a brandy punch with a twist, the twist being that it's green.
We did get an insight into what Christmas was like at the Joneses'.
What is difficult about making a punch?
You put spirits in it, some lemonade in it,
some orange juice in it or some cranberry juice in it.
It doesn't take you long.
You can put too much of one thing in and it won't taste nice and...
But that's the fun of it, isn't it?
You put a little bit too much in and people are going, "Whoa, that's a bit strong!"
But ultimately none of the Dragons saw a moneymaking future for the couple's new concept.
Kim, Jack, it tasted great.
But you can go on the internet
and there's just recipe after recipe after recipe.
And there is a very good reason why no-one else is doing it.
And that is because there isn't a demand for it. I'm out.
OK, thank you.
For the toy industry, success is all about Christmas.
That accounts for more than a third of all annual sales.
Next into the Den are David Harvey and Ben Lewis, with a tabletop game.
They're not looking for a gift from Santa
but they would like an investment.
Would one of you like to give us a honk on the starting horn?
-Thank you, Peter.
-Just give it a good squeeze at my command.
-Hello. My name's Dave Harvey and this is Ben Lewis.
And we produce Pucket,
and infectiously fun, frantic wooden game.
But before we tell you any more we'd like to give you a quick demonstration.
So if you want to come and have a closer look whilst we're playing.
OK. And, horn, please.
HORN PARPS Yeah!
So as quickly as I'm trying to fire them through
he's got to fire them back.
-It's then a mad rush...
-Agh! He's got me.
-There you go.
-You've played this before.
-I have played a few times, I have to admit.
-All right, out the way.
One finger on the elastic and then just place the puck in front
of the elastic so that you're kind of catapulting it through.
It come back!
-The faster you do it, the harder it is for him to get them back.
You can move them out of your way.
-You just can't push them through.
-Well played. I don't like it.
So we're here to offer you 10% of our business
in exchange for £50,000.
We've been producing Pucket games via a Fairtrade supplier for just over
three years and every Christmas to date we've sold out.
This year we're on target to sell 10,000 to 13,000 games.
It works well across the ages and is made to last.
As a result, we're not only selling to the kiddies' toy market
but also the adult gift market, with stockists including Selfridges,
the Conran Shop and independent design shops around the UK.
We'd be happy to take your questions.
Trying to encourage a bit of traditional Christmas gameplaying
in the Den are South Londoners Ben Lewis and Dave Harvey.
Having designed a new pastime for the parlour,
they're hoping £50,000 can help market it
to the great British public.
Duncan Bannatyne is first to scrutinise the opportunity on offer.
Who invented this game?
It's actually an old French game but it's not very well known.
I was a student in France and that's where I first saw it played.
Right, so you've no IP rights to it, you've no patent rights?
We've trademarked the name Pucket.
-In French it's known as table a l'elastique.
-Now, what does it cost you to make?
-Our landed cost is £15.75.
-Right, what do you sell it for?
-The consumer buys it for around 50.
-This is a piece of wood with two elastic bands.
-And you're selling it for 50 quid?
-That's correct, yes.
You must be really good salespeople. Eh?
-So give me the historic numbers to start with.
Three years ago we turned over about £6,000. Net profit was about 70.
-Yeah, £70! That was just the first Christmas.
-Second year was 29,000.
-What happened from 2011 to now?
-We turned over 113,000.
-What was your net profit?
£8,000. I should point out,
it should have been more like 21 but some last-minute delays meant
we had to air-freight, which actually cost us around £13,000.
If we sell all 13,000 games this year,
profits can increase to up to 60,000.
The poised duo have relaxed quickly into Den questioning
but something seems to be bothering Peter Jones.
-I have an issue with the actual game itself.
-What's your issue?
I could see me doing it once and it was exciting when I first
-sat there, cos I thought, well, I want to know how it's played.
But I got bored very, very quickly. It's not that exciting.
