The wheelAIR cooling backrest cushion was offered a £75K investment deal by four Dragons on the latest episode of Dragons’ Den after hearing a pitch by Staels Design’s Managing Director Corien Staels.
The Dragons decided to pair up with both Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden, and Touker Suleyman and Tej Lalvani offering £75,000 in return for a 30% equity stake, with the option of buying back 10% of the shares once the initial return on investment was made.
After some grilling of the Dragons herself and weighing up the two offers, Staels accepted Meaden and Jones’s offer. She noted this was because of the Dragon’s connections within the manufacturing and mobility industry, as well as the opportunity to be mentored by such experienced serial investors.
The company’s brand ambassador, double Paralympian and World Champion in wheelchair Rugby, Michael Kerr, joined Staels in the den during the first part of the pitch, where he shared his overheating experiences as an athlete and the wheelAIR was put to the test.
The patent pending wheelAIR has been carefully designed in Scotland with the input of Paralympic athletes as well as wheelchair producers. The innovation provides a much-needed modern solution to the problem of temperature regulation.
Overheating is experienced by the majority of those in wheelchairs, often on a daily basis, and is not only uncomfortable but can be a serious health threat.
Previous solutions include wheelchair users strapping ice packs to their bodies or spraying themselves with water hoses – both dramatic and unforgiving.
Conversely, the wheelAIR uses inbuilt fan technology to subtly cool the users back and reduce their core temperature by taking away excess heat and moisture. This allows for instant comfort and better temperature control. The cushion also offers extra support through a unique blend of carefully selected foams and fabrics.
In a notable moment of the pitch, Staels and Kerr demonstrated the wheelAIR to the Dragons. Meaden – wearing a tweed jacket – on sitting in the wheelchair exclaimed: ‘I can already feel it!’.
Equally notably, Staels fainted during the filming. The moments before when Staels says, “I’m sorry… I think I am going to pass out.”
She commented: ‘It wasn’t actually until I stood in front of the Dragons, ready to pitch, that I realised what I was about to do. Having experienced plenty of high pressure situations in national pitching competitions certainly helped me prepare for the pitch, but standing in a studio with bright lights pointed at you, a television crew watching and five high profile investors ready to start grilling you was quite something else. I actually forgot to eat anything all day in the excitement of it all. I think that, and the heat of the lights, is what led to me feeling so faint… And of course the pressure. I first started sweating profusely, then
became very nauseous and, while I said those words, everything just went black. After using the wheelAIR to cool me down and eating every biscuit available, I knew I had to go back in and bring this home. There was a life-changing opportunity in my sights to win the money needed to get wheelAIR off the ground, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me!’
Corien’s momentary lapse didn’t seem to deter the dragons from investing, however, with Meaden, Jones, Suleyman and Lalvani all prepared to make the young entrepreneur an offer.