Growth & Customers

From my 1-bed council flat to the Dragons’ Den

Kiddiwhizz founder Zoë Chapman shares how risking it all for her invention led to a double investment on Dragons' Den.

From humble beginnings in her one-bed council flat in the UK, to pitching her business to the successful investors on Dragons’ Den, Zoë Chapman has overcome every obstacle that has stood in her way.

After noticing a huge gap in the market during the pandemic, the 39-year-old mom of one took a huge financial risk to start a business and manufacture a toilet solution aptly named the Whizzer.

She has single-handedly turned her idea into an award-winning, eco-friendly solution that parents simply can’t leave the house without and even gained the financial backing of two Dragons.

With authenticity and resilience, she demonstrates how neurodivergence can provide a fresh lens for innovation and inspire others to embrace their own individual capabilities.

In this episode we’ll explore how you too can defy the odds and grow a unique business.

Here’s her unfiltered advice below:

Don’t leave it too late that someone else creates your product—get there first

Bex Burn-Callander:

So we met virtually, I think right in the middle of the pandemic, and you sent me an email saying that you were just starting a business.

Do you want to tell me a bit about what happened during the pandemic?

What was the idea you had and what on earth convinced you to launch it right in the middle of a global disaster?

Tell us how it all started.

Zoë Chapman:

Well, actually it took quite a while to get to that point.

So, I actually invented the product, or it came to my mind while I was potty training my son.

I was also looking after my dad as well. He was wheelchair bound and then bed bound. He’d had a stroke in 2004, so I’d had care and responsibilities for about 12 years until he passed away.

So, I was very aware of the medical side of things to do with toileting and then add into the mix my son’s potty training, which at the time I didn’t realize he had a hormone deficiency, which meant that he needed to go to the toilet [bathroom] all the time, constantly.

So, between the pair of them, I was looking for this toilet solution, something that I could carry around that was leak-proof and wasn’t a huge potty, but I just couldn’t find anything.

It wasn’t the days where things were as accessible as they are now. Social media wasn’t as big as it is now with everyone linking products and talking about products and things like that.

So, the options were limited. It was a case of what’s on the shelves of Boots [pharmacy chain].

There still is nothing like my product.

So, in that time, up until the pandemic, I’d had this idea. I’d even named it. I’d drawn pictures. I’d approached various angles to see if it was ever a possibility, but the funding aspects of manufacturing a product is so huge that there is a reason why only big brands get that far.

So I was always put off by that being a single mom in financial difficulty. At the best of times, it just wasn’t feasible.

So then fast-forward to the pandemic, 2019, I’d just had major spinal surgery. All of a sudden you have these moments where you’re like, “Okay, I’ve gone from being in constant pain crying every day through this pain”, and then next minute I’m like, “I can walk, I sit down, I can do all this stuff that I thought would never ever be able to do.”

And I did.

And then so during the pandemic was this recovery period for me, and it made me think, what is it that I’ve always wanted to do? And for me, it was like that thing of every time I did walk into Boots, am I going to see a product similar to my idea on the shelves?

And if I did, I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel other than just totally torn apart emotionally. And so if I was going to try anything, that would be the thing to do.

And then just by chance, I got an email from my local council, and they were like, “We’re doing this business school. It’s free to join. It’s a two-week programme for bootstrap businesses. No business plan needed. This is the date. Sign up.”

The signup date was the first date back after the pandemic for schools, so I literally dropped my son to school for the first day back, and I was like, “Alright, I’m ready.”

It was online as well, so perfect for me. And I logged on, and it was The Rebel Business School, who you know. And they were so mesmerizing and enthusiastic.

They were like, “You don’t need this business plan. You don’t need that.”

All these things that I’d feared about starting a business that put me off about starting a business. They were like, “You don’t need any of that, don’t need that, you can do this.”

And I was just like, “Yeah, I could do this. I could do this.”

And they made me believe in myself so much that by the second day I was like, do you know what? Being online is just not enough. I need to be in the room. How do I get to you? And they were literally up the road. I went in, and I could soak up all their information first-hand.

And by the end of the two weeks I had contacted a manufacturer, I’d reached out to all the contacts that I had but was always scared to ask for help.

And within about a month, I had my first samples getting going. I’d used the social media group network that I’d built over the past previous few years within the single mom network I’d formed. I used all that experience of being front of camera and that whole journey type thing.

