Gavin Wheeldon -- Dragon Slayer?

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Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Applied Language Solutions, bravely entered the Dragons Den with a very unusual and unheard of offer to the Dragons. But who won the battle?

A Yorkshire entrepreneur is going head to head with the 'infamous' Dragons in their den to pitch for cash to invest in the global expansion of his international translation and interpretation business.

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Huddersfield-based Applied Language Solutions, can be seen on the BBC2 show bravely persuading the Dragons to invest the maximum amount of money, £250,000, in return for just a 4% share in his business, the lowest ever known on Dragon's Den.

The show sees entrepreneurs pitch their ideas with the aim to secure investment from the five elite business entrepreneurs, famously known as the 'dragons'. No soft touch, these five "been-there-done-that" successful business people don't hold back when it comes to giving brutal criticism.

Despite not being able to speak any foreign tongues, Gavin runs a highly successful company that provides professional translation and interpretation in over 150 languages, has 6 offices worldwide and a 60-strong team proud to serve big name customers, including Nike, United Nations and Robbie Williams.

He founded the company in October 2003 from his back bedroom using his final wage after realising that no-one in the translation industry were capitalising on the opportunities offered by the technology to provide quicker, cheaper and improved quality translation services. This is essentially where the company's competitive edge lies today.

Not a man afraid of taking risks when it comes to business, even Gavin felt the stab of fear when it came to being face-to-face with Dragons. Gavin braved the wrath of the Dragons with his extraordinary pitch to ask for £250,000 to invest in the expansion of services, global offices and marketing in overseas markets. He was also hoping to get some of the Dragons to invest their invaluable time, knowledge and advice in the business. In return, he offered just a 4% share in the company, and not surprisingly, the Dragons didn't hesitate to give him a grilling.

Gavin said "Believe me, nothing can prepare you for the walk up them stairs into the Dragons' Den!"

"It was nerve-wracking. They questioned every aspect of the business and my plans for expansion with the use of investment, especially as I was only offering a 4% share in the company. Richard Farleigh was particularly shocked!"

"I decided that this was a fair amount to offer as the meteoric growth rate the company has enjoyed since 2003 would see the Dragons receive a huge return on investment. However, they had never come across such a low offer and obviously ripped apart the valuation I had given the company."

"I did try to give as good as I got with the Dragons and justify my request. I managed to negotiate with them for about 90 minutes. My mouth felt like the Sahara Desert by the time we had finished!"

Since the filming for Dragon's Den, Applied Language has continued to rapidly grow. Their international team has further increased and the company will see their global presence expand with the opening of offices in Hong Kong and India in March. The company's estimated annual turnover has also increased from the £3.2 million Gavin announced to the Dragons to a whopping £3.7 million. But, is this thanks to the investment and advice of the Dragons, or did they miss the opportunity to invest their money and experience in a fast-growing successful business?

To see how Gavin fared with the Dragons, tune in to BBC2 on Wednesday 28th February at 8pm.

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Stacey Rose
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