A Bristol company that is revolutionising the disability market by producing stylish but practical living aids has seen its sales soar by more than 70 per cent since appearing on Dragons’ Den.
Blue Badge Company saw nearly £180,000-worth of sales in the second half of 2015, compared to just under £105,000 for the same period the previous year.
The massive boost to sales came after company director Ellen Green appeared on BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den in August last year.
After Ellen’s ten-minute appearance on the show, Blue Badge Company received two months’ worth of orders in 24 hours.
Ellen walked away from the hit show with no funding after refusing an offer of £70,000 in return for a 35 per cent stake in her company from retail tycoon Touker Suleyman.
But within a few weeks she had secured £30,000 investment from peer-to-peer loan company, Funding Circle, for no equity.
Last month Blue Badge Company’s sales received a further boost when Ellen appeared in a second BBC Two show, Dragons’ Den: From Pitches to Riches, which re-lived the most extraordinary moments from the past 13 series of Dragons’ Den.
The day after the show the company received 30 times more orders than normal direct through its website.
The show was fronted by self-confessed Den obsessive Richard Osman who invited some of his favourite entrepreneurs including Ellen to his own secret cinema, where they came face-to-face with their experience in the Den once again.
“I left the den empty handed but thankfully Blue Badge Company has been reaping the benefits ever since,” said Ellen.
“The show made far more people aware of our beautiful products and orders have flooded ever since.
“We’re now selling in a lot more major retailers and our direct orders via the website rose by 43 per cent last year.
“The ‘Dragons’ Den effect’ has provided the boost we needed to get to the next stage of growth.”
Since the initial TV appearance, Blue Badge Company products have been stocked by Argos, Halfords, Lloyds Pharmacy and Day Lewis Pharmacy stores.
The company’s annual sales rose by 35 per cent to £325,815 in 2015 and look set to hit £500,000 this year. Its workforce has grown from one to 16 in the last three years.
Blue Badge Company was launched five years ago by a designer who was fed up with what she saw as the universally dull, clinical products available to disabled consumers.
She enlisted the help of friend, Ellen, and sitting in the bedroom of her small house in Bristol, the pair started hand-stitching hundreds of eye-catching Blue Badge display wallets. Ellen took over the business as a sole director in 2013.
Blue Badge Company has since sold more than 130,000 of the wallets across the UK and expanded to produce a range of attractive living aids such as lap trays, wheat warmers and walking stick bags.
Its products come in a range of colourful prints with designs inspired by William Morris, Roald Dahl and Lotta Jansdotter.
The company’s big breakthrough came in 2013 when a Boots buyer spotted its products at a trade exhibition and placed an order for 10,000 wallets – dwarfing the 8,000 the company had made in its previous two years. Blue Badge Company now supplies 2,500 Boots stores nationwide as well as the Post Office and a raft of smaller stores across the country.
Disabled consumers now make up a fifth of the UK population – nearly 12 million people, up from 10 million ten years ago – who, with their households, have a spending power of more than £200bn.
With the over 50s, who control over 75 per cent of household wealth, likely to make up more than half of the population by 2030, Blue Badge Company’s success reflects the growing demand for desirable helpful home comforts and travel accessories that aid universal accessibility.
“Thanks for better healthcare and an ageing population, the number of elderly and disabled consumers is growing fast,” said Ellen.
“But until now they have been largely overlooked by major retailers and been limited in choice to dull, clinical products that say more about their disability than personality and tastes.
“We want to change this and happily high street stores seem to be waking up to the growing demand from disabled consumers for stylish and desirable products.”
All Blue Badge Company products are British made and about 40 per cent of the workforce either has a disability or is a primary care giver which ensures the team has a first-hand appreciation of various disabilities from mental health issues to physical impairments.
“Because of the way we manufacture, we can provide jobs and training for those with limited work options, like people who have domestic responsibilities or disabilities,” said Ellen.
“I believe a company is only as strong as the team behind it. Providing work for people who find it more difficult to access employment really boosts personal confidence and team moral.
“It also adds to our understanding our customers and their needs and wishes, which is key.”
Blue Badge Company’s colourful collections can be viewed here: www.bluebadgecompany.co.uk.
There are 2.6 million Blue Badge holders in the UK.
A fifth of the population has a disability, that’s nearly 12 million people.
They and their households have a spending power of over £200bn.
The over 50’s, who control over 75 per cent of household wealth, will make up over half of the population by 2030.
Blue Badge Company statistics:
Launched in May 2011.
Formally known as White Space Designs, the idea was conceived when Ellen’s friend, a disabled designer, received her first Blue Badge permit.
In May 2013 Ellen bought out business partner becoming sole director and shareholder.
March 2015 Ellen was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Bristol and Bath Women in Business Awards.
In July 2015 Ellen given the Breakthrough award by Insider South West 42 under 42.
In August 2015 Ellen appeared on BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den and BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
The company has grown from 1 to 16 employees in three years.
40 per cent of the workforce has either a disability or is a primary care giver.
Turnover has leapt by a factor of five in 3 years from £64k to £325k.
Currently on target to increase turnover by 55 per cent this financial year to nearly £500k.
The company produces over 1500 wallets a week.