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Ulster duo fail to get backing of Dragons' Den

By Margaret Canning

Published 10/08/2015

Frustration: Claire and Colum
Frustration: Claire and Colum

The owners of a Northern Ireland gluten-free food business have narrowly missed out on investment from businesswoman Deborah Meaden on reality business TV show Dragons' Den.

Claire Hunter and Colum McLornan, who also own the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, wanted £60,000 in investment for Rule of Crumb, in return for 15% of the business.

Their business makes a range of gluten-free foods, from prepared chicken to cakes, and three of its products recently won Great Taste Awards. Their goods are sold in a range of stores include Eurospars and are also due to sell via online grocery Ocado. After a nerve-wrecking pitch before Meaden and four other dragons, Meaden made the pair an offer of £60,000 but said she would want a 40% share.

Hunter and McLornan did not accept straight away and instead dragon Sarah Willingham started to discuss her take on the business.

Claire Hunter suggested the two women could share an investment - prompting an angry Meaden to interject.

"If my offer isn't good enough for you I'm not interested.

"Sometimes something rears its head which suggests you're not as committed to me as I am to you, so I've changed my mind. Sorry," she said.

Willingham then said she would not invest - and in the words of presenter Evan Davis, "Deborah Meaden's shock withdrawal means they leave with nothing but regret".

Ms Hunter shed tears as she apologised to her business partner in the broadcast on BBC2 last night.

But in a statement, Ms Hunter said there was no question her friendship with McLornan was on the rocks after the Meaden showdown.

She said: "Colum and I met at catering college when we were both 17.

"We are always looking for a business opportunity which as brought us challenges of epic proportions, challenges that far outweigh what viewers saw last night.

"The idea that our relationship was ever in question is quite amusing."

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