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“You’ll never amount to anything.” That’s what teachers told Grip It Fixings’ inventor Jordan Daykin when he dropped out of school at age 13. Six years later, the successful entrepreneur has just taken on the Dragon’s of the Den and won. Here he unveils the secrets of his success and behind the scenes on the hit BBC show with Editor Luke Garner.

Dragon's Den - Jordan Daykin

At just 13 years old Jordan Daykins’ life was on a road to nowhere. With his parents embroiled in a bitter separation, his education fell by the wayside until one day he just up and quit school. For many, this would be the death knell in any prospect of a successful future. For Jordan it was a blessing in disguise as it led to the chance situation that kick-started his success.

Fast-forward to 2014 – yesterday to be exact (in TV land anyway) – and Jordan has just secured a whopping £80,000 from Dragon Deborah Meaden to fund his plaster board fixing business, Grip It Fixings’ expansion throughout the UK and beyond.

The foundations for his business success were apparent from an early age. At a time when most children are more concerned about what flavour of ice cream to choose, Jordan was busying himself as an international business trader – of sorts.

“I used to play a computer game when I was 11 or 12 years old called RuneScape and in it you could get these gold tokens, which was basically virtual money. What I’d do is I’d contact players in China and purchase them cheaply and then sell them on in the UK for profit. It wasn’t major money, but it was a start and at that age it seems like a fortune,” smiled the teenager.

Whilst it may not have been an international conglomerate to rival the likes of Amazon, it did show the glimmer of potential hidden within Jordan’s being. It was just a matter of time before that potential grew into what we see today – Grip It.

So what exactly is Grip It and what does it do?

“Grip It is a revolutionary new design of universal fixing. It has been designed for use with all types of plasterboard installation. It is the strongest on the market and can hold up to 180kg per fixing, whilst also fitting the “dot and dab” style that is popular these days,” explained Jordan.

The idea for Grip It was borne out of frustration one day when working around the house with his granddad. In trying to fix up a room Jordan, being fussy by his own admission, wanted both curtain rails and rolling-shutter blinds. However, it is at this point they encountered a problem, and so their journey began.

“My granddad, being of advancing years, couldn’t get on a chair to drill the holes for the curtain rail so I had to do the honours. Unfortunately, every time I tried we’d end up breaking the drill-bit on the lintels. After we’d gone through three or four we thought to ourselves “this is ridiculous, there must be an easier way”. So we went down the local building supply stores, but no matter how hard we looked we couldn’t find anything,” said the Den star. “We realised we’d have to do something ourselves so we went to the shed and knocked up something suitable.”

Despite reaching this point, it was almost over before it began as Jordan’s granddad felt he was too old to be starting a business.

“My granddad and I thought it was a great invention, but at first we didn’t think much further along. Eventually we tested and refined it, which took almost a year, until we had something that worked well. At this point he said to me that he was too old to be carrying it on, but I decided to get it patented and then try to sell it.”

There are tales abound of the success that comes with Dragon’s Den but, despite the show having been on British (and indeed foreign) TV screens for almost 10 years, there is still a lot of mystery that surrounds the show. The process of just applying is often a lengthy one and is fraught with nerves and secrecy.

“Obviously they have to cram a lot into an hour’s show, so what you see isn’t always what you get. It was extremely nerve-wracking on the show, and I was in there for an hour and a half and made to sweat through some pretty hairy moments. But it began way before that. I applied back in December 2013 and after passing the initial stages I had to pitch to the producers before I could go on the show. That was scary enough in itself, but I made it through. What they don’t tell you about though is the Green Room.”

The Green Room, for those unfamiliar with the term, is common with TV programmes and is simply a room where guests wait off-set until they are needed or called to go onto the show.

“On the day that they film there are three or four other businesses being filmed too, so you’re all in the green room together. Some of these pitches take a long time and they only give you five minutes’ notice before you get to pitch to the Dragons. Waiting around there to be called was horrible and I was the third one to go in, so there was a bit of a wait. Some people are practising their pitch over and over again all day, but I chose not to as I didn’t want to over-think and confuse myself. The pitch itself is very in depth, so there’s a lot to remember.”

Although the pitch went to plan for the most part, there was one moment where Jordan himself  admits he thought it had all come crashing down – literally!

“For the show we had a radiator on a plaster board and the BBC had put it up the night before. It was stored near to a double set of doors which has the wind blowing through, so I asked them not to leave it there overnight as the plaster would get damp and make it weak. Unfortunately, it did get left there though. Peter Jones gave the fixing a series of hard tugs during the pitch and, because the plaster was damp, the whole thing came crashing down onto the floor. At that point I thought it was all over,” he said.

But as you may have already guessed – we are interviewing him about his success after all – Jordan managed to rescue the pitch and secure £80,000 investment for 25% of his company. Surprisingly though, the person who invested was also the person who saved his pitch from the jaws of defeat.

“After the wall incident we had a chair hanging from the ceiling to demonstrate the strength of the fixing. I asked one of the Dragons to sit in it, but they refused after seeing what had happened to the wall fixing. Fortunately, Deborah put the boys to shame and braved it, and it turned out to be just fine, which I knew it would be. That swung it back in my favour and now you know the rest,” he smiled.

As an example of the success that can be achieved in the face of adversity, Jordan has some encouraging views for any budding entrepreneurs out there. With teens around the country nervously awaiting exam results, Jordan is keen to emphasise that, whilst education is important, there are much bigger aspects to a person that make up the difference between success and failure, and that exam results are not as life or death as they may sometimes seem.

“When I quit school I was told in no uncertain terms by my teachers that I was making a huge mistake. They told me I would never amount to anything, but what they didn’t take into account is the drive I had to succeed, regardless of education level,” explained the young entrepreneur. “I still got some form of education as I was homeschooled at my grandparents, but really the difference between success and failure can’t be seen in exam results. Whilst education is important, what really matters is the personality of the person in question. Without the right goals and motivation you won’t achieve anything. And after all, a university degree doesn’t guarantee you a job these days anyway, employers want to see your experience.”

With £80,000 investment secured and the product now in almost triple the amount of stores as before the show (1400, up from 500), the future is looking strong for Grip It. With the help of Deborah Meaden, Jordan will hopefully be flying the flag for the UK, a country with a proud tradition of invention and ingenuity, for years to come.

Vital statistics:

Name: Jordan Daykin
Company: Grip It Fixings
Founded: 2008
Start-up capital: £4,300
Dragon’s Den funding: £80,000 for 25% equity by Deborah Meaden.

You can see Jordan’s exploits in the Den on the BBC iPlayer now. Visit www.gripitfixings.co.uk for more information or to purchase the product.