YoungOnes Roaring Success in Dragons’ Den

The Tab Exeter interviews YoungOnes founders, Tom Caron and Chris Rea, about their Dragons’ Den experience.

BBC BBC2 Dragons' Den Duncan Bannatyne exclusive Onesie the tab the tab exeter University of Exeter YoungOnes

Faced with the prospect of pitching to Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones, two of the UK’s most renowned businessmen (and possibly two contenders for the grumpiest blokes on television), most of us would probably wet ourselves – or at least come close to doing so.

But when former University of Exeter students Tom Carson, 23, and Chris Rea, 21, appeared on Dragons’ Den last weekend, seeking a £75,000 investment into YoungOnes, a custom onesie company established whilst they were both still at Exeter, the pair seemed far more cool-headed than most other contestants.

Tom (middle right) and Chris line up alongside YoungOnes models.

Tom (middle right) and Chris line up alongside YoungOnes models.

Yet looks, as they say, can be deceiving: “I have never been as nervous about anything,” says Tom, a Business Management and Marketing graduate. “I even forgot my words in the final practice before going in. We knew we had a good idea and good figures, but you never know how the Dragons are going to take to an idea or to (the) people.”

“They gave us one week’s notice before we were going to be filmed,” says Chris, who graduated last year in Business and Psychology. “This all happened to fall just one week before my finals exams and during my last assignment. The day before (filming) I still didn’t know my pitch, so it took a lot of rehearsal on the drive from Exeter to Manchester!”

Tom and Chris begin their hastily-prepared pitch to the Dragons.

Tom and Chris begin their hastily-prepared pitch to the Dragons.

In hindsight, they had no need to be so nervous.

After persuading Piers Linney, a new addition to the Den this season, and Duncan Bannatyne to try on their onesies, Tom and Chris emerged from their pitch triumphant, bagging all the money they wanted from Bannatyne, whose own business ventures began with a chain of ice cream vans, for a 40% stake in their company.

Piers Linney tries on his camouflage-print custom onesie.

Piers Linney tries on for size his camouflage-print custom onesie.

Having learnt from a previous attempt to set up a sportswear company, the young entrepeneurs, who first met whilst playing England Under-21 hockey together, came up with the idea for YoungOnes in Tom’s final year (2011-12). “At the start it was a bit of fun and something new to do,” says Tom, now playing for England Men. “We had an idea that the custom onesies would be popular and then onesies boomed in the media.”

“We started off with 200 onesies that we bought using a bit of our student loans and savings (£1,500 each),” says Chris, whose individual business ventures in the past include selling copied CDs out of his school locker and auctioning sinks on eBay. “We then set up a fairly simple e-commerce website and had sold all our stock within the first three months. It was mainly selling to friends and friends of friends that helped start the company off.”

Duncan Bannatyne's best attempt at Derek Zoolander's 'Blue Steel'.

Duncan Bannatyne’s best attempt at Derek Zoolander’s ‘Blue Steel’.

Now, with Duncan Bannatyne on board and his dollar in their pockets and a SETsquared award for entrepenurial talent, YoungOnes supplies custom onesies to more than twenty UK universities, earning Tom and Chris a tidy £50,000 profit.

But they are not done yet with YoungOnes – far from it, in fact.

“We want to make YoungOnes massive throughout the UK by getting reps and brand managers at every university,” says Tom, who is leaving his job as a sales graduate at Fujitsu to concentrate on hockey (with one eye on Rio 2016 Olympics) and the company’s expansion. “We are going on a massive university tour so look out for us. We will be holding huge sales and holding parties somewhere near you!”

Tom and Chris jubilant after sealing the deal with Duncan.

Tom and Chris were jubilant after sealing the deal with Duncan.

Interested representing YoungOnes? See their website for contact details.