Willsow celebrates after Dragon snaps up stake

Jo Francis
Friday, May 21, 2021

The Willsow books team emerged triumphant from the Dragons’ Den after securing their pick of THREE offers of investment.

Willday (left) and Coulthurst face up to the dragons for their pitch
Willday (left) and Coulthurst face up to the dragons for their pitch

Print entrepreneur Tom Willday and his business partner James Coulthurst appeared on the BBC1 show broadcast yesterday evening (20 May). 

They were pitching for a £20,000 investment for a 10% stake in Willsow, which makes biodegradable, plantable children’s books made with seeded paper. 

After a grilling from the assembled dragons, which included Touker Suleyman describing the firm as “uninvestable”, the duo also received a lot of constructive feedback about the additional avenues they could pursue for the business, with Deborah Meaden suggesting a subscription service for the “letterbox friendly” product. 

The pitch concluded with Willday and Coulthurst able to pick between identical offers from Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Sara Davies, who all offered the full £20,000 but for a bigger stake in the company of 20%. 

After conferring they pushed for an improved offer, and agreed a deal with Davies who was full of enthusiasm for the product because of her own family’s experience with children and gardening. 

As a result, she was willing to accept Willday’s counter-offer of £20,000 for a 15% stake. 

“I will be flexible, purely because I want to win the investment because I love the business and I very much want to work with you guys,” Davies said. 

An elated Willday clicked his heels as the duo exited the den. 

The duo high-fived each other (despite perspex separator) in the lift on their way out

Speaking to Printweek this morning, he said it had been “an incredible experience”.

“I was so excited. We’ve picked the right dragon. Sara is so great to work with, she’s a really nice person,” he said. 

The prime time television exposure has already benefited the business.

“We’ve had so many trade enquiries as a result of it already, from some really big potential customers," Willday said.

The show was filmed around six months ago, with the deal now formalised. 

“I was also talking about the print trade during the pitch, and how exciting it is, and how print’s not dead as well as our family history, but that was edited out," he added. 

He said the firm had taken on board the subscription idea, although it would be limited due to the timing window for seed planting, and the business is also looking at other potential brand extensions. 

“There’s loads of different products that we’re looking at under the Willsow name, to get children back out gardening,” he added. 

The episode is available for replay via the BBC’s iPlayer. 





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