Crikey! Sisters from Habs Monmouth become youngest ever entrepreneurs to face the Dragons
Two entrepreneurial sisters have become the youngest business people ever to face the famously formidable Dragons’ Den panel.
Inventor Sky Ballantyne, 12, and her sister Kia, 14, presented their innovative gadget Crikey Bikey, a harness to help parents teach kids to ride a bike safely, to Dragons Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Nick Jenkins, Sarah Willingham and Touker Suleyman.
During their episode, shown on BBC 2 last Sunday evening, the whole panel “burst into smiles”.
What started as a homework project when Sky was in Year 6 at Inglefield House, the prep school for Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls in South Wales, is well on its way to transforming the clever pupil’s life. After winning the school’s inventor competition, Sky and Kia (Crikey Bikey’s financial director) went on to become the UK’s Junior Engineers of the Year at Big Bang Fair, held at Birmingham’s NEC in March.
They have since begun selling the harness in several local stores and running their own website, and were thrilled to get the call from Dragons’ Den.
Sky, from Ross-on-Wye, said: “Our mum is one of the company directors and she applied to the show. When she got the call to come and audition for Dragons’ Den, we thought she was joking!”
The sisters, who are now both pupils at HMSG, were joined in the Den by mum Ali and family friend Jeremy Wilson, but very much took the lead by pitching the product and answering Dragons’ questions themselves.
“When the red light turned green, I could feel my heart thumping and I felt really excited,” said Sky. “We stepped into the lift and as the door into the den opened, Kia gave me a fist bump. I could feel my nerves as Kia started our pitch.
It went smoothly, and once I started my bit, my nerves went away and I really started to enjoy it. I was so relieved when the Dragons all burst into smiles as I finished my last sentence. I knew we had done a good job, but I couldn’t relax yet because I knew the questions were coming.”
Crikey Bikey has very much become a family business, with the Ballantyne’s receiving orders from retail giants Mountain Warehouse and Evans Cycles. The harness, worn by children learning to ride a bicycle, has a handle on the back for parents to hold onto, putting a stop to bad backs and scraped knees. The idea came to Sky after she saw a dad struggling to teach his child to cycle in the park.
She added: “I was relieved when the lift opened and mum and Jeremy stepped out, and even more relieved when the Dragons told us how much they liked our pitch. I felt really happy when Sarah Willingham said that if her children grew up to be like us then she would be really proud. They said our pitch was one of the best, and when we were able to answer all of their questions I realised all of our hard work had paid off. We were in the Den for almost an hour and a half and although the questioning was tense, we both really enjoyed it. Most of the questions were easy to answer because they were about my product which I love talking about.”
The sisters said the hardest thing about going into the Den was keeping it a secret from family and friends afterwards.
“Since going on Dragons’ Den we have been busy sorting out our delivery system and barcode and recently we were really excited to get a big order from Mountain Warehouse,” said Sky. “We put barcode stickers on each harness for them and we can’t wait to see them in the shops. Crikey Bikey is giving us amazing experiences and we are learning so much about business and different jobs. I am just so glad I did that homework!”
The girls were asking the Dragons for a £25,000 investment in exchange for a 10 per cent stake in their company. But despite giving a faultless presentation, they failed to secure the cash because the Dragons could not see why they needed an investor. Deborah Meaden told them: “You’re too good to make it too easy.”
Since then, Touker Suleyman has offered to mentor the girls and reviewed their harness on his cycling website.
Headmistress of HMSG, Mrs Caroline Pascoe, said: “Everyone at the School is so proud of Sky and Kia.
“I’m sure the panel was very impressed with how knowledgeable and passionate they are about their product – I’m always amazed at their professionalism. There has always been a real buzz around science and engineering here, but the sisters’ success has spurred all of our budding inventors on even more. HMSG is a very inspirational place to be at the moment! It’s wonderful to see girls doing so well in what may traditionally be considered a ‘man’s world’. I’m positive Crikey Bikey will go on to be a huge success.”