BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den has seen a wealth of budding entrepreneurs in the shows 10 years of running. Individuals from all walks of life have entered the spotlight and pitched their business ideas to the UK industries top mogul millionaires.
Where there have been many successes, there have been twice as many failures. Shaun Pulfrey is one of the many who failed to gain an investment from the Dragons’ however his product is now worth a tangle ‘teezing’ £200 million.
Dragon's Den Journey
Shaun entered the den back in 2007 seeking an investment of £800k in return for a 15% share in his company for a detangling hair brush better known as the Tangle Teezer. The Tangle Teezer is a unique hairbrush featuring two-tiered teeth that detangles hair with minimum fuss.
The Dragons’ were not convinced by the design and vast public appeal and unanimously rejected his product. Peter Jones called the invention “hair-brained” and Debra Meaden mocked his design saying it resembled a “horse brush”. Despite the somewhat harsh criticism, viewers of the show loved the brush and the Tangle Teezer became an overnight hit.
The idea of the brush blossomed through Shaun’s career in hairdressing which began in 1978. After years of working in hair salons he realised the need for a hairbrush which could detangle hair without the hard work and unnecessary tugging and pulling. 2003 was the year of his so-called ‘lightbulb moment’ and he started the necessary research and development for the first edition of his Tangle Teezer. The Dragons’ Den experience was a blessing in disguise as the TV time caught the attention of the nation and in 2008 the Tangle Teezer officially launched.
Funding His Venture
His tenacity and unwavering belief in his idea is the reason Shaun is where he is today. Shaun confessed that, “I’m not one to dwell on rejection – I’m a believer that out of something not-so-good, comes good!” and so without the Dragons’ investment, Shaun self-financed the Teezer venture by using his savings and re-mortgaging his Brixton flat. The bold risk paid off as the high-street store giant Boots was the first store to sell the brush and was soon followed by internationally famed salon chains Toni & Guy and Regis. 35,000 brushes were sold in the first year and because of the rapid growth in consumer sales in the UK, Tangle Teezer began exporting the brushes worldwide.
A Global Success
Shaun attributes the global success of Tangle Teezer to the lack of cultural barriers. He stated that, “Hair problems are pretty universal – whether it’s detangling or wanting to achieve the perfect blow-dry, and the Tangle Teezer suits all types of hair”. Britain is also recognised as a leader in hair innovation, therefore Tangle Teezer has a global appeal because of its Britishness- a big factor the Dragons’ clearly failed to pick up on.
Expanding His Business
Due to its success Shaun continues to invent new styles to appeal to a wider audience. He created a smaller, handbag friendly version of the original Teezer called the Compact Styler and a brush specifically designed for children called the Magic Flowerpot. In 2012 the range expanded even further with the launch of the Salon Elite brush and Aqua Splash. The Salon Elite is a concaved shaped detangling brush that allowed fast and firm strokes of the hair designed for the professional hairdresser to increase the pace in salons. The Aqua Splash is an upright detangling brush created for use in the shower.
Internationally Recognised Awards
The unique designs and international success made Tangle Teezer a well-loved and highly recognised brand and as a result Shaun and his team was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. If one Queen’s Award wasn’t enough, in 2014 Tangle Teezer won another Queen’s Award for International Trade and Shaun was invited along to Buckingham Palace to meet Her Majesty the Queen.
Collaboration With Designers
2015 saw the first designer collaboration with Lulu Guinness who designed a Teezer Compact Styler with one of her signature artistic lip prints. The year 2015 also saw the launch of an innovative product named rather unambiguously- the Blow-Styling Smoothing tool. Used for transforming wet hair to a smooth and shiny blow-dry- the tool picked up five international industry awards in its first year.
Where Is He Now?
Shaun is yet to sit back and enjoy his accomplishments as he continues to surprise the hair and beauty industry with new inventions. In just over 13 years Tangle Teezer has become a global business phenomenon operating worldwide in over 70 countries, with rather incredibly, four hairbrushes being sold every 20 seconds. Shaun’s success continues to flower and his story goes to show that even top industry experts can get it very wrong.
The Tangle Teezer story proves that one ‘hair-brained’ idea has the potential to change the world with the added invaluable satisfaction of proving someone wrong.