When we first started Pucket, I actually made a Pucket game
for my brother for Christmas. We had it in the family.
We took it on holiday and we were literally crying with laughter.
I myself broke down in tears
because we had such amazing fun with this thing.
I should point out, in terms of people, what you say,
do people actually enjoy it,
a large part of how we generate some sales is going to festivals.
These aren't people we know, they're not...
And we open at ten, we'll have a tent with maybe a dozen games out,
we'll close at midnight and people will play all day.
-They've never come across it before.
-And they've all said they've enjoyed it?
-Yeah, yeah, they've come back throughout the day.
-OK. Thank you.
I'm going to leave it to everyone's imagination
how you arrived at the name.
-Can we tell you? It's because...
-Are you going to spoil it?
It's because they're pucks and you puck it through the whole.
-This is a puck.
-And that really is how we came up with the name.
-I believe you.
-OK, thank you.
-You told us kindly that you landed this product at 15.75.
-What you didn't say is what you sold it for wholesale.
And what you didn't say is... where you have these made.
We have them made in India
by a Fairtrade group in the north of India.
What's the lead time?
It's probably up to a three-month lead time from buying the wood,
seasoning it, making the games and shipping it.
-So, from order?
Part of why we have it handmade and made so well is because it's not
just a kind of one-week throwaway present, and we want it to last.
Demonstrating market appeal and strategic thinking,
Ben and Dave continue to impress the Dragons.
Will Deborah Meaden have any cause for concern?
-Can I... By the way, I quite like it.
-Thank you very much.
For a game product, it's high-end product and I also think
its packaging is well targeted at the market that you have identified.
Can I just ask about the seasonality?
How much of your trade is done at Christmas?
It seems to be about 70% in the final quarter.
When have you got to have your stock in country for you to fulfil
-those Christmas orders?
-We'd have them all in by the end of September.
-So what does that do to your cash flow?
-That's why we're here.
-That's a big reason why we're here.
-We're asking for money for stock.
-Part of the Fairtrade...
That you really probably don't need to explain to any Dragon,
because it's glaringly obvious to me that you're bound to have an issue
with cash flow, when so many of your sales happen at Christmas.
-We pay 50% up front...
-Can I ask you a question? Why do you make in...
I understand the Fairtrade bit and I applaud you on the Fairtrade bit,
but why are you making in India?
We wanted it to be handmade and beautiful
and so the only way to do that at a cost that isn't prohibitive
is to go somewhere where the cost of labour is cheap.
Have you looked at having it made in the UK?
It's becoming an awful lot more competitive.
Our prototypes for the future games where working on, we obviously
haven't mentioned those yet, but we're having them made in the UK and
prototyped in the UK, and our first production run will be in the UK.
There's a calmness in the Den, as the smooth-talking duo seem
to be addressing all the Dragons' concerns.
But they've yet to receive an offer.
Duncan Bannatyne looks ready to have his say.
This game reminds me in a way of a game that I have in my house,
I play with the kids, called air hockey.
-Yeah, air hockey for traditionalists.
And we play that and it's much more exciting,
and, you know, thinking about paying £50 for that...
We've sold out every Christmas and, I mean, 3,000 people aren't wrong.
Clearly we haven't gone beyond that because we didn't have the games.
You're a very, very articulate and good salesman, Ben. And you, David.
It just seems far, far, far too expensive.
-So for that reason I've got to say I'm sorry but I'm out.
Thank you very much.
-Guys, shall I tell you where I am?
I can't think of anything more boring
than sitting down at night playing that game.
-Could we persuade you to have a go?
-No. You couldn't.
I just didn't like it, it bored me.
And I suspect I'm not the only person that will find this
It hasn't been our experience but if that's yours...
Unfortunately, I won't be investing in you today,
so I've got to say I'm out.
The friends' bid for £50,000 takes a turn in the wrong direction,
but not all is lost.
Three Dragons remain.
