From a Shropshire kitchen to Dragons' Den: Nappy firm earns £50k but deal collapses
A cloth nappy business born on a kitchen table in Shropshire won over a multi-millionaire fashion tycoon to secure a deal on Dragons’ Den.
Entrepreneur Sophia Ferguson braved the den in the last episode of the series to ask for a £50,000 investment in her eco-friendly start-up, Tickle Tots.
The nappies impressed the dragons with their colourful design and environmental credentials, and Sophia was soon shaking hands with Touker Suleyman in a deal that would see him become an equal partner in the business.
But the apparent perfect match with the manufacturing magnate was not to be – as Sophia today revealed the investment fell through after the episode was filmed last year.
The Leintwardine-based business began in 2015, when Sophia first started making the nappies for her newborn daughter.
Their colourful patterns were inspired by her upbringing in rural Mid Wales.
Wanting to take the company to the next level and become a real competitor in the growing market, she decided to brave the notoriously tough den to try and get some financial backing and expert input – along with the exposure that comes from being watched by more than 2,000,000 viewers.
Sophia said the experience had been just as nerve wracking as you would imagine.
She said: “It was terrifying to go in front of the dragons, it is as intimidating as it appears.
“I was in there for about an hour, obviously it’s cut down for TV, and they offered me some great advice and encouragement.”
Entering the den in an episode aired on Sunday, Sophia got off to a good start with Tej Lalvani saying the quality of the product was “really, really good” and Jenny Campbell telling Sophia she was “a very investable entrepreneur”.
But she had her eye on one particular dragon from the outset.
Touker told her: “You’ve got something, I like the product.
“The problem is – have you got a business that can grow?”
Peter Jones was first to declare himself ‘out’ due to a conflict of interests with his partner about to launch a nappy business of her own.
Three of his fellow dragons followed suit, saying the market was not big enough for the company to significantly scale up.
Her last hope was Touker, but he was unwilling to get on board for the 20 per cent cut Sophia was offering and negotiated a 50 per cent stake by saying he would take over the commercial side of the business.
Sophia said: “It was more than I wanted to give away but he was offering to take over some of the things in the areas that I needed some help with.
“Unfortunately since then the investment fell through with Touker but he offered us lots of advice.
“We are about to launch some new products and are working on growing our customer base.
"We have converted a building at home and started making some of the products there, and there is now a team of four of us.
“The business is continuing to grow and we are looking forward to what’s next.”
She added: “Launched in 2015 from a kitchen table in Shropshire it quickly outgrew my sewing machine.
"Tickle Tots nappies and accessories can now be found across Europe.
"With innovation at our core (and of course a touch of creative flare), Tickle Tots has helped to make the planet a little greener, one cloth bottom at a time.
"For every 1,000 nappies we manufacture we plant a UK native tree.
- The episode of Dragons' Den is still available to watch via the BBC iPlayer