On the up · 6 January 2017

Meet the entrepreneurial duo who won over the fearsome Deborah Meaden

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LoveKeepCreate co-founders Rachel Day and Merry Whitaker
The co-founders of Devon-based clothing keepsake business LoveKeepCreate have experienced many challenges throughout their careers, but no amount of preparation could have calmed Rachel Day and Merry Whitaker’s nerves before walking out to pitch in front of the infamous investors on BBC’s Dragons? Den.

The entrepreneurial pair appeared on the first episode of the hit television show’s new UK series on New Years? Day, and successfully walked away with a 50, 000 investment from their favourite fire breather Deborah Meaden, in return for ten per cent of their business.

it’s as nerve wracking as it looks, Whitaker said of her experience standing in front of a row of the country’s most distinguished business moguls, pitching her venture which she knew would also be on show to millions of viewers.

Talking exclusively with Business Advice, Whitaker added: it’s one of the most terrifying things Ive ever done. Both Rachel and I have been long-term fans of Dragons? Den. Weve always wondered why most business owners seem so underprepared when they do their pitch, but when you do it for real you understand why people get flustered. it’s terrifying!?

Whitaker and Day met during army officer training at Sandhurst, becoming good friends in the process. The duo became business partners in 2013 after coincidentally moving to South Devon, and both claim that their former roles in the army gave them the key attribute for successfully walking out of the Dragons? Den with investment preparedness.

we put in hours and hours of preparation before the day of filming and it paid off. I think we both understood the importance of knowing our business? numbers and being able to answer any question the Dragons might throw at us. We wanted to give a good account of ourselves, and were terrified of being shown up. We didnt want to be humiliated.

By launching LoveKeepCreate, Whitaker and Day have looked to address an issue common to many people how to transform special, sentimental pieces of clothing that you can’t bear to throw away but which invariably wind up collecting dust in the attic.

The business model is simple. People find their most precious pieces of clothing a wedding dress, old uniform, baby clothes, or their grandfather’s favourite sweater, for instance and choose a type of memento theyd like it to become, like a quilt, blanket or even a cuddly toy.

Once they’re happy with their choice, customers can then send their special clothing to the small team of designers and seamstresses at LoveKeepCreate’s warehouse in Plymouth for them to be returned, transformed, into a longer-lasting keepsake.

people develop strong emotional attachments to items of clothing, and all too often those items end of sitting in boxes, hidden away in storage, Whitaker told Business Advice. We try to turn those items into new pieces for both adults and children to cuddle with, sleep under or wear, while reminding them of special times and fond memories.

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Day and Whitaker with their new business partner Deborah Meaden
Their evocative idea seemed to warm hearts in the typically ice-cold Dragons? Den. A total of three Dragons ended up offering Whitaker and Day investment in return for a stake in LoveKeepCreate, including Sarah Willingham and Nick Jenkins, but it was Deborah Meaden the co-founders wanted on board from the outset.

we had our eye on her before went on the show, Whitaker admitted. ‘she’s been involved with startups similar to ours in the past, and we understood that she likes to get really involved with the businesses she invests in.

Their hunch about opting for Deborah Meaden has so far paid off. Since filming, Whitaker and Day have spent time refocusing, looking at the best ways to build capacity and develop a sustainable business model with their investment, with their new investor also on-hand to provide insight and guidance.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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