THE LATEST entrepreneurs to win over the business panel on BBC One’s Dragons’ Den are children’s storybook creators from Stratford.
Simon Hood and Charlene Mitchell-Hood, married co-founders of Sooper Books, appeared on episode five of the new series of the show, with their mission to be the world’s best storybook streaming service – making reading exciting for children and effortless for parents.
And they made TV history by asking for just £1 in return for a one per cent stake in their company – winning over all five Dragons.
The author-illustrator couple, from Dingles Way, pitched in rhyme to the formidable team of Peter Jones, Touker Suleyman, Deborah Meaden, Steven Bartlett and Sara Davies, before revealing an original story featuring the Dragons.
The Dragons were instantly drawn to their ambition and drive, with all five immediately expressing interest in the business.
Even Suleyman, known as the Dragon who ‘won’t get out of bed for one per cent’ stunned his colleagues by agreeing to the offer.
Shortly after, in another Dragons’ Den first, all five Dragons got up from their chairs and headed to the back wall to discuss the opportunity before all separately offering £1 for a one per cent stake in Sooper Books.
Charlene said: “We knew offering the Dragons such a small stake might backfire on us – they could mistakenly think we weren’t serious about the business or their investment. Luckily they saw the commitment and ambition we have for Sooper Books and our drive to support other parents in tackling growing literacy issues around the world.”
Every year in the UK it is estimated that 200,000 children leave primary school at 11 unable to read or write to the required level, leading to the UK having the lowest rates of literacy of any developed nation.
When they fell pregnant with their first child in late 2019, Simon and Charlene discussed the countless mental health and development benefits reading to children has and started an online library of bespoke curated and narrated books for their daughter, Goldi.
The five to ten minute children’s stories feature wibbly-wobbly aliens, a flying sheepdog, gouda trees, a posh rat and a one-leg-one-wheeled alligator monster to name but a few.
When lockdown hit in 2020, the couple realised they wanted to truly make a difference to families all around the country who were either struggling to read with or to their children, or just wanted access to more unique stories.
And so they began offering their stories for free online to all UK primary schools.
Simon added: “Just six weeks after offering our content for free to primary schools we jumped to number one in Google for ‘bedtime stories’ in over 50 countries. We went from zero page views to over a million in weeks and we’ve now surpassed 25 million views.”
Watch Simon and Charlene take on the business panel on BBC iPlayer.