A COUNTY Durham entrepreneur has vowed to bounce back after his bid for investment was rejected on BBC TV show Dragon’s Den.
Simon Bourne, founder of The Hand Dyed Shoe Co, went in front of the Dragons and asked for £70,000 in return for a 10 per cent stake in his business.
Simon, 35, has spent the past six years building up his company, which is based at Ushaw Historic House and Gardens, on the outskirts of Durham.
He started his pitch in the Den by presenting each of the Dragons with a bespoke pair of shoes but ultimately walked away empty-handed, and initially heavy-hearted.
However, he says the Dragons’ feedback has inspired him to build an even better business.
Simon, who’s proud of his working class background, launched The Hand Dyed Shoe Co in 2014, to provide a bespoke luxury retail experience for customers who appreciate the opportunity to be able to illustrate their uniqueness.
His aim is to provide “world class shoes, with a world class retail experience and world class customer service” from the historic 200-year-old Ushaw estate.
Ushaw has become a growing hub for creative businesses, as well as an events venue and tourist attraction.
Simon launched his own company after working for a small furniture manufacturing business in Gateshead and discovering a passion for working with leather.
He started to explore what could be make with the offcuts left on the factory floor, including small bags, wallets and belts.
It led to Simon teaming up with a manufacturer in Portugal, who sends high-class shoes over to the North-East for Simon to personalise, with dye and embossed names, before selling them for between £270-£500.
Simon said: “I’ve watched the show for years and always loved sitting with my wife, dissecting other people’s pitches and ideas. Even before I had conceived the business, I would always say that I would love to go on there and have a stab at it.
“When it came to it I was scared, anxious, nervous, excited, apprehensive, and worried – but just made a promise that I would remain true to myself which I did.
“Obviously, the investment would have been a bonus but my business is about so much more than making money or even creating a brand. It is my platform to perform, my stage to inspire my children, my wife, my family and friends that you can do anything you want if you work for it -and I am proud to have taken the stage. ”
He was unsuccessful in his investment bid because the Dragons struggled to understand his supply chain and, despite praising the quality of the shoes and the brand, questioned its authenticity.
One of the Dragons’ main concerns was that Simon had created a band based on British craftsmanship but had a supply chain in Europe fulfilling elements of the process.
Simon is delighted to announce that now, after months of tiresome negotiations and following his original business plan, he has been able to bring all manufacturing into the UK back under his more direct control.
Simon felt the best connection with fellow North East Entrepreneur Sara Davies, whose advice he really valued.
In the last year Simon turned more than £250,000 of handmade shoes.