I then moved that onto a brand new Kiddiwhizz Instagram page and I used that to take this community of moms and people that I knew would support me on this journey. So that’s how I got going.

So, it was literally I had nothing, and everything that happened was shared online on my Instagram page down to, “I’m designing the packaging now, guys. What do you think of this? What do you think of that?”

My logo. Whatever it was, I was like, “Okay, I need your help. What are we thinking?”

And then even when I got my sample of the Whizzer, the first samples, I sent them out to all the single mums, I was just like, “Whoever wants one, whoever wants to test one, send me your address.”

Bex Burn-Callander:

No. Absolutely. But you had a bigger challenge because you mentioned you were a single mom, which already means that you have these responsibilities that are solely yours that rest on your shoulders.

Avoid maxing out your credit cards

Bex Burn-Callander:

And you also mentioned that you didn’t have the money really to do this.

So talk me through the scale of the challenge in terms of the things that your brain said, reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t do this, and then how you overcame those one by one I guess.

Zoë Chapman:

Yeah. It literally was one by one because I have to have things very visual and in front of me.

So I literally did that. I wrote a list right at the start, and I was like, these are the things that I have to tackle. Things like IP for example. If I do this, and I want to get my invention out there, as soon as I do that, it can’t be a slow burner. I need to make sure that I’m going all out.

Because once it’s out there, and if it is popular, I need to make sure that if anyone comes and takes my idea that I was clearly there first, and I’ve made enough noise to make sure.

And the problem is that when you are bootstrapped, ideally you’d want to get the product out there, and you’d want to do Facebook ads, and you want to pay for advertising, all the kind of things. But unfortunately, I had to focus all the funds on the manufacturing.

So that meant, like you say, the financial aspects I did, I maxed out every credit card I had.

Literally, my mum used to take the mick out of me, still does. But I had this wad of credit cards. Shout out to anyone that’s bipolar because that is one of the pros of the fact that you can be stuck indoors and do absolutely nothing with your life, yet these massive surges of spending habits mean that one day you might decide to book a flight somewhere or make a huge purchase impulsively.

And as a result, I ended up working up this credit and having all these credit cards that had massive funds available on them. So when it came to it, I was like, “Well, that’s my only option right now. They gave me it, they gave me these limits, so I’m going to use them.” And I did.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Wait. Wait. Wait. How deep into the hole did you go?

When you add up all these credit limits?

How big are we talking?

Zoë Chapman:

Well, one of them, they’d given me nearly £10,000 ($17,117).

That was silly, wasn’t it? I was like a single mom on benefits. Why would you allow that?

It was a Virgin credit card, so I couldn’t get a Virgin business loan because I’m terrible at filling out those forms and doing all the business things. They have such a long list of requirements, the Virgin business stuff.

And that’s quite a normal path to go down, I think. But I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t eligible for loans or grants or anything like that.

So luckily, Virgin helped me out in a different way by giving up me a massive credit limit. That and Tesco [supermarket chain]. All those years of saving up Clubcard points and only using two.

I had two Tesco credit cards. All those points and petrol, it paid off. I got another £10,000 ($17,117) out of them. So it was all just racking up basically.

And I just hit them all at once. And what I do is, I’m quite savvy, I would just do balance transfers.

This is a really bad way of explaining. Please don’t blame me if you take this route. Okay. Disclaimer.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Nobody else follow Zoë here.

Zoë Chapman:

Don’t do this.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Do not just rack up loads of debt and transfer it from one card to another.

Zoë Chapman:

It’s so high risk. And the thing about it is when I look back on, I couldn’t stop because everyone’s like, “Oh, you just work day in, day out, night in, night out.”

I’m like, I had to because if this failed, I’d racked up so much debt, I would never pay that back.

So it was like I didn’t give myself a chance to fail. It was like I had to do this. And so that’s ultimately what funded it all.

And I remember paying off the last credit card and that was after Dragons’ Den, and it was like, I’m credit card debt-free. Yay.

But that was a risk the entire time. I can’t tell you the amount of times I panicked when I was like, “Oh my God, the nine month is over,” or whatever it is, that deadline date. And I’m like, I have to pay that back.

But it all went into manufacturing. Manufacturing and IP. Every penny of it. Nothing for me, nothing for anything else. I had to prioritize that, so I couldn’t even put £10 ($17) behind Facebook ads a day or something like that. I didn’t have that.

So it was that thing of constantly thinking outside of the box with the digital footprint and making sure that my invention was out there.

