Management / One small business that isn’t drying up

One small business that isn’t drying up

Joanne Frearson talks to Andy Jefferies of revolutionary towel company Dock & Bay about winning Dragons’ Den

Dock & Bay, the reinvented travel towel, has won the backing of Deborah Meaden on Dragons’ Den following their pitch, which also saw Tej Lalvani and Touker Suleyman offer to invest in their business.

The company was started by best friends Andy Jefferies and Ben Muller after they decided the corporate world was not for them. They wanted to be in control of their own destiny – every Tuesday they would sit down with a bottle of vodka and a curry and have a brainstorming session. Travel was one of their big passions, and they saw a gap in the market for fast-drying beach towels.

The pair, who met while working at a bank, say the hardest thing about setting up the company was the learning curve from leaving the world of digital banking to reinventing the traditional beach and travel towel.

Jefferies says: “Selling our reinvention of the traditional beach and travel towel, from a completely different world in a digital bank was a huge learning curve for us.

“We had zero contacts in this space and little knowledge of how retail worked. So in many ways at the start, we didn’t even know who was the right person to turn to for support!”

“We’d watch webinars and YouTube videos to clue up on all the questions we had about how to start a business” – Andy Jefferies, Dock & Bay

Initially the pair found their biggest support came via family and friends. One friend provided them with free warehousing, which they still use today. Jefferies’s parents lent them £5,000 to kick the business off, while Muller took out a £26,000 bank loan to invest in the business.

Another learning resource was the internet. Says Jefferies: “We would watch webinars and YouTube videos, do online courses, tutorials and guides – you name it – in order to clue up on all the questions we had swirling around our head about to how start a business.

“We’ve found that almost all the questions we had someone had asked before online – and someone had also answered it. The internet and the power of tools like Google and Amazon are amazing and have allowed us to become a global business from the side of our desks.”

Meaden has also been a great support since they won Dragons’ Den, offering them a 10 per cent stake in the brand. He says: “It is still early days, but we came out of our meeting with lots of things that Deborah would look to help us overcome. From helping to prepare our manufacturing in China for scaling up, to providing new contacts in the world of PR and design and the future potential of opening doors into new retail stores as we grow.

“Her knowledge from investing in so many different businesses spans far and wide and working with someone that has experienced the highs and lows of business growth, will stand us in good stead to take the business to the next level.”

She says she invested in the pair because she was “interested in the people behind the business and loved Andy and Ben’s energy. The fact that they took a leap, quitting their corporate jobs to start running a worldwide business from other sides of the globe, in a generation where many have begun to look for ways to run their own lives and be in control is brilliant.”

The reinvented towel brand’s long-term ambition is to become a large global player and be the brand people turn to when they want a beach towel. Their mission is to slowly become the “Havaianas [the iconic Brazilian flip-flop manufacturer] of towels”, but they are taking one day at a time. As Jefferies points out “we’ve got big plans but we’re not going to rush anything. We’ve still got a lot to learn.”

This article was published in our Business Reporter Online: Dragging retail into the 21st century.
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