TWO friends make £22.5million a year selling stale food.
Entrepreneurs Andy Needham and Dan Cluderay are selling clearance items at a heavily discounted price.
The couple started Approved Food in market trader Dan’s back room to reduce food waste and turn a tidy profit.
They bought the goods from Andy’s wholesale store and sold them online for up to 70 percent cheaper than in large supermarkets.
Hungry for success, they performed at Dragons’ Den in 2015 hoping for £150,000 in exchange for 10 per cent of their business.
The multi-millionaire panel couldn’t take the idea, saying in unison, “I’m out.”
But seven years later, the line-up swallows its words, as Approved Food has hit annual sales of £22.5million.
Andy, 57, said: “I’m sure the Dragons sometimes ask themselves, ‘What if?'”
Approved Food, which sells outdated but perishable products, later became part of the Surplus group, which advocates for a “world without waste”.
It now employs more than 90 people, occupies a 52,000 square foot unit in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and has shipped over 1.2 million orders.
But the so-called pundits saw no potential and turned down the opportunity to get in on the action early.
While health club mogul Duncan Bannatyne said early in their pitch that he was “ready to throw his money at Dan and Andy,” he later stated he would not invest.
Piers Linney, Peter Jones and Kelly Hoppen all agreed it was the wrong time to part with their money and echoed it by saying, “I’m out.”
And after Andy and Dan, 48, shared their business would make a loss in the coming year, Deborah Meaden said: “I take risks but you are braver than me.”
Reflecting on their “agonizing” time in the BBC den and their success since, Andy said he was almost glad they were turned down.
“People are still talking about it and we’re regularly known as one of the ’10 that got away’ which makes us proud,” he said.
“The two hour barbecue we had on the schedule has been cut down to just over nine minutes.
“Neither of us had watched the show for years, so little did we realize that this was no longer a serious investment environment but an entertainment show looking to win Baftas.
“We got into the studio at 7am and the adrenaline was pumping all day, but to say we were drained by 4:30pm would be an understatement.
“Then suddenly everything was hectic, with no time to pee.
“The elevator doors opened to the full brilliance of the studio lights, the cameras and the blistering heat.”
I’m sure the dragons sometimes wonder, “What if?”
Andy said that within the first three minutes of filming, they delivered the “entertainment” the producers wanted – with “hot sweats, chills in the brain and puffed-up lines.”
“You name it, we provided it,” he added.
“I get the Mickey taken to this day but we managed to settle down and give a decent report on each other.
“Although we didn’t receive any offers, we weren’t concerned as we already had most of what we needed.
“And by the time our episode aired in August 2015, we had all the things we talked about during filming done.
“Also, the publicity that came after the episode aired was fantastic and really showed the power of TV exposure.”
Andy also slyly attacked Deborah and Piers after their ‘classic’ comments about risk taking and debt.
“We knew [we were braver than Deborah] because we built our business from scratch and didn’t inherit it from a family like hers,” he said.
“And Piers was concerned about the amount of debt he felt he had with us, but it was a bit ironic when a few months later his own company went bust on debt.”
Both Andy from Barnsley and Dan from Worksop, Nottinghamshire hope to continue to grow Approved Food in the years to come.
Andy said: “We aim to continue offering value, variety and convenience for the foreseeable future.
“Economic times are the toughest I have ever seen with so many factors going in the wrong direction for everyone.
“I just hope that the country can return to more stable times as soon as possible, for the good of all.”
https://www.thesun.ie/money/9957750/dragons-den-reject-food-business/ We got rejected at Dragons’ Den… but now you wouldn’t believe how much we make