That’s why I had to use all these alternative methods like constantly pitching. I was pitching all the time constantly.

How to survive with no cash in the bank

Bex Burn-Callander:

What did you survive on then Zoë? If you are putting this money, you’re kind of taking credit out and then ploughing it all into manufacturing and IP then and your son, how do you survive in this crazy universe?

Zoë Chapman:

Honestly, when I look back on it…

Okay, so for one, you got to take into consideration the fact that I grew up with no money. So I was working two jobs by the age of 14. And we’d grown up on the breadline. Poorer than the families on our estate that had benefits.

And yet I’d watch my parents grafting all the time. So I already had it in me that I would always be working.

So whether I was studying, and I was a waitress, I did the worst jobs imaginable, but I was used to living off nothing. Plus the fact, because of my mental health and stuff, I don’t go out, I don’t leave the house.

So it’s not like I have a social life that I have to fund. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol. Those big things, I don’t have family to have to buy loads of Christmas presents for. Whatever it is. All those typical things that you would think that you have to spend on, I didn’t have that.

So any penny I had was just really for essentials. And I had my neighbour, these are the times that I remember. My 80-year-old neighbour who supported me from day one, she used to come around with bread, milk, biscuits, those little essentials when I literally couldn’t even afford that.

I remember there were times it was like I got an offer of sending say a product out to a celebrity or someone that I thought would be able to promote it. And I’d be like, “Oh my god, can I afford the postage to send out my product?”

Because really the only thing I had of value was the Whizzer. That was the value. I had boxes of this stuff in my house taking up every corner. Boxes of Whizzers.

And essentially that was tens of thousands of pounds worth of value, but nothing to pay the bills or to get the shopping or whatever it was.

Bex Burn-Callander:

No cash in the bank.

Zoë Chapman:

No. It was always minus, which was a bizarre way of going through life. But that was the reality. It was really, really hard.

I remember there was a time when my first shipment was coming in of Whizzers and I got the customs bill through and it was like a £1,000 ($1,712). And I was like, this could be the end of it. How can I pay that? Get the stock released? It’s going to be the end of me.

And my 80-year-old neighbour lent me the money, and I managed to get it out of customs. But it was always like that. It was always this dire situation where it was like, if I don’t find a way, that’s it. Done. Business is over. Not going to progress.

And even right up until I was about to air on Dragons’ Den, like a month before it, I was like, I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the show. I can’t even afford to buy my own product. So I don’t know how I’m going to do it.

But I always think of something somehow at the ninth hour. Whatever… The 11th hour.

Bex Burn-Callander:

The 11th hour. Yeah.

Zoë Chapman:

Ninth, 11th hour.

Bex Burn-Callander:

At some point I’ll think of a solution.

Zoë Chapman:

Yeah. Exactly. Right at the end, basically in true like ADHD mannerisms that I have. I’m always last minute, always last minute.

Running a business with neurodiversities

Bex Burn-Callander:

But they do say necessity is the mother invention. And I think that’s an understatement where you come in because it’s just like that focus that comes from this has to work, or we have nothing.

That is a serious catalyst to make you work every hour and stick at it. And you’ve mentioned being neurodivergent, and you’ve said bipolar and ADHD.

Give us an insight into your brain, how it works, how it’s been helpful.

For example, when you talk about product design, being able to envision a solution and then also how it’s been unhelpful and how it’s been a challenge when you’ve been building this business.

Zoë Chapman:

To be honest, actually it’s funny because the business has made me realize what I am capable of and what I can do with it.

Because prior to it, I just saw it all as the thing that held me back. There was really nothing positive that I could get out of it. I just had these constant business ideas, and they went nowhere because I’d just get ill, and I couldn’t do them and I couldn’t have a normal job.

Everything was just so hard, and I don’t really know my brain even though my doctor even says, you know yourself best. She trusts me with so many things, even down to my medication.

I know my brain best, but equally, I lose complete control of it so many times. And it’s just like, I don’t know how to fix this.

So when it did come to starting the business and really in the startup phase, where you have to dedicate every second to it, that for me, I think is the obsessive trait.

Whether it comes from the bipolar, the ADHD, I think it comes from a mix of everything, from what I understand now. Where it’s just like you have this tunnel vision and you can’t see anything.

My flat would be a complete mess. I could have not even a fork or a spoon or a plate to dish Mason’s dinner up on or whatever that was clean.

