A fierce bidding war breaks out in the Dragons Den
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The entrepreneur from Skelmersdale in Lancashire has had the last laugh after selling more than 70,000 child buoyancy aids called SwimFin, receiving backing from Olympians and Paralympians plus an MBE. The former swimming instructor sells SwimFin, a child’s buoyancy aid which is shaped like a shark fin to more than 140 countries.
The 58-year-old first got the idea for his product when teaching children how to swim.
He realised he could turn it into a product people might buy when a four-year-old boy who was struggling in the water tried it on and started swimming.
Kevin looked into patenting the product, however, he felt it was too expensive. Then in 2006, the now 58-year-old saw BBC’s programme Dragons’ Den was looking for applicants and decided to apply.
He told the Echo: “This was a Sunday evening and the applications for the next series were to close Monday morning, nine o’clock.
He continued: “So I stayed up literally all night putting some kind of a business plan together. I mean, what did I know? I was a swimming instructor at the time.
“What did I know about manufacturing, legal affairs, distribution, marketing, sales, the whole supply chain? So the application went in Monday morning. I got a phone call on the Tuesday afternoon saying, ‘We like it, can you come in for an audition?'”
Kevin asked Olympic swimmer Mark Foster if he would endorse SwimFin which he agreed to and also appeared alongside Kevin on the show. However, his time in the den did not go well.
While Peter Jones offered 25 percent for half the money, the other Dragons didn’t back the product leaving Kevin feeling ridiculed.
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Kevin decided to go alone, remortgaging his house, cashing in his savings and even selling his swim school business. Thankfully, it has all been worth it.
He added: “Within a couple of years we hit 70 countries where orders were coming in from all over the world. It’s taken me around the world.
“I do seminars, I’ve done lectures, I’ve done exhibitions. I’ve met royalty, I’ve met celebrities. You know, I’m just a swimming instructor from Skem. It’s life-changing.
“So today, we export to, we’ve lost count, to be honest. The last time we checked it was 140 countries. So I think there’s only 197 in the world.”
It’s not the first time a Dragons’ Den reject has gone on to succeed – a retired couple’s business is now worth £2million despite a previous Dagons Den’ rejection.
Retirees David and Sarah Glashan failed to impress the panel with their multi-functional beach towel with pockets.
They showed the panel the Itsa which retails at £29.99.
Now the couple are successful entrepreneurs who have turned their beach towel idea into a multi-million-pound success.
They asked the Dragons for a £250,000 investment for a 20 percent stake in the business.
One of the Dragons, Duncan Bannatyne, said: “I don’t think I would buy the product. How many people have bought it?”
The investment was also declined by dragons Richard Farleigh and Peter Jones who said: “I don’t think you’ll sell the volume you expect.”
However, since then the invention has won a Double Gold Award at the British Invention Show and is now valued at just less than £2million.
Dragons’ Den returns on Thursday on BBC One at 8pm.
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