HE asked for a €50,000 investment and the Dragons gave him €100,000 – a figure that means he won’t have to sell the family farm and can create four new jobs.
In West Cork, Walter Ryan Purcell, the owner of Loughbeg Farm, is known for his involvement in the sustainable food business, but he was an unknown quantity when he appeared in front of five hard-nosed business people on Dragon’s Den on RTÉ.
His pitch played out perfectly. It was like a friendly but high-stakes game of poker. Walter asked one – any one of the Dragons – for a €50,000 investment in return for a 20% stake in his gluten-free bread making and teabrack business, which is based in Schull. He frankly admitted: ‘We made terrible bread in the beginning, but then one thing clicked and then another thing clicked until my wife, Josephine, arrived at a recipe that was good enough for production.’
About a year ago, they started selling 12 loaves a week to Irish-owned supermarkets. Now they are averaging 2,000 loaves a week, which means a turnover of around €25,000 a month.
Businessman Gavin Duffy told Walter his business had PEG – ‘potential explosive growth’ and fellow Dragon Barry O’Sullivan basically told him to go home because he was seriously under-selling his business.
But Walter was adamant that they, including their two boys Jack and Tom, were tired of ‘bouncing along at the bottom’ financially.
Eamonn Quinn – whose father Feargal Quinn gave Walter his first start in business in Dublin years ago – agreed to Walter’s terms, but Alison Cowzer offered €50,000 for 15% of the business. Walter horse-traded a bit and got both Dragons to invest €100,000 for a 30% stake in his business.
Walter and his family moved to West Cork ten years ago and they did everything to make a living from growing vegetables, to making chutneys and jams. The fact that they have hit on a gluten-free bread that tastes good means their jobs are secure. It also means that four new jobs will be created in the bakery, plus two more jobs in the distribution side.