Blue Badge Co, the Bristol business that designs and makes beautiful independent lifestyle products, has secured a major investment boost 18 months after leaving Dragon’s Den empty handed
, managing director of Blue Badge Co, has signed a deal with Omani businesswoman and personal contact Muzna Al Said, who has invested in the company on the same valuation terms that were pitched to the Dragons in 2015. Ellen asked for a £70,000 investment in return for a seven per cent stake in the fast growing company but walked away from the hit show with no funding after refusing an offer of £70,000 in return for a 35 per cent stake in her company from retail tycoon Touker Suleyman. Now 18 months on, her original valuation has been accepted although the total investment sum has not been revealed. The injection of capital will allow Ellen and her team to develop new product lines to complement their colourful range of living aids which include Blue Badge display wallets
, lap trays, walking stick holders
and wheat warmers
. It will also allow the company to take on more staff in the research and product development team. Blue Badge Co’s turnover has grown by more than 50% annually for three years, to reach almost £500,000 at the end of the last financial year in April.The company has also won a major new contract to supply its flagship Blue Badge display wallets to 150 WH Smith stores across the country. Having recently doubled the size of its workshop, the six-year-old company now supplies its products to Argos, Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy, Halfords and the Post Office. Its workforce of 15 permanent staff, with a handful of regular freelancers, hand craft all the Blue Badge Co products on site.
Around 40% of the Blue Badge Co workforce are disabled or are primary care givers, meaning the team has a first-hand appreciation of disabilities from mental health issues to physical impairments.
Blue Badge Co was launched in 2011 by a designer who was fed up with what she saw as the universally dull, clinical products available to disabled consumers.She enlisted the help of friend, Ellen, and sitting in the bedroom of her small house in Bristol, the pair started hand-stitching hundreds of eye-catching Blue Badge display wallets. Ellen took over the business as a sole director in 2013. The company’s big breakthrough came in 2013 when a Boots buyer spotted its products at a trade exhibition and placed an order for 10,000 wallets – dwarfing the 8,000 the company had made in its previous two years. Blue Badge Co now supplies 2,500 Boots stores nationwide. In August 2015 Ellen appeared on BBC Two’s Dragon’s Den where her ten-minute appearance on the show triggered two months’ worth of orders in 24 hours. Refusing to take Touker Suleyman’s offer, or his advice to take the manufacturing overseas to cut costs, Ellen has upheld to her belief in high quality UK manufacturing and has now secured a far more favourable investment. She said: “We’re really excited to have Muzna on board as an investor and creative advisor to help us develop new product lines to expand our reach. “We want to make Blue Badge Co the go-to company for stylish independent lifestyle products. Retailers are only now waking up to the growing demand from disabled and ageing consumers who want home and travel aids with great designs, that are desirable lifestyle products rather than medical necessities. “Blue Badge Co is leading the way in meeting this demand and has grown really fast in the last three years with contracts signed with several major UK retailers.But now we’ve moved into the new workshop we can start thinking about what other items we can offer to expand our range.” Muzna, who has a background in visual arts, said: “I’m thrilled to have invested in Blue Badge Co and joined their team in an advisory capacity to help on the creative side of the business. I have huge respect for Ellen as a businesswoman and think Blue Badge Co is a fantastic business which great potential to grow.The disability market is huge and due to our ageing population and better healthcare it is growing – Blue Badge Co have the opportunity to really lead the way in this market.” This Story has also appeared in South West Business Insider
, Business Leader
and Bristol 247