Despite three Dragons offering investment in return for a cut of Blue Badge Company, which sells stylish living-aids, Ellen walked out of the BBC Two show, aired on Sunday, August 23, empty handed.
She turned down an offer of £70,000 for a 35 per cent stake from retail tycoon Touker Suleyman.
Since filming, Ellen has secured £30,000 for Blue Badge Company from peer-to-peer loan company, Funding Circle, for no equity.
“I can’t believe how far we have come as a company since we had the idea of hand-stitching specially designed wallets for disabled parking permits,” said Ellen, 30, now sole director of Blue Badge Company.
“Appearing on Dragon’s Den was just one of the many amazing experiences I’ve been fortunate to have since we launched the company. Despite turning down Touker’s final investment offer, Blue Badge Company continues to go from strength to strength with confirmation of our latest £30,000 funding.”
Fed up with what they saw as the universally dull, clinical products available to disabled consumers, Ellen and her friend, a Blue Badge holder, wanted to create colourful display wallets to inject some style into the disability market.
Blue Badge Company has now sold more than 100,000 of its wallets across the UK and expanded to produce a whole range of attractive and practical yet design-led living aids including folding walking stick bags and lap trays.
Its workforce has grown from one to 20 in the past two years – after winning contracts to supply 2,500 Boots stores nationwide, the Post Office and Halfords – while turnover has quadrupled in the same period from £64,000 to £250,000 and looks set to hit nearly £400,000 this financial year.
“The new funding will help us to expand our product lines complementing new designs we have launched this month including a range of folding walking stick bags and collections inspired by William Morris and Roald Dahl,” said Ellen.
All Blue Badge Company products are British made and about 40 per cent of the workforce either has a disability or is a primary care giver, ensuring the team has a first-hand appreciation of disabilities from mental health issues to physical impairments.
“Because of the way we manufacture, we can provide jobs and training for those with limited work options, like people who have domestic responsibilities or disabilities,” Ellen said.
“One thing that has always driven me is the idea that business has a responsibility to be good for society and I have discovered that a rewarding, sustainable job can change someone’s life – I’ve seen it first hand and it’s the part of the company that we are all most proud.”
The company’s big breakthrough came in 2013 when a Boots buyer spotted Blue Badge Company at a trade exhibition and placed an order for 10,000 wallets – dwarfing the 8,000 the company had made in its previous two years.
Responding to the demand for greater choice and control among older and disabled consumers, Blue Badge Company now produces hot water bottle covers, relaxing wheat warmers and an executive leather collection of its popular display wallets.
Blue Badge Company’s colourful collections can be viewed here: www.bluebadgecompany.co.uk
* There are 2.6 million Blue Badge holders in the UK
* A fifth of the population has a disability, that’s nearly 12 million people
* They and their households have a spending power of over £200bn.
* The over 50’s, who control over 75 per cent of household wealth, will make up over half of the population by 2030
Blue Badge Company statistics:
* Launched in May 2011
* Formally known as White Space Designs, the idea was conceived when Ellen’s close friend, a disabled designer, received her first Blue Badge permit
* In May 2013 Ellen bought out business partner becoming sole director and shareholder
* March 2015 Ellen was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Bristol and Bath Women in Business Awards.
* In July 2015 Ellen given the Breakthrough award by Insider South West 42 under 42.
* The company has grown from 1 to 20 employees in under 2 years
* 40 per cent of the workforce has either a disability or is a primary care giver.
* Turnover quadrupled in 2 years from £64k to nearly quarter of a million
* Currently on target to increase turnover by 75 per cent this financial year to nearly £400k
* The company produces over 1500 wallets a week
* Blue Badge Company hopes to be the biggest supplier and manufacturer of modern living aids in the next three to five years.