Has Peter Jones seen any moneymaking potential?
Looking at this as a business, I actually think that what you
should have done with that game is made it completely multi-use.
I think you should have designed it in such a way where you could
insert that elastic band, you can play backgammon on it,
you could play chess on it,
but I just think that just having one game, you've limited its market
and I think it's limited in terms of its value.
What a great idea, Peter. Now I know why you're so rich.
I've...just learnt something. Fantastic.
No, I'm being serious.
So I think that's what I would have done with this,
but I think that you will clearly sell enough
to have a living for yourselves, and, for that, it's great.
I'm not going to invest in you today. I'm out.
Guys, I actually... I don't agree with Peter on that.
I think that if you do make it a multipurpose compendium
you'll just be trying to compete with every other multipurpose compendium you've got.
I think the only thing you've got is that you're a new game,
that it looks different, it looks lovely.
I...I like it.
The trouble is, your valuation would mean there would have to be
a much bigger market than I believe there is
for me to get the type of return on my investment that I would want.
-So I won't be investing, guys.
-And that just leaves me,
and...I never found this as boring, erm, as the other Dragons have said.
And I like competitive games, I like games where there's movement
as opposed to just, you know, just sitting and watching them.
And I was sitting here trying to work out what it is that
I can do to actually help you make this happen.
So it just leaves me to ask you what your other products are.
Yeah, they're two other games that, I guess,
have some similarities in the look.
One of them is an old French-Canadian game
and the other one is my own invention,
that's another dexterity game where you don't take it in turns.
Games where you don't take it in turns tend to be more exciting.
-At the moment you're saying £50,000 is purely required for stock.
-Well, that's stocking finance that you need.
-So, did you go to your bank?
In fact, you know, we're still talking to our bank,
but it looks a little bit touch and go.
Guys, guys. I can't see that it's going to be massive for me.
It's certainly not...
And if I gave you £50,000 for equity
I would have to take over 50% of the business.
-It doesn't make sense.
-You need a loan.
-And that's what it sounds like.
It's not investible at the moment.
So I'm afraid I'm out.
Thank you, Theo.
It was a close call but ultimately a disappointing end for Ben and Dave.
They leave with nothing.
I was wondering whether I'd find a way of just lending them
the £50,000, let them buy the shares back.
-The Den isn't a charity, Theo.
-We're here to make money.
It's the start of the Christmas season.
A time of celebration,
where we're reported to spend over £3 billion on festive feasts.
It was earlier this year that Deborah Meaden provided us
with our seasonal investment, agreeing to give Allison Whitmarsh
a £50,000 cash injection into her home-baked cake business.
Today Deborah is in Huddersfield to check in with her latest
The deal is completed and this really is our first meeting.
I think it's really important I actually get to see exactly
what's going on so today my plan is to have a look around,
see the cakes actually being made.
-Oh, hello, hiya! Nice to see you.
-How are you?
And talk about our plans for the future.
Ooh, it smells lovely in here.
-We've got liquorice cake coming here as well.
-Oh, my goodness.
-So how's it going?
-We are getting really, really busy.
We're really focusing on the Christmas menu now.
But I'd like to show you the mince pies.
You're going to have to get me past the chocolate cake first!
-These are my f... I love mince pies.
-These are the Viennese mince pies.
One of the things we were blown away in the Den was that fantastic
Christmas cake you did with the Brussels sprouts.
Nobody wanted a traditional Christmas cake any more.
They wanted something that was unusual,
something they could talk about.
People were buying it because they just loved the fact that it's just so different.
-It smells lovely, though.
-Oh, well, you do get an aroma of sprouts, but...
-Yeah, you do.
How much of your business takes place at Christmas?
I'd say probably about 30% more sales at Christmas,
so we do really try and focus on bringing good-quality
different cakes out just for the Christmas season.