And yet I was managing with the business to be working around the clock and make sure that I meet every single deadline, and I’d be appearing as this high functioning together person when the rest of my life was absolute chaos.

And I’ve always been able to do that. I’ve always been seen as this person.

Even when I was younger, I remember my grandad used to call me Miss Can Do. I was only 18, 19 in those days when I was running my dad’s business.

And it was these things where I’d just be like, I don’t know where I’d get it from, but I’d find these resourceful means to survive.

And I think now looking back, a lot of that does come from this strange brain that I have that makes me believe that I can be whatever it is that my brain’s told me I can be or told me I can do.

And when I look back on it, and I’m like, what on earth did you think?

But I’ll visualize these things. And there’s this feeling of, of course this will work. Of course this should work. Definitely.

And I don’t know if it’s a case of some weird manifestation or something. But yeah, the obsessive part of it I definitely think is a driving force.

I think the downfalls of it is the burnout. People talk about burnout in business and that’s when you don’t have a brain as chaotic as mine. And so, when you do…

And I know that there’s a time that I talk about with a friend of mine that I actually met at the start of running the business, she’d bought a product and found me and started following me.

And we’ve actually become really good friends. And luckily she reached out to me at the time when I was really struggling, and I had the first major burnout of the business. And it was just after I’d launched.

And I suddenly went, “Oh my God, I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

I suddenly saw the credit card bills, saw that I’d launched, and I wasn’t getting the sales that I had visualized having. And I was like, what the hell am I going to do?

It was dropping off a cliff emotionally, and I was like, that’s it, right? I’m done.

And I completely collapsed into this, which I now know was burnout, and it was really scary, really scary. And it wasn’t just about losing the business, it was about everything. I physically couldn’t function as a parent, as a human, as anything.

And I remember her reaching out to me and me just confiding in her. And luckily I’ve got a really good mental health team around me, and I was sent out the right people to pull me through and all the rest of it.

And so, I managed to get over that.

But that is always going to be a reoccurring thing. It doesn’t matter where I am, I don’t think in the business. I’ve got a lifelong condition and I have to be aware of that and I have to try and figure out a way to feed in the fact that I’m very aware that I should get a certain amount of sleep and that I should turn off, and I should do this, I should do that.

But that’s all well and good and I can give that advice to anyone else, but am I going to take that advice? However critical I know it is. I can’t say in all honesty that I do.

Burnout can force you to reassess your main focuses

Bex Burn-Callander:

And was that a big knock to your confidence when you experienced burnout? And I suppose if it was, how did you then build that confidence back up again?

Because you have to be confident of yourself and your abilities and your business to apply for Dragons’ Den, for example.

So how did you get from rock bottom to then build yourself back up in terms of your confidence and the faith in yourself?

Zoë Chapman:

That’s a good question given I’ve just rebuilt myself.

So a few months ago I’d reached that point where I’d actually turned around to my son even and said, “Look, Mace, I’m done. I am sorry for putting you through the last three years of chaos. I can’t do this to you anymore. It’s just not fair.

“And I’m going to look to see if I can sell the business. If I can’t, then wind it down, sell all the stock and just be done with it. It’s just not worth this anymore. I can’t continue.”

And bearing in mind, I just got the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and I’d obviously at the start of the year been on Dragons’ Den, and yet I was still at that point where I can’t see a way through this. It is just not going to happen.

And I was like, but it’s fine because I’ve achieved so much. If I was quitting a year before, I’d be like, I can’t quit now. Come on. Come on.

But because I had achieved so much by that point, I was like, well, at least I can walk away with my head held high. I really gave it all I could.

And then something happened. I took the first break I’d ever had over Christmas, and although it was really hard to come back, I’d completely lost my confidence on social media, for example. I loved the community I’ve built over there.

I’ve got an incredible customer base that has just watched the journey, and they will watch me packing orders with no makeup on and just chatting to utter rubbish or just showing the highs and the lows and whatever.

And I couldn’t even face them. I couldn’t go on camera. And I’d be getting messages all the time going, are you okay? Is the business all right? And I just couldn’t pull back.

And I think I only just went back really to social media in the last few weeks really. And I’m starting to build up my confidence. I love doing things like public speaking. I love sharing my story to inspire others and all of that kind of stuff.

So I’m slowly getting there. I’ve got a new plan in place for Kiddiwhizz. So even if it is at the point where I do want to move on from the business, I want to get it to a strong enough place that I can hand it over flourishing and so that’s now my new focus.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s amazing advice because also, I think you have to give yourself time and not make any rash decisions when you are feeling at your lowest ebb, that will then affect you the rest of your life and your business.

