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Dragon tamed by Dee’s veggie burger

WHITEGATE native Deirdre Collins and her veggie burger business Dee’s Eat Well Be Happy has secured a €30,000 investment from one of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs following a slot on last week’s episode of the RTÉ TV series Dragon’s Den. 
Dragon Niall O’Farrell, owner of Ireland’s suit hire chain, Blacktie, offered to invest in Dee’s company and amid a bidding war between four of the five Dragons, secured the investment with Dee’s Eat Well Be Happy for a 22.5% share in her company.
Deirdre, who currently lives in Cork having graduated from University College Cork with a degree in a Food Science and Nutrition, set up her business and since it has been established, she has launched the product in 17 independent stores, and 40 Dunnes Stores outlets.
Dee went on the television programme with another ace up her sleeve – a contract to develop an organic frozen vegan burger for fast food giant Eddie Rockets. This was viewed as an additional bonus by each of the dragons.
The Whitegate woman sought an investment of €30,000 for 10% equity in the business and outlined that €15,000 of the money would be invested in a new packaging machine, €10,000 in developing new pack sizes and €5,000 for in-store promotion.
She outlined to the panel why she came up with the idea to develop her vegetable burger.
“I came up with the idea when I was working in an office actually and I saw people, especially women, struggling with what to eat. They were bringing in the pitta breads and tins of tuna and bits of salad and I wanted to create something that was more substantial, that was balanced with protein, carbohydrates, some good fats, that would be easy and convenient to prepare that you could put in the pitta bread and would keep you feeling full until dinner time. From doing a food science degree, you do food chemistry, you learn exactly what goes into food and – probably more to the point – exactly what you don’t want to eat. So I really liked the nutrition side of it and I first examined the packs going back to a more organic whole food way of cooking even at home,” she explained.
Having delivered a detailed and comprehensive presentation to the five top business people, Dee was not fazed by any of the questions posed and recognised the interest shown as an opportunity to negotiate when each of the dragons sought a sizeable chunk of her business for their investment. 
The bidding war began with Bobby Kerr offering €15,000 for 15% of the business. This was followed up by Seán Gallagher, who also offered €15,000 for 15% of the business. Niall O’Farrell then put his cards on the table saying he would happily give Dee the full €30,000 but for 25% of the business. Sarah Newman also came on board and also offered €15,000 for 15% of the business and left it to Dee to choose from three of dragons if she wanted to row in with two dragons or to go with Niall’s offer. Meanwhile, dragon Gavin Duffy indicated that while “he would be the right dragon for her”, he would not be able to undercut what was already on the table.
After collecting her thoughts and considering the options put forward, Dee returned to the dragons and thanked both Bobby and Seán for their offer.
“I think that 30% of the business is just too much to give away. I know that Niall has got distribution networks, which may come in useful to develop the export markets. But I also think that 25% is high. We’ve projected sales for 2012 to reach nearly half a million. I was wondering if there was any negotiation,” she asked of the businessman.
With four dragons interested and Niall having undercut his colleagues, he wasn’t prepared for this response.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I think for us to work together, there has to be that halfway ground and I’ll drop that to 22.5%,” he responded and Dee accepted.

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