Dragons’ Den rejects labelled ‘rabbits in headlights’ but went on to make £15m

Ian Worton and Peter Neath, both 59, failed to entice the Dragons’ in 2009 with their Grillstream barbecue pitch and left empty-handed. However, 13 years later, the company has turned over more than £15million a year and they’ve entered the Den again with a new business.

‌The pair pitched Grillstream, a barbecue tray designed to prevent oil and fat spillage. They came close to striking a deal but didn’t get it over the line. But the show ultimately proved to still help them as after the episode aired, they received an influx of offers.

Although they failed to exchange a 15 percent share for £120,000, the show helped them gain exposure.

They have been stocked in John Lewis for almost a decade and Grillstream is one of the largest BBQ brands to come out of the UK, stocking in most major retailers, garden centres and dedicated stockists across the UK.

Ian explained he knew the invention for barbecues was a “game-changer”, as it solved a problem.

However, before they went on the show, they had gone to so many barbecue manufacturers to try to get them to license the idea, and they just weren’t interested.

Peter told The Times Enterprise Network: “The first time we went on, the old saying ‘rabbits in the headlights’ was 100 percent correct about us. We didn’t have a clue.

“We’d never even seen a film studio, and the way the show was carried out in 2009 was slightly different — it was more aggressive. You were there to be exposed as a bit of a numpty … and there were these all-powerful dragons who’ve been there, got the T-shirt. A whole part of the process was to tear you apart.”

However, the publicity was worth all the stress, they said.

Ian continued: “Think of all the companies that would never have made it without the show.

“Even companies that got turned down like Trunki, now a global company selling ride-on kids’ suitcases, got the exposure, so it’s a great thing.”

The pair re-entered the Den in 2022 with another pitch for their business, Saucestream.

Saucestream is a simple silicone rubber device that attaches directly to glass bottles to make it easy to get the sauce out with a gentle squeeze.

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The entrepreneurs asked for £75,000 in exchange for 10 percent.

This time around, their pitch piqued the interest of Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Steven Bartlett.

The Dragons agreed to offer the pair all of the money in exchange for an 11 percent stake each (a third total) in the business and Ian and Peter walked away with an investment.

They took a 33 percent stake in the company in exchange for £75,000 – although the deal has since fallen through.

Ian said: “The deal falling through was mutual. It was just the final details. You go backwards and forwards with the due diligence, asking questions, things don’t fall into place on both sides — it basically just ran its course.”

Episodes of Dragons’ Den are available on BBC iPlayer.

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