So I think your approach will resonate with anyone that’s feeling that way.

Use social media to create a community of support

Bex Burn-Callander:

Back to the social media piece. So you talk about how even before you’d launched the business, you were tapping into a network there, you were sharing all of your journey about setting up Kiddiwhizz.

Was that to keep you honest in the way that people say, “Oh, I’m doing dry January”, or something? If you tell everyone, then it forces you to do it.

Or was it because you were consciously trying to market the business even early on?

Tell me about your mission and purpose with social media and then what you’ve done that has been the most impactful in terms of yes, maybe sales, but also brand reputation, all that good stuff.

Zoë Chapman:

So I think at the start, it wasn’t a motivator in terms of sales at the start. Bearing in mind, any founder will know when you start the journey and throughout the journey, especially as a solo founder, you’ve got no one to bounce ideas off.

You’ve got no one to say, you’ve got this, you can do this. I was at home in the middle of a pandemic with an eight-year-old.

And as much encouragement as he gave me, and he watched me from the very beginning, an eight-year-old can’t always provide the source of support that you might need.

And I already knew I had this amazing community of single moms. And so it wasn’t just them, that community of support grew. So it was women like this woman that I told you about that I reached out to, I’d never even met in person until she came to my Dragons’ Den watch party.

And now it’s like she’s on speed dial if I ever have that kind of low moment again. And through meeting people like that, through social media, if every time I’m feeling like, really, can I do this? I need something. That was where I’d get it from this boost.

Because bearing in mind my mom for example, she’d said, “Don’t do it.” I remember her exact words were, “It’s a money pit.”

So I was like, “Right. Okay, cutting you off.” And I literally cut her off.

I think it was Dragons’ Den when she came back into my life, and I needed the childcare. So yeah, I just cut anyone off that was negative and that wasn’t going to support me. And I only let into my life people that were going to support me. And so that’s where that social media aspect came in.

And I think it’s like it doesn’t matter if it’s not creating sales, but as a result of that. I then had this army of people that had seen my journey, then had the product, then loved the product, and it does become a way of life.

There are so many times when I hear, “I don’t know how I lived without this product before.”

And it’s that thing of when you’ve got an umbrella, and it’s that one time when you don’t take the umbrella out that it pours. It is that kind of product.

So when you’ve got customers that incorporate it into their way of life like, you pack your keys, your phone, your mobile, oh, and your Whizzer.

So when that’s happening organically, people do just mention it to friends, mention it to family, and then it becomes that thing of that’s a replacement for the fact that I can’t pay for ads. I don’t have influencers or a network on tap to go to.

Influencer marketing isn’t as easy as it seems

Bex Burn-Callander:

In terms of your most popular piece of content or the thing that you did that got the biggest reach or the most sales uplift as a result, has that happened?

Has there been a one thing?

Is it all cumulative really building on top of a previous success?

Zoë Chapman:

I think most of the time for me, it’s been all accumulative.

But I know that the post that I was waiting for always, because I’d seen the effects on other businesses, is that influencer post. And so, I’d seen all of my friends’ businesses getting their Stacey Solomon hit, for example, or their Mrs Hinch.

And they’d all got their products to them and all it took is that one share on a story and their sales would just fly off. And I was chasing that constantly.

And so I’ve got a whole list of celebrities that have a Whizzer and use a Whizzer, and none of them were posting. And I knew that it would just take for them to post, and I could pay off my debt.

Whatever it was that I was terrified about that was coming up financially, I knew that if I could just get one of them to post, that would be it.

And then as time went on, and they weren’t posting, it was just a dagger every time. Especially if I’d see them posting about other products, but I knew it was because they were getting paid crazy sums of money and I could never afford that. So it was a waiting game.

Like Giovanna Fletcher, for example. I trekked across London because I’d saw that she was doing a radio show, Virgin Radio.

There are a lot of Virgin connections here.

And so, I took my son, and we went across and hand-delivered one to the loading bay of Virgin Radio. And that’s the kind of thing that I used to do. I’d track these people down.

You don’t just as a small business get to be sent an address of an influencer or a celebrity, and then send it and there’s your product on social media. No. You really have to go for it.

