Dragon’s Den leads to a change in thinking for Barnard Castle businessman
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A BARNARD Castle businessman has described his experience of appearing on the BBC television series Dragon’s Den as invaluable.
Peter Smith, whose company Besos produces a vegan-friendly cream liqueur, failed to win investment from the programme’s business tycoons when he appeared this month but received advice that has completely changed his strategy.
Mr Smith was hoping to secure £100,000 in exchange for a 15 per cent stake in his business. Had he been successful the businessman would have used the cash to promote his products, which at the time included liqueurs, chocolates and milk, all made from the Spanish tiger nut.
Instead the “dragons” advised him to abandon all other products and focus solely on his cream liqueurs.
Mr Smith said: “I did it the moment I came out of the studio. It was very good advice. Every product is a business in itself and needs its own time and it own marketing.
Mr Smith “invented” his liqueur as a joke for his wife, Penelope, by mixing a brandy into the milky Spanish drink horchata, which is squeezed from the tuber of the tiger nut plant. The couple were living in Spain at the time.
After returning to the UK he started producing the Besos de Oro (Spanish for kisses of gold) liqueur with the vegan market in mind because it does not contain milk or any other animal products.
Mr Smith said: “I do not make a vegan product, I make a beautiful product that is vegan-friendly. The thing I want to get away from is that vegan food is only for vegans.”
However, it has earned an international reputation and is stocked by Germany’s largest online vegan retailer Veganz, and orders have also been received from vegan outlets in Australia, France, Israel, Belgium and Canada.
The business grew to a point where he was forced to move from his premises in Newgate, Barnard Castle, to Dabble Duck Enterprise Estate, in Shildon.
It was perhaps the product’s growing popularity that led to the Dragon’s Den producers hearing about it.
Mr Smith said: “I was contacted by researchers for Dragon’s Den who said we would like to invite you to apply.”
A successful audition in Manchester followed in May before the 68-year-old was taken into the Dragon’s Den for a one-and-a-half-hour interview with the “dragons”.
He said: “They are very intelligent and capable people with an ability to look at a business and ask every pertinent question about it.”
While they were impressed with the product they chose not to invest.
Mr Smith said: “We weren’t upset we didn’t get the investment. We certainly have had a massive increase in interest and sales [after appearing on the show].”
The idea had been to use the investment cash purely to market the product with a view to getting it placed in supermarkets.
Mr Smith said: “We have been a really big fish in a small pond, but now we need to transition from artisan to mainstream. You need a massive marketing budget, there is no other way to get into supermarkets.”
He added that his company would now look to crowd-funding to attract the cash that is needed.