EVEN the Dragons don’t always spot a winning business idea.
Such was the case when the multi-millionaire panel of entrepreneurs on the hit BBC show Dragon’s Den said ‘I’m out’ to Southam celebrity party mask company Mask-arade.
Self-titled ‘mask-ateers’ Chris O’Nyan, Ray Duffy and Dean Walton appeared in the den in 2009 when they tried to secure a £50,000 investment for a ten per cent share of their of their company.
All five dragons refused to part with their cash, saying their party mask business would not see any profit for at least 30 years.
But the creators of the company didn’t let that stop them and five-years later they are turning over more than £2 million a year and have their products on sale in high street stores including W H Smiths and River Island.
Their party masks vary from members of the royal family to One Direction and the team have just started turning characters from television shows Breaking Bad and Family Guy into masks as they look to crack America.
Dad-of-two Dean told the Observer: “The business has been very, very successful. We hit our five year target within three years but appearing on Dragon’s Den has been the highlight so far, along with seeing our masks on the shelves in in Harrods.”
And the dragons admitted they made a mistake not investing in the business after they included Mask-arade in a follow-up show naming them as ‘the ones that got away’.
Series producer Sam Lewens said: “We applaud any business that does well after they have pitched in the den. The dragons advice obviously had a positive impact and helped them achieve their full potential.”
The idea for Mask-arade came from Chris after he turned a cover of the TV Times into a mask around 15 years ago.
A few years later in 2008 he teamed up with childhood friends Dean and Ray and the plucky trio decided to trial their idea at a West Bromwich football match, making player masks at a cost of just £17 and turning a £600 profit.
Knowing they were onto something special the mask-ateers set up in Southam on Kineton Road Industrial Estate– where they are still based today – and started creating masks to sell at locally..
They now employ a 16-strong team – all from the town – and count the BBC, ITV, David Hasselhoff and Dom Joly among their clients.
But their favourite job was working with Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, who sold thousands of masks during last year’s tour of album The Wall.
And Dean’s favourite mask is of an equally famous musical face.
He said: “I love our Lionel Richie mask. I wear it at trade fairs to say ‘Hello’ to people and draw them to our stand.”
He believes the success of the business is down to their products being an ‘escape from everyday life’.
He told the Observer: “Since our appearance on Dragon’s Den the business has surpassed our wildest expectations. Simply put, people love wearing masks. Pretending to be someone or something else is a great way of escaping from daily life and always goes down a storm at events.
“We were recently announced as finalists in the National Business Awards. The winner is set to be revealed on November 11 so maybe the best is yet to come for Mask-arade.”
Visit www.mask-arade.com for further details.
Mask-a-teers – Dean Walton, Chris O’Nyan and Ray Duffy didn’t let the dragons’ put them off. (s)
The dragons said Mask-arade wouldn’t make any profit for at least 30 years. How wrong they were. Picture courtesy of the BBC. (s)
The dragons said Mask-arade wouldn’t make any profit for at least 30 years. How wrong they were. (s)