And so I’d done that with Giovanna and I had heard nothing. So I had no idea if she had got it. And it was only a few months ago when I saw she was hosting an award ceremony and just by chance I was nominated for an award at that ceremony.

So I made sure I went there and I got to talk to her after. And it turns out she’d been using the Whizzers for years, and she keeps them in the back of their car, and she loves them.

So had I not been in that position, I may never have known.

But I managed to capture that content. Luckily, I have my friend on hand, and she was videoing the whole conversation that I had with Giovanna Fletcher, and then I could use that on social media.

But it still won’t get the reach as if Giovanna posts it.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Zoë Chapman:

It’s so hard. And I think with social media, it is a case of chipping away, chipping away, keeping consistent with giving your audience something that’s just not constantly about selling, but it is about your journey and what you’re doing all the time and those wins that you have, but also how hard it is.

Because I just don’t think that the average person would understand the reality of the really hard bits, the hard knocks that you get constantly. Every day there’s a drama.

When you are running a business every day you open your emails, and you’re like, “Oh my God, no,” or whatever. And it doesn’t stop.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I guess two things. One is if we have any influencers listening, obviously please post about the Whizzer. But two, do you think there’s still a bit of a taboo, because it’s sort of, I don’t know. What would you call it, a sanitary product? I mean kids wee into them.

Do you feel like there’s still a bit of ick, “Oh no, we don’t want to talk about it?”

Zoë Chapman:


When I see news topics that are trending, I can see that it is moving towards being able to be talked about more openly.

And I’m hoping that by me doing things more publicly and talking about the reality of it in relation to my product, that it will help move that conversation.

Walking into the Dragons’ Den

Bex Burn-Callander:

And one big opportunity was of course, Dragons’ Den where you got to have primetime TV slots, talk to these investors about your product and about the problems that you are solving.

Can you tell us anything about that experience?

So how did you find it pitching to them? Obviously you had a success, but how impactful has that been since?

I don’t know how much you can share, but tell us something.

Zoë Chapman:

So I was lucky.

So first of all, let me tell you the top two questions I’m always asked is, number one, are you doing an adult version? And number two, why don’t you go on Dragons’ Den?

And I knew friends that had gone on Dragons’ Den previous series before, so I knew what was involved, and I personally didn’t feel like I was ready for it.

I’d only been going with the business for a year since launching, and I didn’t feel ready for it, despite me pitching all the time to investors.

So when I got an email from the research team of Dragons’ Den, I thought it was a hoax, and they were like, “No. Could you just send us your phone number?”

And I sent them my phone number, and they called me straight away. It turns out it was real. And they said, “Would you ever consider applying for Dragons’ Den?” I was like, “Yeah, I guess I would.”

And then within a week I was doing this pitch whilst moving house as well.

So I just had boxes around me, and I was just doing this pitch that they then had to pass on to the producers. And I had to go through this massive long due diligence process that went from, I think about the February, because that would’ve been my one year, right up until when I filmed in June.

And even then, the whole process, you’re told there are no guarantees. There are no guarantees that you’ll get to this next stage, the next stage.

And then I was given, I think about a week, or two weeks’ notice before it was like, “You need to get to Manchester. You’re going to be pitching this date. Can you make it?”

“Yes I can.”

And then you are literally on a train. You can’t tell anyone, bearing in mind. No one knows. And I was yet going up to Manchester.

And again, for me being really on social media, everyone knows what I’m doing all the time. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to Manchester without Mason, but can’t tell you why.”

Bex Burn-Callander:

For a mysterious purpose.

Zoë Chapman:

Yeah. Then it was a case of it’s the BBC, so everything is managed so well. They’re so supportive and everything’s very scheduled and organized.

And you go in there, you’re in your dressing room, and I was in like RuPaul’s dressing room, it was just very glam.

And then you’re practising your pitch, you’re doing all the edits of the walk-in the lift scene and all the bits that you see on Dragons’ Den.

When you’re standing in there, you’re like, I’m standing in the lift. Yep, I’m pressing the button for the lift. At the time it’s like an out-of-body experience.

And then so when you do it and then the doors open, and then you see the Dragons sitting there, you’re like, is this real? And you have to nail it.

There’s no, “Oh, can I start again?”

If you mess up on your pitch, which I did… Despite me having pitched however many times I had, I’d written my pitch as always the night before, I’d gone through it at 1am, rehearsing exactly what I was going to say.

And right to the beginning and just going in I was asking my friend, tell me the numbers, tell me the numbers again. She was asking me, “What’s this? What’s that? Gross? Revenue? Net?”

