Millions of viewers saw Daniel Pawson turn down a £30,000 offer from multi-millionaire fashion retailer and investor Touker Suleyman on Sunday because he thought the Dragon’s demand for 35% of the business was too much.
But the publicity generated by the programme has proved priceless for Pawson, a co-founder of Sea Chips, a business which has become more established and increased production since the Dragons’ Den episode was recorded a year ago.
Viewers immediately began trying to order the nutrient-packed snacks online, and stocks soon sold out.
Sold out on Amazon
“At that point last year I think we’d sold about 3,000 bags, which was all we could make, but I think we did that in about an hour after Dragons’ Den,” Pawson told Fish Farming Expert.
“We sold out on Amazon. People reserved boxes for when they’re back in stock but as soon as we get more in, they are just selling out. I think we did our first year’s turnover in just two hours!”
At the time the Dragons’ Den episode was recorded Pawson and Sea Chips co-founder Dominic Smith were still making the crisps by hand, but since then Grants Smokehouse owner Jonathan Brown has taken a one-third stake in the company, supplying not just investment but considerable experience and a ready supply of salmon skins – a resource previously discarded by Grants.
Sea Chips now has a small factory next to the Grants premises in Maryport in west Cumbria.
“We can make about 10,000 packets a day at the moment, and we’re pretty much going to be selling them straight away,” said Pawson.
“There are three people on the production, at least, and we can draft people in if we have more orders. Jonathan has a factory next to ours and we can hire staff freelance for the day.”
Large supply of skins
Pawson is confident Sea Chips won’t run out of raw material as demand increases.
“They have a large supply at the moment, although we can always look elsewhere. There’s obviously a lot of skins going to waste so it wouldn’t be a problem to order skins from elsewhere. I don’t think we’re going to have a problem – they’ve got a supply from one factory of half a tonne a month, at least.”
Viewers of Dragons’ Den heard that Sea Chips had a limited number of outlets – Fenwick’s in Newcastle, Harrods and Wholefoods in London and Amazon. But that, too, is changing.
“We’re just updating the website, so there’s probably going to be another 100 retailers up and down the UK, in terms of independents and farm shops,” said Pawson.
“We’re launching with a couple of larger retailers I can’t name just yet, and also we’re launching with (online grocer) Ocado.”
Sea Chips is also looking to begin exporting its product “as soon as possible”.
“We’ve had a lot of interest, it’s just about finding the right partners,” said Pawson. “At the moment we’re very busy with the UK and we’re still finding our feet with the new factory, but we’ve already made a few steps to export to Hong Kong, Singapore and Denmark.”
Pawson is expecting the new outlets to lead to a big increase in turnover.
“Within the next 18 months, perhaps the next 12, we’re looking at hitting the £1 million mark for turnover. Our target is 18 months but we’re hoping to beat that,” said Pawson.
“If we get one decent contract it can be worth £200,000 to us, so if one supermarket comes on board we’ll go over our target.”