Aged 18, Jordan Daykin became the youngest person to get investment through BBC’s Dragons’ Den for his DIY product GripIt Fixings. His next step is even more remarkable. He talks crowdfunding, cracking America and creating opportunity for other inventive entrepreneurs
As you walk up the stairs towards Jordan Daykin’s office, a display on the wall to your left tells the timeline of GripIt Fixings. It dates back to when the business began in July 2008. Or, to put it another way, when Daykin was only 13 years old. Now, at the ripe old age of 20, he is one of Britain’s best-known young businessmen. Daykin appeared on Dragons’ Den back in February 2014 (broadcast in August of that year) and his pitch led to Deborah Meaden backing his company to the tune of £80,000 in return for a 25 per cent stake.
But whereas you might expect today’s post-pubescent entrepreneurs to be making their fortunes online, he spent his teenage years manufacturing and selling a DIY product. The GripIt fixings allow you to attach household items such as TVs, water heaters and kitchen cupboards to plasterboard walls. According to Daykin, they can now hold up to a quarter of a tonne in weight. And some people say Britain doesn’t make things anymore.
To put his company’s meteoric post-Dragons’ rise into context, Daykin says: “Last year we had four full-time staff. We currently have 27 and we’ll have 40 by August. We make everything in the UK, so we’re not only expanding our sales team, we’re also expanding the production and the finance teams as well as R&D.
“We’re moving in August to new 20,000-square-foot premises, three times bigger than what we’ve got now. The business plan I took into Dragons’ Den stated that our turnover would be £1.8m after three years. For 2016 it will be £2.7m and this is only the second year.” At which point he pauses, puffs out his cheeks and shakes his head. “It’s been insane! But it’s because we’ve now entered markets such as the US and Australia.”
At the end of 2014, Daykin applied online to sell to Home Depot, America’s largest home improvement retailer. “They have a vendor submission form. It’s very different to how things work in the UK in terms of pitching to stockists. I didn’t think anything of it and then, a month later, we got an email saying, ‘We love the product and we want to get you over here.’ We were pretty much on the next flight! Most homes in the US have plasterboard walls. They loved how easy it is to use and obviously the weight it can hold. We launch in October. The challenge is trying to manage that growth!”
Daykin also says that one of the reasons why Home Depot is so enthusiastic about GripIt is because the fixings are made in Britain, whereas most DIY products are likely to be imported from the Far East. Then, of course, there is the story behind the business – America has its own version of Dragons’ Den, called Shark Tank, which has been on air since 2009. It all serves to give GripIt a great PR story when it launches in the US, where it will also be promoted on QVC – which is broadcast into 100 million American homes.
“Over the course of the five-year plan we’ve produced, we should be in 21,000 stores worldwide. You think that B&Q is big and they’ve got around 300 stores but Home Depot has 2,000 and we’re on board with Lowe’s Home Improvement. That adds up to 3,800 stores in the US. We’re also going into Walmart next year. That will be as a part of a TV package.”
The ‘TV package’ is an idea Daykin thought up when trying to sell the product over here. He recalls: “Our competitors have been around for 20-30 years and never thought about having a solution for TVs. Their fixings are not strong enough to properly hold a TV. I went into Currys and said, ‘If you’re buying your TV and a bracket you may as well buy your fixings at the same time.’ And we did the same deal with Dixons.”
However, GripIt probably would not have existed at all were it not for Daykin’s parents splitting up when he was nine. He later chose to live with grandparents after his father took a job in Sierra Leone. Daykin and his grandfather, a retired engineer, were trying to attach a curtain rail to a wall but couldn’t find a fixing that could take the weight. So they went ahead and invented one. By the time he appeared on Dragons’ Den, Daykin had a burgeoning business but lacked either the contacts or clout required to grow and expand into new territories.
What Meaden immediately loved about GripIt is that it’s “a classic invention – one that solves a problem in a practical and affordable way”. Daykin adds: “Deborah has been brilliant. She was up front from the word go that she didn’t have the contacts within the building industry. But when she picks up the phone people want to know why. And she became a sounding board. I thought, when you take on an investor, even though it’s your company, are they going to let you run it? She’s allowed me to get on with it but is available when I need advice. We’ve gone to plenty of events outside of work. It’s worked really well.”
Before Meaden’s involvement, Daykin’s education in the world of business had largely come from the pages of autobiographies. “I read a lot of books about entrepreneurs such as [Sir] Richard Branson to see where they’ve gone wrong. Several of the Dragons made a fortune and lost a fortune. In most cases they got too big too quickly and overspent. So I’ve tried to learn from others.
“The other key area is cashflow. They say cash is king, and the one thing I couldn’t get my head round when I was younger is that your company can make a loss for 10 years but as long as you’ve got the cashflow you can grow the business. We’ve kept things as tight as possible to allow us to grow.”
Meaden is already on course to make a handsome return on her investment. At the time of writing, the business is said to be worth £12.7m. When it came to financing GripIt’s expansion into the US market, Daykin says Meaden was ready to provide all the necessary funding and he also had interest from venture capitalists.
Instead, he chose to go down the route of crowdfunding and raised £2m, with Meaden investing £500,000.
“For me, because we employ staff here who are also friends who came in at the beginning, and we have independent stockists that sell GripIt, I wanted to give them an opportunity to own a piece of the product they are making and selling,” he says. “They will feel like they have a stake in it, even if it’s only a couple of hundred pounds-worth of shares, and they will benefit as the business grows.”
He adds: “It was a quick process. With Dragons’ Den we spent months preparing for the show and then there was the three-month period of due diligence. In January, we decided we would do crowdfunding. It launched in February and it was supposed to take between 45 and 60 days to raise the funds – we did it in five. We raised £2m and the money was in the bank within 21 days. You almost didn’t have the time to think. And then you have to get on with growing the business because all those investors are expecting you to deliver on what you said. Yeah, it’s been crazy. After year two the investors start to receive a dividend and they can either sell their shares back or keep them.”
Now he feels he has the right structure in place, Daykin plans to further capitalise on GripIt’s success.“We’ve got six new products coming out in the next 12-18 months, all in the fixing and building industry. Now I’ve not only got the ideas but we’ve got the contacts to get the products into market. We’ve got a recruitment website coming out and I also still have the tutoring agency I set up years ago [which he launched after dropping out of school].”
He also visits schools to give talks about starting a business and there are further plans to expand the GripIt brand. “We want to encourage people who have invented something to come to us and say, ‘This is an idea, would you be interested in taking it forward?’ It will all be done under a non-disclosure agreement. If we like it we can put it under the umbrella of our company.”
Given his seemingly inexorable rise, it is little wonder that Daykin concludes by saying: “Every day I come into work and there’s a new challenge. I love it!”
GripIt Fixings vital stats
HQ Melksham, Wiltshire
Turnover £2.7m (projected figure for 2016)
Staff 27, due to rise to 40 by August
High point Securing deal with Home Depot that will see GripIt Fixings sold in 2,000 stores across the US
Low point “At the beginning it was difficult to find suppliers that believed in you. It was me and my granddad turning up to meetings and they were probably thinking, ‘Yeah, OK…’”
Did you know? Approximately half of all investments on Dragons’ Den are subsequently withdrawn. The reasons range from irregularities in the business plan to either side getting cold feet