Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sharon Wright Leeds Inventors Group 16th March 2011

Sharon Wright is one of the most successful competitors to ever appear on the BBC programme “Dragons Den” and her talk at the inventors group meeting created a lot of interest.

She described how she came up with the product “Magnamole” – a device for threading cables through cavity walls – which she eventually took to the dragons. What many people don’t realise is that Sharon had already achieved significant success with the product before approaching the dragons. In spite of working 9 – 5 as a sales rep and being a single mum she had set up her own company Talpa Products and by working through her nights had achieved large sales and won the award of “British Inventor of the Year” (followed up by a number of international awards). However she was hoping that with assistance from the dragons this could be taken to another level.
As with everything Sharon has done she was thoroughly prepared for the “Dragons Den” pitch and this was one of the things which impressed them so much. As she pointed out this is very important in so many areas, particularly in business – try to foresee what will come up, and try to know the people who you will be dealing with. She described her pitch in front of the cameras, which lasted for around 90 minutes. Much of this, of course, is not seen in the final cut.

The response to the programme from the viewing public was enormous with offers of congratulations and sometimes offers of business. However things didn’t work out as Sharon had hoped. The money, infrastructure and support which she had expected didn’t materialise and while she was waiting for this assistance cash-flow problems developed. She also discovered that assistance from one of the Dragons would actually be chargeable and any investment – which she was still waiting for – would be a loan.

Things began to unravel and Sharon described how her business difficulties exacerbated her life-long battle with bulimia and she hit rock bottom. Feeling unable to cope she decided that writing a book of her experiences might be therapeutic. Unable to find a publisher willing to take the book on because of the controversy with the dragons she published it herself. “Mother of Invention: How I Won Dragons Den, Lost My Mind, Nearly Lost My Business and Ended up Reinventing Myself” is a powerful insight into what it takes to run a business and develop new products and how one person coped with all the difficulties thrown at her by sheer determination.

Sharon is now back on her feet and has new investment in her business. “Magnamole” is selling extremely well and her legal action against dragon James Caan is ongoing. As Sharon said dedication and self-belief is vital to anyone wanting to develop a new business or a new product and, as her example shows, a tremendous amount of hard work is a basic requirement.

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