Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Tea pair 'had to research Dragons'

Philip Perera and Omar Farag revealed they had to do research into the Dragons
Philip Perera and Omar Farag revealed they had to do research into the Dragons

They may be some of the biggest names in business but Omar Farag and Philip Perera, the latest contestants to win investment from Dragons' Den, revealed they had to do research into the Dragons.

The Liverpool graduates received offers from Dragons Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Kelly Hoppen when they pitched for financial backing for their tea company Box Of T on the BBC Two show, and chose to take up interior designer Kelly's bid of £50,000 investment for a 25 per cent equity stake in the business.

Philip, 24, said: "We googled all of them and what we found interesting about Kelly was she's actually enthusiastic and passionate about a healthy lifestyle.

"She's also got that design experience and our brand is all about great design - teapots, travel mugs, infusers and our packaging so we wanted to have that input."

The business students - who graduated from John Moores University weeks ago, where they first met over a canteen cuppa - admitted they cannot wait to tell their friends about their success, which they have kept a secret for months.

"We are dying to tell them," said Omar, 23.

"It's been really challenging but amazing. From where we were a couple of months ago to where we are now, it's just crazy. It's been a tough few weeks from finishing uni to now but it's been really exciting. Everything is new and we are learning new stuff every day."

Philip added: "We were jumping the walls like you couldn't believe. We still can't believe what happened. All of it has happened really fast."

The pair launched their company during their Graduate Enterprise module and decided to continue the business, which sells and delivers ethically sourced teas, after graduating. Their PHOM branded teas are now in the final stages of being stocked at Selfridges stores around the UK.

"We knew in this economic climate, no bank would lend us any money to get the business where we want it to be," explained Philip, whose love for tea comes from his mother, who owned a tea shop in Berlin.

"We wrote a business plan and realised we needed to get investment. Straight after we struck the deal, Kelly gave us some amazing feedback and her excitement about the product and packaging design was really evident. Her experience and connections (have helped us)."

But despite plenty of practise before filming, the pitch did not go as smoothly as they had hoped.

Omar recalled: "We practised our pitch about a gazillion times in the car on the way to filming. We tried it with the radio on, with the windows down so we could get it perfect word for word even with any distractions."

Philip continued: "When you're actually standing in front of them (the Dragons), it's the most intense experience we have ever had in our lives. It's like doing five exams in one day."

Omara dded: "There are so many cameras and lights, it's just really intense. It was a bit of a shaky start but when we got into the rhythm of it, it went really well.

"We went into the den hoping that Kelly would make an offer and when she did, we both looked at each other and thought, 'Wow'. You go in there hoping for the best but expecting the worst so when we got three offers, we were overwhelmed."

Kelly revealed she was inspired to back Box Of T because it is a "young, vibrant business".

PHOM boxes of premium loose-leaf teas are available from £5.99 from www.phom.co.uk.

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