Friends of 25 years, Colum McLornan and Claire Hunter from Belfast and Armoy are no stranger to being at the helm of a successful enterprise.
Collectively, they operate the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle and both run their own individual businesses, but it was last night (Sunday, August 9) when they put their professional acumen and friendship under the spotlight on Dragons’ Den.
In the fifth episode of the 13th series of the BBC2 show, Colum and Claire pitched for £60,000 for a 15 per cent share of their one-year-old Rule of Crumb gluten free food business.
Stalwart Dragon Deborah Meaden presented the business partners with an offer of £60k for a 40 per cent
share but quickly pulled her investment in what the producers say was a first for the show.
In a dramatic turn-around, Deborah was heard telling Claire that she was “disappointed” by her asking fellow Dragon Sarah Willingham if she would consider also investing.
Deborah withdrew her offer of financial backing saying that the pair was obviously “not as committed to me as I am to you”.
In the end none of the Dragons invested in the firm.
Colum said: “Rule of Crumb is a viable business and both Deborah Meaden and Sarah Willingham saw that
potential. There are other businesses out there working in that niche but not on the comprehensive level that we are. We provide a fully rounded offering; one that covers breakfast, lunch, dinner and treats and one that serves both retail and hospitality. We were never going to give away 40 per cent of the business. That was never an option but that may not have come across in the edit last night,” he continued.
Claire added that her suggestion that Deborah share her investment with new judge on the block, restaurateur Sarah, was the deal breaker.
“Sarah couldn’t make up her mind whether to invest or not so I suggested she worked with Deborah on the venture with the view that the Dragons’ investments would be reduced yet we would benefit from double the knowledge but Deborah was offended and threw her toys out of the pram!” she explained.
“We are still going ahead faster and stronger with or without the investment. We wanted the money and the expertise but it was never going to sale at that percentage.”
The two-hour pitch was edited into a five-minute slot on the one-hour show when it appeared that the business partners’ friendship was on the rocks, a suggestion that both Claire and Colum laugh about today.
“Colum and I met at catering college when we were both 17,” continued mother of four, Claire.
“We are always looking for a business opportunity which has brought us challenges of epic proportions, challenges that far outweigh what viewers saw last night so the idea that our relationship was ever in question is quite amusing.”
Colum added: “We were the first business to ever have a Dragon on board and then lose them. We would never have accepted that investment so nothing changes between Claire and me.”
While Claire admits that the experience was both ‘daunting and terrifying’, she adds that stepping out of her comfort zone was a challenge she relished: “We have both used this as an experience that we learned a lot from,” she added.