Dragons’ Den reject pitch labelled ‘underwhelming’ is now set to turnover £1million
Dragon’s Den: Business partners get shut down by Nick Jenkins
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Paul Maden and James Findlay entered the Den in 2015 seeking £80,000 for a 15 percent stake in their business Cocoa Mountain. Cocoa Mountain is a chocolate shop is located in Sutherland, the most north westerly village on mainland UK. They also sell their products online all over the world.
Their remote Scottish location had previously been a place for “hippies” Paul told the Dragons. He said: “What happened was the hippies moved in, and when they moved out there was an initiative to start a craft business so our environment is us and other artisan craft businesses.”
Dragons Den star Nick Jenkins described their location choice as a “diabolical” place to do business.
He said: “I’ve been there. It’s a lovely place for people who want to sort of step out of the world, but it’s a diabolical place to sell a business.”
The pair started their business in 2006, but the Dragons questioned why the business had not grown quicker in nine years. Paul explained to the Dragons that the issue they have is production.
He said: “There are 200 people spread out over 200 square km.
“We can’t recruit enough people and hence we can’t grow the business. We have turned away countless requests to supply business, we’ve had to say no.
“Last thing you want to do as a business is promise more than you can supply.”
Nick Jenkins continued: “This is a difficult market to crack and you have created a big obstacle.
“I want people who are hungry to do business, you’ve jut been turning it away for the last nine years.
“What this tells me is that I should not be backing you. It’s not much of a phenomenon, it’s an underwhelming phenomenon.”
The pair left the Den empty handed, without any investment, however this did not stop them.
After Paul and James appeared on the show they were approached by more than 80 potential investors.
“It got to the stage where I based myself down at Heathrow for three days interviewing them, one by one,” said Paul.
“One guy wanted to give us £100,000-a-year just to use the Cocoa Mountain name.
“But in the end we decided to do things ourselves – none of the investors were going to share our passion for the product or add value to it.”
The pair didn’t give up and are now heading towards just under £1million turnover.
They have been working around the clock, seven days-a-week to fulfil online sales of truffles with orders as far as America, Canada, Australia, Dubai, and even from Switzerland, the home of chocolate.
The entrepreneurs now have an outlet in Dornoch in Sutherland and a factory in Perth.
However, the remote location combined with Brexit and Covid meant that Paul and James’ dream has seen some challenges.
Cocoa Mountain had to temporarily shut due to problems attracting staff to the area.
“We had to shut in May we just did not have enough staff to cope,” Paul told The Sun in 2021.
He continued: “We are really gutted but we need ten people to fully open. We became a victim of our own success.
“We potentially could open with three people in July but that would be just selling chocolate bars etc – no drinks or food.
“Brexit has caused recruitment difficulties without doubt and it is remote here. There is not a sufficient local pool of staff.”
Dragons Den is available on BBC iPlayer.
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