By Lea Pachta
Jane Rafter, a fashion designer from Stroud Green in North London, has sold out her entire stock of fashion sandals, slinks®, after appearing on BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den.
“Winning the £75,000 investment I’d asked for was great,” she says. “But now I really do have to get a move on with my new manufacturing arrangements in India.”
Jane’s 15 minutes of fame on prime-time TV not only won her the investment she wanted, from multi-millionaires Theo Paphitis and James Cahn, it also served as great advertising for online sales via her website: http://www.slinks.com
According to Jane, it was advice from Forresters, a firm of patent attorneys based in Bounds Green, that got her on to the programme. “After I’d had my first meeting with Forresters,” she explains, “they helped me file an application to patent the interlocking bead system that is unique to slinks. It was because I had a patent application that I caught the eye of the British Inventors Show, where I won an award. That drew me to the attention of the Dragons’ Den research team and they asked me to audition for the programme.
“If Forresters hadn’t advised me to apply for a patent, I wouldn’t have appeared on Dragons’ Den, wouldn’t have got my £75,000 investment and wouldn’t now have both James Caan and Theo Paphitis as directors of my company.”
Alex Beattie, the attorney at Forresters who works most closely with Jane, is delighted that Jane was successful in her Dragons’ Den appearance. Alex told us “it is always very satisfying to be involved with a business from the very beginning and to see the business grow and flourish.”
When TV Dragon Peter Jones saw Jane’s ingenious design for a range of designer sandals that have interchangeable uppers, his first question was ‘have you registered a design patent?’ Jane was immediately able to reassure the Dragons that she had filed a patent application and that Forresters had advised her that she could expect the patent to be granted within the next six months. This would ensure that her successful design could not be blatantly copied by imitators.
Jane asked the dragons for £75,000 in return for a 20 per cent share in her business — knowing that she would probably have to part with a higher percentage of her business in order to get the investment she needed. She was right, and ended up agreeing that the two Dragons would each have a 20 per cent share.
Before appearing on Dragons’ Den Jane had been trading for around a year and a half, and had already had considerable success with Slinks, with sales of almost £40,000 in the first year. On the programme, she forecast that with the investment she was asking for, she could increase this to annual sales of over £750,000 by year three, with a gross profit margin of £380,000.
Irish-Australian designer Jane Rafter was born and raised in Madrid. After studying fashion in Dublin, she trained in Milan and London. She went on to work in fashion, theatre and TV before she ‘had a moment of shoe-related nirvana’ and set about bringing her vision to life.
Jane first started producing her sandals in Spain, a country she knows well and which has the skills and resources to produce good quality leather goods to her exacting specifications. But Theo Paphitis and James Caan insisted that she should get her production costs down by at least one third, from a unit cost of £45 to £30. She has already identified and visited a manufacturer in India and plans to start production there shortly. Her TV appearance means that she now has an urgent need to stock up so she can meet increased demand.