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Sonia O Sullivan, Ger Hartmann and inventor Noel Marshall and his daughter Nicole at the launch of the Back Baller in Shannon. Photograph by John Kelly.

Noel bags €100k from Dragons’ Den investor and plans to bring production of Backballer home

SHANNON entrepreneur Noel Marshall secured €100,000 of investment on BBC’s Dragons’ Den last Thursday night.
His passion for the product really came through on the show, in which some back and forth negotiation saw him agree with Sara Davies that she would take a 20% stake in the company for the £100,000 investment. The investment comes with the rider that her stake will drop to 10% after she makes her stake back.
The Clare man’s presentation was one of the highlights of the show and asked if Backballer had seen a sales boost on the back of the show, Noel responded, “Oh we have yeah, we have of course. We’ve taken 100 grand in orders on the back of it.”
In the usual course of things, that represents around five times what he would expect to take in.
Noel was fairly happy with how he had appeared on the show.
“It was fine, I had a fair idea how it was going to play out, so it is what it is.”
At times he seemed unsure of the figures behind the business, but his enthusiasm certainly was clear, which probably helped get him the money.
“That’s probably right, and it’s probably why we have got such a bounce in sales.”
Part of his pitch was having Marily Okoro by his side, the British runner who has both World Championship and Olympic bronze medals, and is an advocate of Backballer.
“It has extended her career. She was on the scrap heap, but she found Backballer and started using it every day,” said Noel.
He is very confident Sara Davies will make her £100,000 stake back, reckoning she’ll have her money back in a month’s time. Noel is working quite closely with her at the moment, as they seek to break America.
“It’s all systems go now for cracking into the US. We’re hoping to do something there in May, that’s on the cards, to get it on QBC.”
Just the exposure on last week’s show has made a massive difference.
“We had a call from India this morning, from someone who wants to order 100,000 units. It’s bona fide, they’re a major distributor over there. He wants exclusivity for India, Thailand and Malaysia, and he’d be prepared to give us that kind of order. That’s off the back of Thursday as well, that sort of opportunity.”
At the start of last week’s broadcast he predicted that the company will eventually be sold for tens of millions, but he says that’s not the be all and end all.
“Ah look, if the right offer came in you’d entertain it, but it’s not the grand slam or anything, it’s a possibility.”
While Backballer is currently being manufactured in China, it is about to be moved back to Shannon.
“The costs have gone up extensively in the Far East and the cost of shipping has spiked as well,” he said.
At the moment machinery is being prepared to carry out the work, back in Shannon.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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