And I’m thinking I’ve got this.

And of course, as soon as I walked out, I messed up my pitch, didn’t I? I fumbled because part of my pitch is saying the bit about me potty training. And then I mentioned my dad and I choked.

And then it was after that, and they kept that bit in as well. And after that, I just went off on this other path. I got it all in, thank goodness.

But I was standing there for an hour and a half, so you only see what? 10 to 12 minutes of this pitch. But actually I was there being grilled for an hour and a half.

And afterwards you’re just shaking. Walking away with two Dragons as well. The two Dragons that I’d gone in there saying that I wanted.

And you can’t tell anyone either. Obviously I could tell Mason.

And then you have to wait bearing in mind, you don’t know if you’re going to make the cut to screen at all. So I thought that I initially it was going to air in September, so I was gearing up for that. That didn’t happen.

And then it was just this waiting game. But I just carried on the business exactly the same as I always had. Didn’t change a thing. Nothing changed. You don’t just get the investment.

So I didn’t just have an injection of £50,000 ($85,596) or whatever it is, people think. I had to keep grafting.

And when it was about to go live, I couldn’t even afford my own stock.

I’d applied to Starling Bank for an overdraft. They’d said no. And I was like, “Do you know what’s going to happen to me, Starling Bank?”

Bex Burn-Callander:

You will regret this. Don’t you know who I am?

Zoë Chapman:

Yeah. Are you not supposed to be the face of business banking for startups, and you can’t even give me a loan, so I can buy my stock. I’ll remember that, Starling Bank. I will.

And so, I just had to wing it right until the end. But then the show came on. I was scared to do the watch party because I didn’t know what was going to make the cut. It could have been awful. They could have shown all my worst bits, but luckily they added in a few bits of fumbled financials, but they kept it in.

And I was so pleased with the edit because the rest as they say is history in terms of once it’s out, it’s out. And it was received really well with the media.

To get good headlines in The Sun and the Daily Mail and things like that, organically, that’s a win.

And the sales that I got from Dragons’ Den, that’s what paid off all my debts.

So had I not done that and put myself at that risk, then I wouldn’t have got the business to where it was at all. So absolutely so grateful for the entire experience.

Bex Burn-Callander:

No. It’s amazing. And the fact that you were smart enough to leverage all of that positive impact and make the most of it, and to get yourself out there.

That’s basically what an entrepreneur does, isn’t it? Make the most of the opportunities that they are given.

Adult Whizzers are coming…

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I’d love to know, just finally Zoë, so what is next for the business? You’ve mentioned, everyone asks you, are you doing an adult version? I think the answer is now yes.

Zoë Chapman:


Bex Burn-Callander:

Coming down the pipe?

Zoë Chapman:


Bex Burn-Callander:

Yeah. Tell us. Tell us.

Zoë Chapman:

To save my business, before Dragons’ Den aired, I had designed the adult Whizzer. I just didn’t have the money to manufacture it.

So I launched it for pre-order, and I had the samples and I could show how it worked and all the rest of it. I just didn’t have the money to fund it, so that’s what Dragons’ Den did.

So the Dragons’ Den sales were all pre-orders for the adults. The kids I could send out straight away.

But as soon as it hit, I did more in sales of the adult version than I did of the kids. So that proved that it was a needed product.

And then I got that manufactured immediately. I managed to pull it off in eight weeks. And yeah, this is it. You can see it surrounding me there.

But yeah. And it is exactly the same as the kids one. It’s just that it’s double the capacity. So you can still carry it around, just the same, use it the same, but it’s just double the capacity basically.

And like I said, now people have had it for camping or summer. You don’t need to leave the tent. Festivals, for example. It’s on Channel 4 for being the thing to pack for a festival.

So hopefully in 2024 and beyond that is going to be the focus is making sure that people know about it for things like camping and festivals, and every lorry driver knows about it. It’s in every petrol station I am still focusing on that Boots goal. I want to see it on the shelves of Boots.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Come on Boots.

Zoë Chapman:

Come on. And then, yeah. Then, if there’s the opportunity, I am looking at taking it internationally as well, because people, surprisingly wee all over the world. Who knew?

So really, there’s no end to what can be done. It’s just that currently I’m still doing it on my own.

So as a solo founder, there are limits to what I can do, but there’s always the hope that I can expand my team and get help on board, which is what I’m currently doing.

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