South Shields couple who overcame serious illness to grow superfood brand land £50,000 on Dragon's Den after impressing the full panel

A couple who grew their superfood company into a national brand despite a battle with serious illness have landed £50,000 investment on BBC show Dragons’ Den – getting bids from the full panel.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 9:14 am
Charlotte and Sean are celebrating after landing £50,000 on Dragon's Den.
Charlotte and Sean are celebrating after landing £50,000 on Dragon's Den.

They were inspired by how healthy, organic and naturally gluten-free superfoods such as spirulina, baobab and açai berry were helping Charlotte to manage her coeliac disease, after being diagnosed at 16.

But when Sean was suddenly diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin's Lymphoma in November 2018, their lives were turned upside down.

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Sean Ali and Charlotte Bailey on Dragon's Den.

Two weeks later Sean began chemotherapy, followed by a course of radiotherapy treatment and he was eventually given the all clear in April 2018.

“It was the worst and the best year of our lives,” said Charlotte.

“The business continued to grow but I found it really hard because I wanted to be with Sean all the time.

“I cared for him full time, but the business didn’t dip at all, we just had a feeling that we had to keep going no matter what.”

Sean and Charlotte face the panel on Dragon's Den

Sean and Charlotte said the tough ride gave them both the drive and determination to head feet first into Dragon’s Den, which sees budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of top business people.And after receiving offers from all the Dragons, the pair negotiated a joint deal with Dragons Tej Lalvani and Peter Jones for a £50,000 investment in return for 6% equity – 3% distributed between each of the Dragons.“Getting a deal with both Tej & Peter was so surreal,” said Charlotte.

"We loved all of the Dragons but we felt they were the best Dragons to help us take our business to the next level. I’m just so grateful that we experienced that together and it’s something we will remember forever.”

The couple, who met at Nottingham Trent University, but are now based in South Shields, walked into the Den as it entered its eighteenth series.

Sean Ali

They were originally approached to apply for the programme in 2019, but decided to wait until they felt they were ready.

Charlotte said: “We were approached by a BBC researcher at the start of 2019 to apply for Dragons’ Den, but Sean was in the middle of his cancer treatment so the timing just wasn’t right for us back then. They then reapproached us in 2020 to apply for the new series and we thought, ‘what have we got to lose?’ - so we decided to go for it.”

But the couple said appearing on Dragon’s Den isn’t straightforward, however, especially during the pandemic.

Sean said: “With the COVID-19 restrictions in place, the process was a lot different this time. We had to submit our application and video pitch virtually, before the producers approved for us to appear for filming.

Sean Ali and Charlotte Bailey founded superfood brand Super U together

"It was an intense process and we were given 11 days to prepare for our filming date, so there were many late nights getting all of the relevant information together.”

Charlotte said the couple struggled to eat on the morning of filming, they were so nervous and excited

“The morning of our filming, we practised our pitch a number of times and tried to keep calm,” she said.

"We struggled to eat anything because of the nerves but we were still really excited. When we were called to go through to filming, we gave each other a prep-talk and said, as-long as we do ourselves and the business proud, that’s all that matters to us.”

Sean added: “Walking out of those lift doors was surreal. That is the first time you genuinely get to see the Dragons and before you know it, you’re about to start your pitch in front of the country's most influential investors.”

Sean Ali and Charlotte Bailey founded superfood brand Super U together

The couple said their nerves eased when the first of the Dragons made an offer.

Charlotte said: “When Sara Davies made her offer, we immediately felt a sense of relief but then things just intensified.

"Going into the Den, we pitched for a £50,000 investment in return for a 5% equity stake in our business.

"So when Sara Davies made us this exact offer (£50,000 for 5%), we were completely blown away.”

From there, Charlotte and Sean were faced with a further four offers from the remaining Dragons, who all made the same offer for the £50,000 for 5%.

Sean said: “When we received all offers, the atmosphere was really tense. Before we entered the Den, we had our eyes on Tej Lalvani and Peter Jones. Having both Dragons as a joint deal would have been a dream come true for us.”

After a talk at the wall and a further discussion between themselves, Charlotte & Sean negotiated a joint deal with Tej Lalvani and Peter Jones for a £50,000 investment in return for 6% equity (3% distributed between each of the Dragons).

It is not the first time the couple of had investment success for their business.

In 2019, they were the first from the North East to successfully raise investment on the business crowdfunding platform Seedrs, reaching £160,000 in just a week to help them expand.

By then, their products could be found in retailers such as Selfridges, Whole Foods Market and As Nature Intended in London.

“If this journey has taught us anything, its to make the most out of every day and that health really is the most important thing,” Charlotte said at the time.

Find Super U at www.superu.co.uk and on Facebook and Instagram @wearesuperu

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Charlotte Bailey
Charlotte and Sean landed £50,000 on Dragons' Den