DRAGONS' DEN STORY- SUNDAY MIRROR- SEPTEMBER 2008

Dragons' Den contestant Natalie Eliss contacted our publicist Jonathan Hartley to get coverage for her non-spill dog bowl.


Jonathan organised an interview for Natalie with the Sunday Mirror newspaper who ran a full page exclusive story about her success.


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Dragons' Den reject stroke victim signs big American deal

A contestant who was told by TV's Dragons that she would be "eaten alive" if she tried to sell her invention in the US has had the last laugh...by cracking America.

Brave Natalie Ellis broke down and wept on the show when she told the panel how she had battled back from a stroke to stand before them and present her brainchild of a non-spill dog bowl.

The story of the single mum's comeback from the brink of death brought the normally ice-cool Dragons close to tears in one of the most moving scenes ever witnessed in the den.

But the judges didn't believe in Natalie enough to invest in her and warned the 40-year-old she had no chance of fulfilling her dream of cracking the lucrative American market, where people spend 11billion a year on their pets.

Theo Paphitis told her on the show, shown last Monday: "It would be like walking into the lions' den - they will eat you alive."

But the BBC programme was actually filmed in April and since then Natalie has turned the tables on the judges.

From her living room in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, she has sold 100,000 of her "Road Refresher" bowls to the States in just four months and is turning over close to 1million.

Last night Natalie, 40, told the Sunday Mirror: "After everything I had been through there was no way I was giving up. Not getting the backing of the Dragons just made me more determined. But I still have to pinch myself at how well things have gone."

It's only four years since Natalie almost died. She was working from 5am until midnight running a company selling pet accessories to Sainsbury's and Asda, while bringing up her daughter. It brought on a devastating stroke.

She was unable to walk for months, lost all feeling down her left side and was ordered to rest for six months. By the time Natalie recovered she'd lost the supermarket contracts and had a huge VAT bill. She said: "I had to go into liquidation. I was heartbroken."

Then, three years ago, she had a "light-bulb moment". Natalie said: "Every time I took my dog in the car and gave him water it spilled. I thought there must be a way of stopping it."

She designed and patented a bowl with a floating plate which stops spills. Prototypes were made in China and soon it was on sale in the UK, where it sold 22,000 in the first few months. But she desperately wanted to crack America and applied to go on Dragons' Den.

The Dragons were impressed by her invention but the mood changed when they asked why her company had folded.

Natalie said: "I didn't want to tell them. It's a part of my life I have put in a box. But I was being asked again and again and I had to tell the truth. It was like re-living a nightmare and I burst out crying."

Theo - visibly moved - said: "Breaking America is just too tough, but I wish you every success." Fellow judge James Caan added: "America is the graveyard for British business." And Peter Jones advised Natalie to team up with a larger company.

As soon as she got home she bombarded pet stores in America with emails and set up a website to advertise the bowl.

Orders began to flood in and, with the help of daughter Leah, 19, she started to ship out large numbers of the bowls to America.

Natalie said: "I always believed I could do it and I am relieved I didn't give in. I am pleased the Dragons didn't invest in me now. I am my own person and I think they feared that if they worked me too hard I might have another stroke."

'Re-living the stroke made me weep'

'America is the graveyard for British business so I can't invest'

- JAMES CAAN

'You would be better advised to team up with a larger company'

- PETER JONES

'America would be like walking in the lions' den.. they'd eat you alive'

- THEO PAPHITIS



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