Meet Levi Roots, the singer turned entrepreneur who slayed the BBC2’s Dragons in their den with a reggae tune that promoted his business idea. Levi strolled into the Den with his guitar and started to sing about Reggae Reggae Sauce, a product idea based on his grandmother’s secret barbecue sauce.
Levi and his family have been selling Jerk Chicken and ribs using the recipe for several years at Notting Hill Carnival. But they only started to sell the sauce itself at the 2006 event. They sold more than 4,000 bottles, which inspired Levi to take seek investment from the TV experts.
Levi entered the Den initially willing to give up only 20 per cent of his business. Not all the Dragons were impressed. Duncan Bannatyne thought it wouldn’t make much money, Deborah Meaden said it would make just enough profit to provide a lifestyle business, and Theo Paphitis said that the orders Levi already had meant that he didn’t need the investment at all. So they all declared themselves out.
However, telecoms entrepreneur Peter Jones and Australian private investor Richard Farleigh agreed to pay £25,000 each for a 20 per cent share. This meant that Levi had sold 40% of his business for £50,000, valuing the whole business at £125,000. Since the programme, Jones and Farleigh have both got involved in helping Levi produce his business plan, and to find industrial kitchens to enable higher volume production of the sauce.
The day after the show, Peter Jones used his contacts to introduce Levi and his product to buyers at Sainsbury’s.
The result? Reggae Reggae Sauce has turned into one of the fastest selling sauces in the UK.
What is the reason behind this success? The product recipe? The cash from the investment by the Dragons? Or perhaps that Jones and Farleigh instantly recognised a great, marketable brand in Levi, his song and his sauce. You could argue that it was an easy investment to make.
Whilst Jones and Farleigh might have great ambitions for their investment, Levi seems less focused on growth. In an interview after the programme, he reflected on the experience and his aims for Reggae Reggae Sauce. On appearing in the Den, Levi explained: “They looked at me like I was a madman. I don’t think anyone has sung reggae music to them before. I thought they were going to get up and start dancing.”
“I’m not in this to be the next Heinz ketchup. I just want to bring the sweet, sweet flavour of reggae music to the world”.