Her recipe for success slayed the dragons

Carol Savage hopes her growing website will be a foodie version of Facebook

By Simon Round, November 29, 2010
So impressive was Carol Savage on Dragon’s Den, that she was offered double the money she asked for

So impressive was Carol Savage on Dragon’s Den, that she was offered double the money she asked for

Two scraps of paper were all it took to change Carol Savage's life. On them were scrawled recipes that her husband had brought back from a visit to his mother in South Africa. The recipes gave Savage the germ of an idea for a recipe exchange website, which she turned into a thriving business, culminating in a successful appearance on the BBC programme Dragon's Den.

The idea which got two of the Dragons excited was a simple one. "Everyone who saw these family recipes had the same reaction. They didn't all say, 'We love Maureen's banana bread,' they said: 'My grandma baked the best cheesecake' or 'my mum makes the best chicken soup'."

Savage, who has worked in marketing for companies including Disney and Pizza Hut, realised that the time could be ripe for a foodie version of Facebook, with people linked into each other to exchange recipes and tips. With major contracts in place with the likes of Coca Cola and Twinings and partnerships with Tesco, the Mail and the Telegraph, MyDish.co.uk is attracting hundreds of thousands of hits every month.

Savage says: "Quite a few of my friends are on MyDish and we are all linked in with each other. They know that I make a great pumpkin soup, I know one of the other girls makes a wicked chocolate cake and that someone else has a delicious paella recipe. And I'm likely to use those recipes because I've actually tasted them."

Although there are more women than men registered, there is a significant male presence. "The funny thing is that a lot of the people posting recipes fit in with gender stereotypes. With women it's dinner party and baking, while the men put up their meanest chilli or their best barbecue recipe."

Once the website was up and running, Savage, who lives in Elstree, Hertfordshire with her husband and three sons, was keen to raise its profile and attract further investment. And what better way than going on Dragon's Den. However, her board was reluctant. "They thought that I was going to be ripped to pieces and it would be bad press. I was keen to do it but when I got in front of the Dragons I couldn't even breathe.

"For the first three minutes it was horrific but as soon as they started to ask me questions and try to trip me up, I completely forgot where I was. I was in there for two hours."

At the end of the intense grilling, Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones and James Caan pulled out.

However Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis both offered £100,000 for 15 per cent of the business. Savage contemplated accepting both offers but felt the board would not have given her permission to give away 30 per cent of the business, so reluctantly she turned down Paphitis.

A year on from her Dragon's Den experience, Savage is excited about the partnership deals she has done. "Mail readers will click onto MyDish but it still looks to them like the Mail's website because that is how it is signposted. So Mail readers get an extra service and we get extra users - it works for all of us."

While MyDish is free for all users, Savage has begun to include some premium features which will be paid for, including a personalised recipe calendar, which costs £15 (£5 of which will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital).

With this and other projects underway, Savage is hopeful that MyDish will become the go-to website for anyone who wants to make a romantic dinner for two, a dinner party or even a quick midweek supper - and then tell their friends all about it later.

Last updated: 11:14am, November 29 2010