We turned down £100k Dragon's Den offer – now we make half a million a YEAR, it's the best decision we made | The Sun

TWO mums who were told their baby business would "go down the drain" after they rejected a £100k offer on Dragon's Den now make more than half a million every year. 

Helen Woolridge and Polly Marsh, from Somerset, saw an opportunity to help other mums with their Cuddledry baby towels after struggling to bundle their own kids up after bath time. 



Just months after coming up with the idea in late 2006, they appeared on the hit TV show where they were offered all of the £100,000 they were seeking – but for a significantly higher equity than their desired 15 per cent. 

James Caan made an offer to exchange all of the money for 40 per cent equity in Helen and Polly's company, but the substantial slice of the ownership pie was too much for the budding businesswomen to give away. 

Deborah Meaden had asked for 45 per cent of the business for her £100,000 investment – but after a grilling over their numbers and a talk against the wall, Helen and Polly had the sense to stick to their guns. 

As they left the Dragon's Den set in 2007 after turning down two investment offers, entrepreneur billionaire Peter Jones was seen shaking his head.  

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It appeared Jones – who had told Helen and Polly "I don't think the business is sustainable" and his money would go "down the drain" – was shocked the two women didn't jump at the chance to take the money. 

But sixteen years later, Cuddledry has a range of more than 40 products and designs and turns over more than half a million annually.

Friends since they were teenagers, the two mums were in their first year of business when they were asked to appear on the TV show. 

Although it was tempting to take the offers they got, Helen and Polly had previously agreed they wouldn't give up more shares than they were comfortable with. 

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Helen told The Sun Online: "With two of us in the business, the equity is already shared so we had to really stand firm, it was tempting of course but it was definitely the right decision." 

At the end of their episode, James Caan, who had seen growth potential, turned to his fellow judges and told them he could see their Cuddledry baby towel idea turning into a successful range. 

Today, their handsfree baby towel, seen on the TV series, is still their strongest selling product, but now they offer much more, with wearable towels for kids up to six years old, washcloths, hair wraps, baby bags and baby arrival bundles –  as Caan perhaps envisioned. 

Helen can still remember the excitement the pair felt when they approached Dragon's Den entrepreneurs Caan, Meaden, Jones, Theo Paphitis, and Duncan Bannatyne. 

The two mums, who have three children each, had seen a gap in the market to make drying a baby after bath time easier.

It was the most amazing opportunity to get advice from those incredible business people and we viewed it as that. 

Amazed there wasn't already a product, they came up with a wearable design themselves after struggling as new mums.

A parent or caregiver can put the towel on by doing a button up on the side of the neck and pick up their baby as they would for a hug.

Using one hand, the adult can wrap the towel around the baby and put the hood over their head.

After cuddling the baby dry, it takes just one hand to undo the neck of the towel strap to put the tot down. 

Since its development 16 years ago, the Cuddledry hands free towel – – made from eco-friendly bamboo fibres – has consistently sold successfully as a 'new baby essential' through Boots and John Lewis. 

Helen told The Sun Online: "It's luxurious, it's a lovely gift, but it genuinely helps new parents and makes a difference."

'TAUGHT US SO MUCH'

Even though they walked away from the financial backing they had hoped for, the two-and-a-half hours spent with the hugely-successful Dragons still proved extremely valuable. 

She said: "It was fantastic, it was brilliant doing it with Polly. It was the most amazing opportunity to get advice from those incredible business people and we viewed it as that. 

"We learned so much during that time. We still say a lot of the things the Dragons said to us on a daily basis just to keep us on track. 

"Even though we didn't take the investments that were offered, it taught us so much that I think it has been absolutely key to the success of the business."

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Since the episode, Cuddledry has survived a global recession, a cotton-price crisis, the pandemic, and moving through the current recession, standing firm as a half-million pound business but "a very profitable one".

Helen says: "We have maintained a team of about 8 to 10 flexible working parents, remain a completely ethical business, using an ethical supply chain, use eco-friendly materials and regularly donate to charity." 




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