Business feature

Dragon invests in student start up

University of Exeter student start up and clothing brand Young Ones hit the jackpot when they secured a £75,000 investment from Dragons Den entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne.

Young Ones Directors Chris Rea and Tom Carson successfully negotiated the deal in exchange for 40 per cent of their company when they appeared on the BBC TV series on 15 September.

Chris and Tom enjoyed being on the show. Chris said: “It was great to be on Dragons Den and get some national exposure. Hopefully it will spread the word.”

He said said just having a business worth of being on the show was ‘surreal’.

He added; “But being successful was a real confidence boost .

“It was very nerve-racking, but luckily we didn’t fluff our lines – Tom and I both play hockey and we were more nervous than before any game!”

The journey to the investment began when Chris was a first year student in 2011, at the height of the onesie craze.

He spotted some premium, but highly expensive onesies and thought he could produce a product of similar quality but at a lower price.

Chris linked up with a factory in to begin making prototypes. His first onesie was produced in summer 2011, when Tom became involved. They started running Young Ones as an ecommerce site out of Chris’ bedroom.

The pair risked their student loans to buy 200 onesies, but needn't have worried because the stock sold out in just two months.

As the business developed so did their aspiration and the entrepreneurial pair enlisted the help of Exeter Innovation Centre Business Support Manager Joe Pearce, who provided business support and mentoring.

Chris highly valued Joe’s support. He explained: “Joe made us realise Young Ones could be a really good brand. He encouraged us to develop our brand story and really pushed us to be a dynamic company.

“At the beginning we weren’t really sure what we were doing, but the Innovation Centre team have experience they have been there and done it. They gave us a structure and guided us on what we needed to hone in on.”

The twosome won a student start up grant from the Innovation Centre which allowed them to develop their website, enabling customers to customise their own onesie. Young Ones’ work was further recognised when they won the Best Student Start Up at the 2013 student enterprise awards, run by SETsquared, a collaboration between the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Sussex which supports the growth and success of new business opportunities.

Chris and Tom are now developing a full range of products and travel around 15 University campuses in the UK to promote their brand.