Russell & Atwell, a Birmingham-based fresh chilled chocolate business, recently appeared on Dragon’s Den, securing investment from Steven Bartlett and Peter Jones after receiving a clean sweep of offers.
Founded by Steve Russell and Giles Atwell, who have over 30 years of collective chocolate-making experience, Russell & Atwell was launched as an e-commerce business in 2020. The team hand prepares five varieties of fresh chilled chocolates from their Birmingham kitchen, just around the corner from Cadbury, in Bournville
Russell & Atwell offered the Dragons 9% of the business for £90,000 in investment, telling them: “30% of pasta is fresh and it’s a £6.5billion chocolate market. If half of that market could be fresh in twenty 20 years’ time, that’s an enormous opportunity.”
With Giles’ 100 years family history in the business of chocolate and their shared experience in global chocolate corporations, the friends and business partners pitched their fresh chilled chocolate concept and detailed their extensive experience before opening their fridge to sample the chocolates.
With Steve being Head Chocolatier, he passed out the chocolates to the Dragons, and the taste immediately went down a storm; Peter Jones and Steven Bartlett loved the chocolates, Sarah Davies makes her own truffles at home so had a keen eye for the details, whilst Deborah Meaden was a little left out as she is vegan, opening the discussion of future dairy-free varieties.
Sara Davies commented: “I’m actually quite an expert in this field. I have always handmade all of my own chocolate and I have honed that over the course of ten years, and I have never tasted chocolate as good as my own, until just then.”
After an hour and a half of discussion around margins, manufacturing and costs, and whether the corporate veterans had what it takes to move into the entrepreneurial world, new Dragon and Happy Sexy Millionaire author, Steven Bartlett, made the first offer of £45,000 for 15% of the business, wanting to team up with other Dragons to further the business.
This triggered an offer from each of the Dragons, with Peter Jones singling out Steven Bartlett as an ideal partner to share the investment to further the direct-to-consumer business. Steve and Giles went to the wall and announced: “we’re too far apart; we don’t want to work for you, we’ve had 30 years of corporate careers, we want to work for ourselves.”
Giles revealed that he was prepared to give away 15% of the business, and again each of the Dragons offered deals. The Dragons went on to pitch their own experience: Sarah Davis could help with utilising the shopping channels and Touker Suleyman could help with gaining a listing with Marks & Spencer.
It was a tough decision, but eventually, Russell & Atwell set a deal with Steven Bartlett and Peter Jones, offering them each 10% of the business for the full £90,000 investment. With Steven on the board of Huel and Co-Founder of social media and marketing agency, Social Chain, Steve and Giles were eager to learn from his social and digital expertise.
Peter Jones’ experience was an attractive counterpart, with his more traditional high street knowledge, which will be hugely valuable to Russell & Atwell in taking the business, which currently sells online and via luxury delis, into supermarkets nationwide.
Giles comments: “We’re blown away by having five offers. We came into the Den open-minded as to who we wanted, but the five offers blew us away, and gave us quite a dilemma. In the end, we chose the ‘dream team of on and offline – Steven and Peter – and we haven’t looked back since!”
Peter Jones commented: “I’m a bit of a chocoholic and I’ve seen a lot of chocolate businesses come through the Den, but nothing tasted like Russell & Atwell – it seems so obvious that ‘fresh tastes best’, but to experience their chocolates fresh from the fridge was in a different league – I had to invest.”
Steven Bartlett adds: “Chocolate is my ultimate guilty pleasure and salted caramel is my all-time favourite flavour, so the Russell & Atwell Fresh Salted Caramel chocolates really sealed the deal for me. The product is already incredible and has a strong USP, so I knew with a little guidance and marketing, we could really make it explode.”