TV dragon scoffs up greetings idea

Gemma Connolly’s edible cards for dogs firm clinches investment from Sara Davies

Scoff Paper has brought home the bacon-flavoured greeting cards as founder Gemma Connolly sniffed out a £50,000 investment from tv dragon Sara Davies.

Gemma’s appearance on BBC’s Dragons’ Den on Friday, 16 February, comes three years after her card designs, including tasty bacon, beef and chicken, that dogs can eat featured in PG magazine and she’s built up an impressive business with major stockists including Pets At Home and an upcoming special event in 1,022 Aldi stores.

Above & top: Gemma and Leo in full pitch mode as dragon Sara Davies takes notes
Above & top: Gemma and Leo in full pitch mode as dragon Sara Davies takes notes

And her enthusiasm caught the Dragons’ attention with two vying to give her money before Sara’s bid for Gemma’s full £50,000 request and a 25% stake in Scoff Paper won out over Touker Suleyman’s £25,000 offer for 15%, with the businesswoman also offering to reduce her stake to 20% if she makes her money back within a year.

Gemma walked into the den with Guide Dog puppy Leo to illustrate how her idea came about when a previous pup she was fostering had tried to eat a greeting card.

And the dragons got fully involved with Sara – whose Crafter’s Companion empire started with her enthusiasm for handmade cards and an invention to help people make their own fancy envelopes – licking one of the cards, while Peter Jones and Stephen Bartlett each took a bite out of a design. A short version of the 14-minute pitch shown on Friday can be seen in the video below.

“I took my crazy idea on to Dragons’ Den, just like so many people have told me to do over the years,” Gemma explained, “and, after what was like 2½ hours of intense grilling, me and Leo came out with a deal!

“I’m mega chuffed about the outcome and I would definitely recommend going on the show to other entrepreneurs – when I was signing up to the show, I never really thought about what it’d be like to actually be in front of the camera and then, all of a sudden, I was there with the five dragons staring straight at me!

Above: The dragons get up close and personal taste-testing their personalised cards
Above: The dragons get up close and personal taste-testing their personalised cards

“I’ll probably be boring people with stories of it in 20 years, but I think Sara Davies is absolutely the right dragon for us at Scoff Paper. We’ve made the trek over to the north east to see her and meet her team and they’re so nice and friendly and that is so so so important to us.

“Sara is a genuinely warm person and so driven and It’s fascinating speaking to her. She’s genuinely got a good heart and a mighty business brain too which makes us all feel that she can really help us on our crazy edible dog-card journey.”

Above: A jubilant Gemma and happy Sara celebrate their new partnership
Above: A jubilant Gemma and happy Sara celebrate their new partnership

Gemma related her journey from suffering a heart attack 10 years ago due to her stressful job – leading to having a pacemaker she calls Jerry inserted – to recovering by volunteering as a puppy raiser for the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association, which is when one of her charges tried to eat a card at a birthday party she’d thrown.

Having set up the business on her kitchen table in December 2020, Gemma appeared in the March 2021 PG issue and has since built it up to making £130,000 this year with a net profit of £18,000, and the roster of retailers she’s working with that impressed the dragons enormously, with Sara saying she’d “nailed it” so didn’t really need Touker’s retail contacts.

Above; PG featured Gemma and her cards back in 2021
Above; PG featured Gemma and her cards back in 2021

The Scoff cards are designed and made at the company’ s base – known as the scoffice – in Buckshaw Village, Chorley, using potatoes and natural flavouring to make a paper that’s a real treat for pooches. Sara’s investment means Gemma can put all her time into the company and get the bespoke manufacturing facility working at full capacity, with the aim of employing more local people.

On screen, Sara told the entrepreneur: “I’m the only one here that hasn’t got a dog but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the commerciality of it, and I think you’ve done a fantastic job. I think you’ve got a great business and you did a brilliant job of your pitch.”

And the dragon added: “Her character and demeanour are fantastic, I’m going to really enjoy working with Gemma.”

Above: Scoff Paper’s website already features the successful Dragons’ Den pitch
Above: Scoff Paper’s website already features the successful Dragons’ Den pitch
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