Telly showdown

Russell turns down TV dragons for second time

Cally Russell presenting to the dragons

Scottish retail entrepreneur Cally Russell left the Dragons’ Den empty-handed for the second time last night after turning down three offers of funding.

The young Edinburgh-based businessman, who is behind the sustainable fashion business Unfolded, rejected the chance to work with Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden or Touker Suleyman who each offered him the £75,000 he requested.

The dragons had questioned aspects of his business model, valuation and profitability and even his sustainability credentials as the products are flown in from India.

But they were impressed with his peer-to-peer platform which enables customers to swap clothing in order to reduce waste.

However, he was only prepared to give away 2% of his business and told Mr Suleyman that he was not keen on his offer of all the money for a 30% stake.

“I don’t think it would be fun for me and I don’t think it would be enjoyable for you,” he said.

Having rejected Mr Suleyman’s offer he failed to reach a compromise deal with Mr Jones who wanted 15% and Ms Meaden who requested 12.5%.

He said he had “some give” from the other shareholders who had invested in the business and asked if the two dragons would take 4% each.

Mr Jones replied: “Was that a counter, or was that a joke?”

The two dragons said it was an “immediate no” and Mr Russell left saying: “That was a hard experience, but I am walking out with some great feedback.”

Afterwards the 35-year-old entrepreneur said he was disappointed at how low their offers were.

“I’ve been left feeling anxious and a little stressed about it as it takes a lot to turn down a Dragon,” Mr Russell says.

“But I know it was the right decision, I just have to prove it now.”

It was his second appearance on Dragons’ Den after he turned down Peter Jones offer to fund his shopping app Mallzee in 2015. The business later failed and Mr Jones last night “thanked” him for rejecting his offer.

Last October Mr Russell announced he had raised £1.2 million for Unfolded in a round led by Techstart Ventures with Solid Bond, FJ Labs, Sweetspot Capital, Pareto Holdings, participating alongside angel investors.

His passion for sustainability drove him to support third world workers who lost their livelihoods when the pandemic hit in 2020. Brands cancelled more than $2 billion dollars worth of clothes orders with factories that were mainly in developing countries.

This left workers without jobs and hundreds of millions of pieces of clothing destined for landfil

In response, Mr Russell and business partner Callum Stuart launched Lost Stock – selling the clothes cancelled by big brands and retailers to consumers to help garment workers impacted by these cancellations. In seven months they had 125,000 orders and supported more than 113,000 people for a month each in Bangladesh.

Sustainable clothing brand This Is Unfolded continues this new way of shopping by taking excess stock out of the equation

Research shows that as much as 30% of new clothing, made every year, is never sold.

Unfolded makes clothes without this waste by designing every item in conjunction with thousands of shoppers and then only producing after orders are taken.

It has developed a factory-to-consumer supply chain working with some of the largest global logistic companies.

By removing the waste from clothing production Unfolded creates significant margin improvements, which are shared between offering consumers sustainable clothes at affordable prices, higher wages for workers and funding children around their factories to learn to read and write.

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