So this is the flow wrap machine, which has been the biggest
investment that we've had so far with the investment money,
which individually wraps slices of cakes, biscuits, flapjacks,
and this has just really enabled us to open the food-to-go market.
-Prior to this we had to do it manually.
-This is now replacing that!
OK. Well, this looks more super-duper.
Do you actually know how to work it?
Again, we've just had it delivered so we do know the basics of it...
-So this big red button here, do we know what that does?
So this is our new biscuit machine. It will really,
really improve productivity,
because everything before this was very, very labour-intensive.
That's like magic. That's cake magic, that is! It's brilliant.
Having a more efficient factory means Allison can now meet
new contract demands.
The next step is to discuss further expansion of the business.
I guess one of the biggest questions is going to be, what's our business development plan?
Do we actually open up further depots or do we
open up central hubs?
And that really gets led from who are we going to be selling to
and in what quantities?
One of the biggest things that has happened since the Den is having a frozen product.
You see, I think that's very interesting and very exciting.
That should play a big part in our planning, I think.
Well, I can certainly introduce you to the biggest
frozen food product distributor throughout the UK.
'It was a really good trip today.'
What I love is that Allison is already getting on with
the plan that we'd agreed.
What we do need to have is that strategic meeting.
We need to make sure that we start thinking
and behaving like this big producer that we say we want to be.
I hope my husband doesn't see this. I haven't cooked in 28 years.
-So if you'd just like to follow me.
-What am I doing?
Just keep pushing it from the middle to the sides.
Having Deborah here today, it's been nice that she's actually seen
what she's bought with her investment.
It's not just about the money, she's going to give me
so much more time and expertise.
You've got bits of gaps at the edge. It needs to go to the edge.
I won't be doing this again, Allison, so I don't need to be perfect.
-I think that's as good as it gets.
-But I am very impressed.
Me dreams of hopefully retiring in five years may actually be a reality.
-Just before you go, the white chocolate.
-The white chocolate.
-Got to finish the job, haven't I, eh?
-Don't forget the edges.
I'm really excited about this business, great potential,
and, even better than that, they make lovely cakes.
-Look what I did!
-Excellent! That's really good.
The Den has history with festive business.
But despite the many hurdles, Christmas commerce does have its benefits.
There are some advantages to having a business based around the seasons.
You can really focus and structure your business
and, if you've got the right product, clearly at the right price,
you're going to sell.
A festive business can succeed on its own. It depends on how many people they employ.
If you employ people for two months and they've got to be unemployed for ten months, that's always an issue.
As usual in the Den, the Dragons weren't shy of telling
Melanie Hurley what they thought of her business.
Six months on, has it had an effect?
I came out of the Den and I was very disappointed in myself
because I should have known those answers
and that really made me think, go back, pick yourself up and get your business running.
This is the Trafford Centre, this is one of our flagship clients.
It's very important for me to make sure that everything is 100%,
so the customer has that great experience.
Perfect. Merry Christmas.
The merchandise area is what's really, really important
because this is where we make our money.
Normally what happens is the customer will come in and look and go,
"Oh, I'll just have a photo for five," and actually the computer
will say, "Hey, for two quid more you can have Package B," or something.
And actually it doesn't sound too bad then. Ker-ching!
-Thank you very much.
-Have we got Finlay?
I've taken every single piece of advice that every Dragon gave me.
I'm still looking for that financial director, that's the missing link.
Everything else, we're ready to go.
I went into the Den asking for investment.
Now I've got 32 locations this year, which is double what I had last year.
I could have given that investment back to them straight away.
"Damn, we should have invested in that girl, she was right,
"she was right!"
Events like Melanie's are big business at Christmas,
as the hospitality industry cashes in on our collective festive cheer.
But that's nothing compared to our ability to shop.
Last December we spent £42 billion on retail alone.
Some retailers make ALL of their money in that four to six weeks
running up to Christmas.
And the rest of the year they just lose money.
Preparation for Christmas starts the previous Christmas, always does.
