Belfast Telegraph

Dragons' Den offer 'put on hold' by Northern Ireland baby products firm Shnuggle

By Rachel Martin

Bosses of a Northern Ireland baby products firm say they are still weighing up an offer from entrepreneur Touker Suleyman after taking part in BBC2 series Dragons' Den.

And husband and wife team Adam and Sinead Murphy say they've also received two other confidential investment offers since Dragons' Den was filmed in June. They appeared in the show on Sunday night.

The pair, who run Newtownards firm Shnuggle, were made an offer by the fashion and retail entrepreneur and investor, but after filming, by mutual agreement the tycoon's offers were put on hold. However, the couple hope a future collaboration could be on the cards.

The ratchet agreement saw Touker offer to invest £100,000 in return for a 25% stake in the business - with his share dropping to 15% should the couple meet their target of £1.2m turnover.

Six months on from the process, the pair say Shnuggle is well on track to meet the target, with current projections for the 2016-17 financial year forecasting the company will turn over between £1.1m and £1.2m.

The experience saw the couple come under the scrutiny of the five business judges for around two hours, and even saw Suleyman try to jump into the couple's baby carrier, with disastrous consequences.

Adam and Sinead Murphy say they came up with the idea for Shnuggle when the couple's first daughter Rose was born with a form of Down's syndrome and needed a more "hygienic" sleeping space.

The company was founded in 2009 with a £25,000 personal loan, which allowed them to design and launch their first product, a modern take on the traditional Moses basket.

The business began in the family's garage, but expanded rapidly.

Today, the firm employs eight people and makes a range of blankets, bedding, bathing and sleepwear.

Their flagship product - the Shnuggle basket - is hypo-allergenic and easily cleaned, with a wickerless design which is almost silent so it won't disturb a sleeping baby or parents.

The firm already exports to 22 countries including Canada, China, Taiwan, and South Korea.

The couple wanted the investment to help them crack the US market. Despite backing from two American distributors - Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us - hefty insurance costs have made this a difficult market to access.

Adam said: "We are doing a larger investment round now and hope Touker will be joining us. Our funding round has increased since the filming in June, so we are looking at a number of options; crowd funding, institutional investors and private investors.

"The funding will be used for job creation, marketing, stock building and focusing on the US market launch. We hope to raise £500,000 with the investment round and we'd really like to get Touker involved in it."

The money will also allow the couple to work on developing two new products every year, the latest of which are a waterproof thermometer designed to test the temperature of bathwater and a squishy changing mat with high sides to prevent reflux and colic.

The investment round will close by the middle of April and as a result of the pair hope to be able to employ a further four people.

Sinead added: "We still are relatively small in terms of where we would like to go and we are competing with much larger brands.

"It's not just having the backing of the dragons, it's their team and little black book of contacts too, which brought us to the den.

"The difficult thing to get across on the show is just how far we have already come."

The pair say they were encouraged when Deborah Meaden told them their business "ticked all the boxes", but she ultimately bowed out after she declared she was not interested in baby products.

The couple added they have taken on her advice to create a stronger brand and have added new logos to their products.

Belfast Telegraph