Dragon’s Den success for two Altrincham entrepreneurs
PUBLISHED: 13:27 29 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 04 June 2020
Altrincham in Cheshire is fast becoming a hub for new creative companies as Dragons’ Den judges recently discovered. We spoke to two progressive businesswomen from the town
Small businesses doing big things is something we’re already good at in Cheshire and now, more than ever, our attentions have been drawn to those powering along with creativity, grit and determination through these uncertain times.
We’re not the only ones to notice the success of start-ups in the county. Two Altrincham companies faced the Dragons’ Den line-up recently. One of them was 25-year-old Evie Waxman founder of Raw Bake Station, a company making raw and vegan sweet treats.
“I came out of sixth form and moved to Australia for three years – I suppose I took the University of Life,” says Evie. “For me, it was the best decision I ever made because, without being too clichéd, I completely understood what I wanted to do after that.”
It was her time in Australia that helped her pick up tips and cement her knowledge of the raw food market - the country was ahead of the curve and allowed Evie to take part in raw food workshops. But it was when she moved back home to Cheshire for her 21st birthday, she revealed her plans for a raw treats company to her family.
“I remember they were supportive but also had that nod and smile aspect,” she laughs. “There was still a big stigma attached to veganism in England.”
Evie started working in a juice bar and at home, she worked on her own recipes from her mum’s kitchen drawing on the inspiration she gained in Australia. She started selling into the juice bar and customers began asking to buy in bulk to take home, giving her the confidence to pitch to other businesses to sell.
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Raw Bake Station makes Crookies - oat-based cookies - and sweet treats that are refined sugar, gluten, grain and dairy free, and Evie comes up with the recipes, branding and product names.
What started small has turned into a big deal. Evie is now selling into numerous stores across Europe. She has expanded her products into WHSmith travel stores across the country, has a deal with a supermarket for later this year and has started selling into a German retailer too.
Although she didn’t walk out with any investment, the whole experience was positive and only added fire to her belly for Evie to succeed. Now,
One thing that was clear from her appearance on the popular BBC programme is that Evie has an infectious personality. Although she didn’t walk out with any investment, it has added fire to her determination to succeed – including her wish to crack the London market.
“I made little hampers up and knocked on the doors of places like Planet Organic and Wholefoods,” she says. “I didn’t have any meetings set up, but I found the names of the buyers on LinkedIn and just winged it. I made out that I had meetings, and someone was obviously looking down on me because Planet Organic really liked the products.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that stands out. I fully believe in what I do so I’m not scared to tell people I’ve got a great product, but it’s empowering to hear people tell you you’re brave.”
Evie also credits her success to the local community and Altrincham’s reinvention of itself as a creative, boundary-pushing town, with projects like Altrincham Market leading the way.
“There are quite a few exciting brands and every few months, we all meet up, share ideas and help each other push into different markets. In Altrincham there’s been such a big change over the last few years and it’s a really cool place. There’s a lot of creativity, and everyone is supportive,’ says Evie.
‘Our crookies have gone into being manufactured elsewhere, so I’m delisting the chilled range that we currently make in a unit up here. It was a big decision for me because it was my baby, but I’m excited to move out of the unit and I can focus on marketing the brand.’ Watch this space!
Small steps to big business
Finding a gap in the market is that special something the Dragon’s Den judges are looking for - and they found it with Altrincham’s Laura Riley. Although on a slight pause due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions, Little Clogs Holidays has gone from strength to strength since it launched in February 2018.
Having worked in travel for most of her career with Eurocamp, Laura formed the idea for Little Clogs Holidays after she had children and took the opportunity for a career break.
“When I googled toddler holidays, pretty much everything that came up was Spain or Portugal, which was fine, but we didn’t want to go anywhere too hot with the children,” explains Laura. “‘My partner is Belgian, so we booked an apartment on the beach, drove there and had the most amazing, relaxing, child-friendly holiday.
“People were really interested to hear about it, they didn’t realise there were beaches in Belgium – it just wasn’t really on anyone’s radar to head to the Netherlands or Belgium on family beach holidays.”
Alongside best friend Jane Grove, who lives in Amsterdam, Laura launched Little Clogs Holidays, a website that promotes child-friendly holidays in Belgium and Holland. It features advice, destination features and information about family holidays in their specialist areas.
“I love the concept of being outdoors but being in nice accommodation,” she says. “A lot of what we market are luxury holiday parks with very high-quality accommodation. We’re promoting all the bits people don’t know about, like the fact there are beautiful beaches in the Netherlands that go on for miles and heritage islands, there’s even a desert, safari lodges and incredible woodlands. Nothing is a long drive away once you’re there as well, so it’s brilliant for families.”
Their success was noted by Theo Paphitis, former Dragons’ Den judge, who earlier this year awarded the company with his Small Business Sunday award. Support from the local community, Laura says, has also been crucial to their success.
“I’ve got quite a few friends who have their own businesses now, and there’s a real spirit in Altrincham,” she says. “People want people to do well – there’s a lot of support.”
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