A year on: From youngest Dragons’ Den contestant to global success

Daykin became the youngest entrepreneur to win investment on Dragon’s Den, securing £80,000 investment from Deborah Meaden, in return for a 25 per cent stake in GripIt Fixings. A year later, Daykin told Real Business how he started the company, what the show was like and where the business is now.

At the age of 12, Daykin started his first business, RS2 services, which was a website selling virtual gold for the online game runescape. At the age of 13, he sold the business for £10,000.

“I left school due to being bullied,” he said. “I started private tutoring from home, which is when I came up with my second business: tutor agency Tutormagnet. At the same time my dad moved abroad and I moved in with my grandparents, which meant they had to convert their garage into a bedroom.

“Whilst adding the finishing touches in hanging a curtain rail, my 73 year old granddad and I experienced a number of problems in getting a secure fix. We went into the garden shed and after numerous hours came up with the GripIt plasterboard fixing. This solved the problem and is the product that four years later I launched and now has gone worldwide. It has recently been valued at £10,000,000.”

They applied for a patent in 2009, which then came through in 2012.

He said: “We were already in about 500 stores by then – mostly independent ones – and I was thinking how we could expand our reach. We decided that Dragons’ Den would be the quickest way of getting into the market. 

“The whole experience of my time in the den was very nerve wracking. I had watched Dragons’ Den since I was a child and had seen so many people fail and break under the pressure of the Dragons. Throughout the day I tried to keep as calm as possible and whilst the other contestants rehearsed there pitches, I thought of anything but my pitch. The pitch itself lasted three minutes and I was in the den for an hour and a half for questioning. 

“The main thing was to stay focused, know my numbers, take deep breaths, only answer the question specifically and if I didn’t know something to say ‘I don’t know’.”

It all went well, apart from when Peter Jones tore a hanging radiator from a piece of plasterboard, attached by a GripIt.

“It was so embarrassing,” Daykin recalled. “But the plasterboard had been left out in the corridor all night so it was wet. We also hung a chair from a plasterboard on the ceiling. I asked Jones if he wanted to swing on it and he said ‘Not after I just tore your radiator from the wall, no.’ But Deborah Meaden did and was swinging from it! I think the reason why Meaden invested in GripIt is because she could see the huge potential of a patented product that we can sell globally in the millions.”

In the end Meaden gave him an offer: £80,000 for 25 per cent equity. 

“The last year has been a whirlwind in both aspects of my life,” Daykin revealed. “In business the company has more than quadrupled in size and is now worldwide across 32 countries. In my personal life I found you soon learn who your true family and friends are, I’m also now doing things in life I never thought I would be doing and it has also opened up many opportunities. 

“With GripIt’s massive growth over the last year between myself and Meaden we strategically planned the company’s expansion. The main aspects we focused on were production, dispatch, quality, sales and customer service. We have structured the company with department heads for each area and we can now grow at a rapid speed.”

But he doesn’t plan on stopping there. Within the next two years, Daykin suggested the company was on target to turnover in excess of £12,000,000 and will grow its store count from 3,000 to over 15,000 stores across the globe. 

“We are currently now planning a £7,000,000 expansion plan to enhance production and develop six new products next year alone.” 

In terms of the success of the business, he suggested Meaden and the company’s ethos were key factors.

“Meaden has been amazing and provided a great sounding board to me in the growth of GripIt. She has so many contacts across many sectors which she can pull from at anytime. Her advice and knowledge has been invaluable and between us we have a great partnership going forward. And would put GripIt’s success down to its ethos, nothing is going to get handed to you on a plate. This is something everyone at GripIt does on a day to day basis and we are constantly targeting various untouched markets and thinking outside of the box.

“I would say for any young people looking at starting out in business would be; learn from other successful people, keep initial startup costs low and only spend money when you have to. You also need a goal both in business and personal life, which gives you motivation to get out of bed in the morning. For me my motivation is the iceberg picture which shows people see success on top, but don’t see the hard-work, failure, sacrifice, dedication and persistence underneath the water.”

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