EXCLUSIVE: Inside the Den with wheelAIR CEO Corien Staels

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The prospect of asking some of the UK’s fiercest businessmen and women for a chunk of their cash is frightening enough. But add on another few million TV viewers and a team of producers and camera operators and it suddenly becomes a whole other ball game. One woman who knows just how it feels is founder of recently launched wheelAIR, who was asking for £75,000 for 15% of her company in an episode which aired last month. Here, Corien Staels shines a light on some of the parts we didn’t get to see… 

When did you decide to decline investment and what was the reaction from the Dragons?

I declined the investment mid/end July 2017. It was shortly after the filming of the episode so I think they appreciated me not wasting heaps of their time and money by going through due diligence. The reaction was disappointment but also that they understood my position.

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What was the preparation like before filming? Did you meet them before the pitch?

They are not allowed to know who comes into the Den until you stand in front of them, so definitely no meeting. It was the usual stand building, hair and make-up and then waiting until it was my turn!

Would you recommend other mobility entrepreneurs go down this route?

Short answer, yes. We’ve just written a short blog about disability products on Dragon’s Den and everyone seems to have benefited from the national exposure.

What happened in the week after it broadcast? Was there an uptake in business or enquiries?

Definitely! We received a flood of messages on all socials, were contacted by distributors nationally and internationally and are still receiving media coverage on a national level. We also sold units on the website, and received multiple enquiries about future products. Very exciting!

What took you most by surprise while doing the pitch?

Most questions I sort of expected as they were the usual investor questions. What surprised me the most were comments from the Dragons with regard to the value versus quality. From my perspective, our users spend a significant amount of time in their wheelchair and as such it was imperative that wheelAIR was constructed using the very best quality materials and utilising the newest technologies, for example the antibacterial coated spacer mesh and viscoelastic foams. These foams have not been used in backrests before because they generate heat, however with our air cooling system, this negates the heat generation while still providing posture benefits.

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Joe Peskett

The author Joe Peskett

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