We recently invited aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas for a special Dragons’ Den-style event that could be their big break. We have now chosen the finalists, who will present their plans in front of top judges on July 7 at the London Jewish Cultural Centre. In the first of a two-part feature, we profile those who impressed and will face the Dragons.
Adam Caplan and Daniel Morris
University students Adam Caplan and Daniel Morris set up their clothing company Danada Retail earlier this year.
Their aim is to produce and sell customised and pre-designed t-shirts to the student market. Mr Caplan, 18, and Mr Morris, 19 — second-year students at Birmingham University — believe they can offer cheaper and more contemporary designs than those of other retailers because, as they put it: “We are surrounded by who we are selling to.”
With the company now in place, the aspiring entrepreneurs and close friends are preparing to launch their designs at university freshers’ weeks in October, but are seeking advice from the Dragons on how best to do so.
“The best thing we can achieve now is advice,” says Mr Morris, studying business management.
“One member of the panel is Marc Worth [founder of fashion information business Worth Global Style Network]. I looked him up and he obviously knows what he is talking about when it comes to fashion. It would be great to get advice on where we should be going from here.”
The aspiring businessmen say they have been entrepreneurial from a young age. “We were both very involved with young enterprise at school,” says Mr Caplan, a former JFS pupil. Mr Morris went to Merchant Taylors’.
He adds: “And I am always buying and selling things on eBay, so we decided to set up Danada.
“We started experimenting with some t-shirt designs that we had seen on the internet, which had no copyright or legal ownership at the time. They were being sold for more than £15 each.
“We managed to find an easier and cheaper way of producing them from alternative sources, enabling us to make and sell them for a third of what other companies were selling them for and so undercut the market.” They believe they can make a profit of more than £5 per item.
The price tag is not the only attractive element of the product, notes Mr Caplan. “The company is run by two students aimed at students. We are in direct contact with the consumer and I think that this is a massive advantage.
“We are surrounded by who we are selling to. We can quickly find out what the consumer wants and attend to it. We can have a t-shirt designed and printed and ready for sale in a week. It is also easy for us to tap into the market in other universities as we have friends there.”
The businessmen, who met through the university’s Jewish Society, currently create the designs themselves — modelled on a range of popular slogans.
They hope to hire a designer next year and are considering launching a range of t-shirts aimed at the wider Jewish market. Initially, the t-shirts will be sold via student brand ambassadors, who will sell the products on a commission-based incentive scheme. In the middle to later stages, they hope sales will take place on eBay and through their website www.danadaretail.co.uk, in addition to taking the brand into clothing shops.
Golf enthusiast Stuart Brendon has used his knowledge of the sport to come up with an electric-powered pushchair.
Mr Brendon, 60, says he was having difficulty pushing his grandson in his buggy. He explains: “We live at the top of a hill and I like to push him to the park. Getting him there is fine but getting him back up the steep hill is very difficult.”
When thinking of a solution, he was inspired by the golf buggy he uses, which is powered by an electric motor. Mr Brendon has created a similar device, which uses a 12-volt rechargeable battery and can be clipped on to buggies. He says it can fit 99 per cent of all existing pushchairs, including double-buggies. “I did a lot of research and could not believe there was nothing like this on the market. It’s such a simple concept.”
A former graphic designer and illustrator, he says: “I am now looking for some development money to make it a lot lighter, a lot easier, a lot cheaper and whatever else. At the moment it’s made of steel, but it should be made of plastic.” He adds: “Many things had to be taken into consideration when building the prototype: power, battery-life, weight, but above all these was safety.”
He intends to create an automatic stopping device, whereby if hands are taken off the handle, the machine automatically stops — similar to the “dead man’s handle” that is compulsory in Tube trains. The units, he says, could also be applied to other items, such as shopping trolleys.
He estimates it will cost around £50 to manufacture.
Mr Brendon lives in Barnet.