Skip to main contentSkip to footer

'It was so nervewracking!': Dragon's Den stars on winning financial backing for their fashion brand

Alex Light
Body Work Columnist
7 April 2017
Share this:

It must take guts to face down four of the country's best-known entrepreneurs and fight for investment for your brand. Not only will your efforts be aired on national television, more often than not, the hopefuls walk away with nothing.

But Beth Chilton and Sarah Sleightholm, two fashion designers from London, walked into the Dragon's Den in 2016 and, after an hour and a half's intense questioning, walked out with financial backing from two of the den's longest-standing dragons, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.

The fashion designers walked into the Dragon's Den in 2016

Since winning the investment, the ladies - whose label Hope & Ivy you have to check out, it's stunning - have seen huge success, being stocked at ASOS, Next, Lipsy and, most recently, Topshop.

I caught up with the extremely busy Hope & Ivy entrepreneurs (they had to multitask and pack misplaced boxes during the interview!) to find out what the Dragon's Den experience was really like and how they came to found their own clothing brand...

"It was so nervewracking," they told me of their television debut. "It's strange because, having watched the programme, you feel really familiar with the set, but as soon as you step out of the lift, you realise it's a television set. It was really surreal."

The ladies ended up winning investment from Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones

Revealing why they applied for the show, they explained: "We applied because we had so many ideas but just didn't have the financial backing. I was actually googling ways to get investment and Dragon's Den came up!

"We applied but didn't really think anything of it. The business was up and running so we were just working on that, but then when the show approached us, we thought: 'Why not?'"

As for what it was like to get the financial backing? "It was amazing," they said. "It was so incredible to hear the dragons tell us how well we had already done so far with the business - it was a real compliment coming from individuals who themselves have achieved so much.

Beth and Sarah showed their clothing line to the dragons

"Further to that, to secure investment from the most famous two dragons, Deborah and Peter, is beyond anything we could have wished for!"

The ladies weren't actually expecting a positive result from their time in the den - they were mainly hoping not to get humiliated! "We went in there scared of being humiliated, to be quite honest!" they said. "We didn't really think beyond that, so to get the backing was incredible!"

Topshop got in touch with Beth and Sarah the same night the show aired and the business has gone from strength to strength ever since.

A shot from the recent Hope & Ivy campaign

It's more than the girls could have imagined - in 2015, they founded Iveson & Sage (the umbrella company to their fashion brands including Hope & Ivy and Alter) and gave themselves two months to get the brand off the ground. "We had this really short period to see if we could get a collection and an order together and within the two months we had our first order from ASOS. From then on, it's snowballed and we haven't stopped!"

The success hasn't come, however, without grit, determination and hard work. "It's so much harder than you ever anticipate when you embark on something like this," they told me.

The Hope & Ivy range features beautiful, feminine wares

"It's amazing and rewarding at the same time, but it is tough. You have to be strong... And good at multitasking! There's a lot of problem-solving and you just have to make sure nothing gets to you."

As for their biggest achievement to date, the girls cite the Dragon's Den success. "That was just huge for us," they said.

"It confirms that you're doing a good job and that you're onto something - plus it has just opened so many doors for us."

Sign up to HELLO Daily! for the best royal, celebrity and lifestyle coverage

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.