Life & Culture

JC Dragons Den: How are they doing now?

We revisit past winners and their concepts to see where they are now.


● 2010 Winner: Michael Korn - KwickScreen, a retractable portable screen to create partitions in hospitals

Medical inventor Michael Korn was last year's runaway winner, wowing the judges with his KwickScreen - a retractable screen that creates temporary partitions between hospital beds to prevent the spread of infection.

The KwickScreen was launched in May 2010 by Mr Korn, together with his business partner Denis Anscomb. When Mr Korn, 30, faced the Dragons, they had sold 70 of the screens, with several NHS hospitals waiting to trial them.

KwickScreens, which have been on sale for around six months, have since been bought by more than 20 NHS trusts and trials with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) have been conducted in Royal United Hospital Bath and Ealing Hospital. Mr Korn, who studied at Cambridge University, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art, said: "Things have gone a lot better than we thought. We thought the main purpose of the screens would be infection control but there has been a lot of demand in other areas, particularly to protect patient privacy. We have also launched printed customised screens."

He is projecting their NHS revenues to go up significantly this year - to £400,000 compared to £100,000 in their first year.

Mr Korn and Mr Anscomb are now planning to continue selling to the NHS while also securing distribution contacts worldwide. They are considering selling variations of the product into other markets: schools, exhibitions, offices and synagogues. Staff has grown from two to ten and they are looking to hire.

"We are still seeing the benefits of the JC/LJCC Dragons' Den. I got a phone call the other day from someone who had got in touch post Dragons' Den last year but has now come back a year on.

"The feedback from the Dragons was very useful. At the start we were focused on the design. Now our focus is selling and we are seeing the benefits of exposure from the Den."

Mr Korn, who lives in north London, was awarded a scholarship to complete a master's in innovative design engineering at the Royal College of Art. It was there that he came up with the KwickScreen concept. He was inspired after visiting hospitals and realising "the huge waste of space that there was."

● 2009 Winner: Steven Kanter - Sew and Go, a clothes alterations company

Grandfather Steven Kanter was successful with his clothes alterations and repairs business Sew and Go.

Co-founded in 2006, the company provides all the services offered by a traditional tailor with the addition of an express same-day pick-up option. When Mr Kanter, 66, won the JC Dragons' Den, Sew and Go had seven shops across north and central London, but was trading at a loss. He and his business partner Richard Tweg have since launched three more sites in Whetstone, Southgate and Hendon and the business is now self-financing says Mr Kanter. They are looking at potential new premises in the City. Mr Kanter said: "We are always looking to expand and we will do. We now have 25 staff and are getting a lot of repeat business.

"We want to find the right units at the right costs. Even though we are in an economic downturn landlords are reluctant to play ball when it comes to rents. "I would say that we are now about where we wanted to be when we first started. The plan now is to consolidate, secure the foundations and then move forward.

"There is no doubt that the JC Dragons' Den event gave us exposure and a lot of customers have commented on the article that was written about us in the JC. We endeavoured to deal with any of the comments that the Dragons made. One of the judges made a point about the opening hours not being on our website and we changed that the next day."

Northwood-based Mr Kanter had spent three decades running his own fashion accessory distribution business before establishing Sew and Go with an investment of £300,000.

And some of the other candidates...

2010: Alison Raphael and Sophie King, Snoozechair
A reclining baby chair which mimics the motions of a car to pacify babies and help them settle

● A further £150,000 has been invested into the business. Both working mums, the duo are in the process of securing a global patent and are hopeful that a company will take the product on. They are also considering developing a similar product for the adult market. Alison Raphael, a hypnotherapist, said: "We have been very proactive with our networking but the Dragons' Den process was absolutely fabulous for us in terms of experience."

2010: Jackie Gilmore, Doggie Macs
Creates waterproof dog coats

● One year on and several thousand of the "made2measure" doggie macs have been sold, compared to around 100 this time last year.

Ms Gilmore has also introduced two further lines: "Ready2Wear" and the "Waterproof Wrap coat". She has invested more money into the company to buy machinery and develop her website.

Ms Gilmore is in talks with Retrieva Tracking Ltd, a company that makes animal tracking devices. She has designed a special cover for every Global Positioning System (GPS) dog collar they sell. Doggie Macs has expanded overseas with orders coming from Europe and the US.

She said: "Things are going well and it's exciting times. It has not always been easy but I always remember the advice from one of the Dragons, Patsy Bloom, who founded Pet Plan. She told me to stay focused when things got tough. This has been inspirational to me. Entering the JC/LJCC Dragons' Den was very beneficial, raising the company's profile."

2009: Matt Garcia, Everyday Models
Invites people to rent out aspects of their daily life to advertisers: whether it's their clothes, car, house or online social networking profile

● Matt Garcia has since bought out his former business partner James Brookner and sold 52 per cent of the company to a consortium.

The business now has a database of 50,000 with an expanding client list. Mr Garcia said: "Things are going really well. The JC/LJCC Dragons' Den was an interesting experience. It was fun and an opportunity for us to gain more media exposure."

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