Two York entrepreneurs made TV history tonight – by turning down a huge pot of money on hit show Dragons’ Den.
Ben Fry and Phil Pinder were offered £200K by Peter Jones. It was originally for 33% of their Hole In Wand wizard golf business, but when they said no, he reduced his potential stake to 15% – for the same cash.
And yet, they still rejected the money! It’s the largest offer from a single dragon to ever be rebuffed in 18 years of the BBC One series.
Ben and Phil run two wizard-themed businesses. The Potions Cauldron sells magical drinks and more from an ancient shop in Shambles.
And the Hole In Wand is a spellbinding mini golf attraction, with one in the Coppergate Centre in York, and another in Blackpool.
They went onto Dragons’ Den hoping for investment to create a Hole In Wand in Edinburgh.
Viewers saw two of the dragons have a go at the golf – and Peter scored a hole in one!
But they then gave the wizards a grilling over their figures. Narrator Evan Davis said the wizards “made a six figure sum vanish into thin air”!
Ben and Phil were praised by the dragons for what they had achieved – but four dropped out.
Then Peter Jones stepped in with his surprise offer for the full sum – valuing the company at £1.33 million. He was very impressed with the pair’s projected profits.
When they said no, Peter seemed surprised – but said he respected their decision.
‘I blacked out!’
Afterwards, we talked to Ben and Phil. So how would they judge the dragons’ response to their pitch?
“We got the brutal treatment. And we were we were ripped apart on our financials as everyone is,” said Phil.
“In the end, we were down to our last dragon,” said Ben. “It was like something out of a movie script – we thought we’re dead and buried.
“And then out of nowhere, Peter Jones flapped his dragon wings, flew above us, breathed a bit of fire, and then did actually offer us the investment.”
So what happened then? Phil turned to Ben and said “it’s up to you” – which, Ben said, “he never does in our business partnership!”
“And at that point, I blacked out. Until I saw it on TV tonight, I had no idea what I actually said!”
Before they went in, they’d agreed that they wanted to sell no more than a 10% stake.
But the real issue was the compatibility of the senior dragon himself, Peter Jones. “To be honest, we just didn’t think he was magical enough,” said Phil.
Ben agreed. “In that moment, you have to look somebody in the eyes. And you have to think, are they a true wizard? And in that split second, I decided that he wasn’t magical enough for us.”
Was it the right decision? “I guess we’ll never know,” said Ben. Although Grobblenook the gargoyle, who features in the show, thought they’d got it wrong.
“But to get offered his biggest cash offer in the 20 years he’s been on the show I think is a big thumbs up for the business,” Ben added.
“We’re immensely proud we got that far and hopefully flew the flag for North Yorkshire and wizards in general.”
And it’s not stopped their empire growing. “Without that investment, we are about to announce a new Edinburgh venue very soon. And there are other Hole In Wands in the pipeline.”
Their Dragons’ Den appearance will help to share the magic with others, Ben added.
So would they recommend other people go on the programme? “Absolutely not,” said Phil.
“It was terrifying, the most scary thing we’ve ever done in our lives!”