When business start ups get a no from the Dragons, it usually means one thing: the end.
With 90% of business start-ups failing in the first three years, it’s not surprising that most entrepreneurs who get a rejection quietly slip back into the world of work and steady employment. “Trunkie” is probably the only exception that springs to mind when one thinks of companies that have gone onto better things after getting the heave-ho from the Den.
There is, however, another company that gone on to success following a rejection from the Dragons: Manchester-based Discrete Heat has steadily built a business from scratch, producing an innovative skirting board that doubles as a radiator. Now available in more than 20 countries, its ThermaSkirt product is installed in places as far afield as the Falkland Islands, Uruguay and even the frozen north of Norway, as well as places closer to home such as Falkirk, Uxbridge and Norfolk.
Now the company has secured the single biggest contract in its history with a National Care homebuilder and, in turn, the NHS.
Following a chance meeting with a leading NHS specialist in infection control, Discrete Heat took a fork in the road that has proven to be a real winner.
Managing director and Dragons’ Den survivor Martin Wadsworth explained: “We had been growing the business since we got the boot from Dragons’ Den, but with a general recession in the housing market, it had been steady rather than spectacular. Then we did an install for Dr Barzo Faris, a microbiologist at Manchester MRI, and we discovered a whole new marketplace.”
Dr Faris recognised that replacing conventional radiators with a slim, sealed skirting board unit could reduce the risk of infections such as C.Difficile and MRSA, which typically hide and breed in the warm, dusty spaces behind the radiators. Dr Faris suggested the company develop the ThermaSkirt product further to best suit the needs of a demanding healthcare sector – and especially the NHS. The result was the EasyClean version of its popular residential skirting heating system.
Having been installed and tested in four NHS facilities, including Trafford General and North Tees hospitals, EasyClean has trumped other forms of heating including radiators and underfloor.
The system has now gained national recognition from the NHS procurement programme ProCure 21 and is now included on the specification for all P21 projects, which have a combined annual spend of over £2bn.
The product has also been specified by one of the country’s leading providers of assisted living apartments for persons with physical and learning disabilities. With over 400 1-bed units planned every year for the next five years, it’s another major step change for Discrete Heat.
Neil Mackrell, project manager for Altrincham-based HB villages, said: “The EasyClean has been a real find for us, and the finished look and performance just superb. As a result, we are specifying it on all future projects.”
Mr Wadsworth concluded: “With confirmed orders with HB Villages and the projects with the NHS, we’re expecting well over £1m per year for the next five years – and probably more. The potential in healthcare, mental health and assisted living is huge, and we have developed the perfect product for it – if only by accident. Sometimes you need to hang in there and get lucky.”
Discrete Heat employs 25 people at its factory in Atherton Greater Manchester, and also has offices in Rostock in Germany, Perth and Melbourne in Australia, and Poznan in Poland.