Once you've bought your stock, you've bought it.
You'll either oversell and run out of stock before Christmas
or you'll undersell.
That's so, so stressful.
The last entrepreneurs to enter the Den this year
certainly know that pressure.
Ben and Dave make 70% of their turnover at Christmas
and this year they've set their targets high.
So, we're at the Country Living Christmas Fair.
The aim today is to sell 50 games minimum or as many games as possible.
All empty down there, isn't it? Why are they all up here?
We had about 3,000 games that we sold last year
and this year the target is 10,000.
We borrowed so much money to get this stock in, it's a disaster if we don't sell it.
Hello, madam. Have you seen Pucket before?
-Business is slow.
-No, it's fine, thanks.
But, having failed to get investment in the Den,
what impact has that made on their future plans?
Unfortunately the Dragons said no, but amazingly, somebody said yes.
We actually knew him already, so, so we said, "Can we practise our pitch on you?"
He was like, "Oh, I think... Guys, I need to think about this."
Afterwards, you know, he signed up and we got his investment
for the same terms and the same amount of money.
So it's great.
-Right, Ben. I think it's about time we had our inaugural game.
-OK, let's go.
The sales technique is, we play, we make a noise,
Ben sees potential customers slowing down, looking interested, and we engineer a quick finish to the game
so that we can then say, "Come and see how it works."
Generally I just win anyway.
I don't really have to engineer it, but there you go.
Have you seen the game before, madam? Pull the elastic back.
Just the elastic. There you go.
There you go, thank you very much.
Right, come on. Come on, Ben.
It's these direct sales where we actually make a decent profit.
So 70% of our turnover, this time of year,
half of that would be through Christmas fairs.
Enjoy the game.
Time for you to win now, isn't it?
We had a flurry of sales just recently.
Get your PIN.
I think I'm on my 10th or 11th.
-Have some. Thank you.
-Would you like to see how the game works, madam?
In some ways it's a bizarre experience being in the Den, because
it's possibly the most important business meeting of your life.
The challenge of pitching to five people who've run
well-established businesses for a long time, the challenge of
justifying your numbers, justifying your business,
-and actually I enjoyed it.
-That was a quick win. Well played.
Coming to the end of the fair.
We're just slightly shy of 50
but, you know, we're happy enough with that.
And that works out at about £800 profit.
We get another day like that, we will have paid our stall costs.
From then on, we're making money for ourselves.
The Dragons thought the market was too small.
It might not explode and be the next Apple,
but we're not necessarily aiming for that.
I guess we're determined to see the business succeed,
and it's...it's getting there.
That's it for our special Christmas edition of Dragons' Den.
We hope you've enjoyed watching
and that you have a very merry Christmas. Good night.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Christmas is big business. Across the UK, thousands of entrepreneurs are dreaming up new products and innovative ideas to try and cash in on the annual big spend - over £36bn in 2011. And if there is money to be made, the Dragons are never far away.
Now, for the first time, the Den opens its doors purely for commerce at Christmas. Budding businessmen and -women pitch their festive companies in the hope of securing a much-needed cash injection from the five multimillionaires.
An entrepreneur from Surrey, also known as Mrs Christmas, turns the Den into a grotto, while two friends from south London encourage the Dragons to try some traditional game play. Plus, a former dinner lady from Huddersfield offers her take on Christmas cake, complete with brussels sprouts.
But it would not be the Den if there were not a few business curveballs, so also descending the stairs are a Secret Santa, who demonstrates his hope for the Christmas No 1, two Liverpudlians who host a Dragon party, and a mother and son who offer up festive knitwear for all the family... not forgetting a range for pet dogs, and a 'bah humbug' option for any grumpy knitwear fans out there.
This seasonal treat also includes a chance to catch up with some of the entrepreneurs featured in the Den. Will they be this year's festive hit? Or will this most competitive time of trading swallow them up and have them for Christmas dinner?