Life & Culture

It's time to face the Dragons

We profile the remaining finalists who have been chosen to face the Dragons.


● Gabriel John
Tyger Paw - a purpose made brush for cleaning football boots and others studded sports shoes

Football fan Gabriel John has created a product that he believes is the ideal tool for cleaning sports footwear. His Tyger Paw invention is a unique brush made up of bristles of differing lengths and strengths that can be used specifically for cleaning studded or cleated footwear. It is made from ThermoPlasic Elastomer (TPE), a non-abrasive material which is strong, durable and waterproof. Premier league football clubs Arsenal and Fulham, plus shoe retailer Barratts have already bought the product and Mr John, whose middle name is Tyger, is in talks with Liverpool, JD Sports, Matalan and the Rugby Football Union.

He says: "At the start of 2009 I played a football game and my boots were caked in mud. Most people and clubs use a brush made of horse hair and wood so if you use it with water, it rots. I thought: 'Why isn't there a waterproof brush?' There wasn't one that existed." So Mr John, a 33-year-old store manager at shirt retailer Turnball & Asser, spent five months designing one.

The product was officially launched in April 2010 following a £50,000 investment from Mr John, who lives in Borehamwood, Herts. He says: "Setting up a new business is probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Moving home and having kids were less stressful. I would wake up in the night with my brain racing, checking emails.

"I am massively keen to get the product out there. Ideally I am looking for potential investment but also for introductions and contacts."

Tyger Paw has a recommended retail price of £12.95. Mr John is confident that it can be used across a range of sports activities. "I've got a tangible product now and I am really excited."

● Simon Marks
C-CallerID - helps the visually impaired see who's calling on their mobile phone

When Simon Marks's wife Dena underwent cataract surgery and could no longer see names on her mobile phone, he was determined to come up with a solution. His invention, C-CallerID, enables mobile phone users to easily identify who is calling by assigning initials to specific numbers.

Manchester-based Mr Marks, who says he has always been into computers, explains: "I came up with the idea of using the contact photo functionality that practically all mobile phones have, but instead of assigning photos to a caller ID, attaching a picture of a large single letter devised on my computer. So when someone calls, it's not their whole name or a photo that comes up but large coloured initials." Mr Marks, 56, and his business partner contacted the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), which has endorsed his system. C-CallerID was launched at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February. The application is compatible with all major networks and three billion phones including Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry. "Our target demographic is older people with feature phones. We have confidence in the product but we could do with advice on how to market it." Mr Marks, who grew up in north London, moved to Whitefield five years ago. His 15-year career as an interim manager came to an end in 2009 and he was looking for a new business pursuit. The application, created in association with technology partner Apadmi Ltd, is available to buy online for under £10.

● Rosie Norman
Rosie Olivia - bespoke contemporary hats

Designer Rosie Norman is hoping to prove she has a good head for business with her new millinery company. Established earlier this year, Millinery by Rosie Olivia provides bespoke contemporary hats for a range of occasions.

Twenty-three year-old Miss Norman, who graduated with first class honours in decorative arts from Nottingham Trent University, currently runs the business from a converted garden shed at her home in Liverpool where she lives with her parents. She is keen to take the company to the next level. She says: "I've got orders and things are really starting to pick up. I've got the product but need to know how to take things forward.

"I would be so grateful for any advice from the Dragons on setting up the business properly and getting regular seasonal ranges into shops and stockists. It would also be great to receive feedback to help me work out what people want. Any publicity would be great."

Miss Norman, who lives in Woolton, undertook a millinery course at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London following university. She then completed stints working with leading hat designers Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones and Victoria Grant to help her learn the trade. It was then that she realised she wanted to work for herself. "I decided I wanted to make a living out of doing something that I love and being creative. It is too frustrating working for somebody else.

"It is really exciting as I am the only one of my friends who has started their own business. I love that every day is different and a learning curve. I am excited to see where things go."

She has invested £6,000 into the company, "everything I've got really" and is confident the demand is there. "When it was my sister's wedding my mum was looking for a hat and there wasn't really anything unique. If you have an occasion, you want something special and trendy to wear for it. I wanted to make that happen." Her creations, all hand-made, can take between four and eight hours. Prices range from £80 to £380.

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