From a Buckshaw Village kitchen table to BBC’s Dragons’ Den

Gemma Connolly faces the Dragons

A Lancashire entrepreneur who won £15,000 at the Lancashire Innovation Challenge in 2022 has now gone one better by securing £50,000 from an investor on BBC One’s Dragons’ Den programme.

Gemma Connolly, from Buckshaw Village-based Scoff Paper, appeared on the show last night (Thursday February 15th), and invited the Dragons to invest in her edible dog birthday card business. After a tough grilling from the panel, investor Sara Davies agreed to an investment of £50k in return for 25% of the company.

And the Dragon’s who said “Sorry, I’m out” still said she had a decent chance of success. Steven Bartlett said: “I actually think you’ll get there, but I’m not as barking mad about dog as you are so I don’t think I’m the right investor for you.”

Similarly, Peter Jones said he didn’t think there was room for investor like him.

Sara Davies with Gemma Connolly

But Davies, who founded Crafter’s Companion, a retail business specialising in crafting, 18 years ago from her bedroom at university, warmed to the tale of how the idea for Scoff Paper came to Connolly in 2020 after trying to make edible paper for her dog, Loki, while in lockdown.

Having started off on the kitchen table experimenting with potato peelings and other edible ingredients, she refined the process and soon created a prototype which was robust, printable, and safe for dogs to eat.

The product already sells through online marketplace, Etsy, and following deals with local pet stores and garden centres who agreed to stock her canine-friendly cards, deals with Pets at Home, John Lewis, Clintons Cards, Aldi, and B&M followed.

In addition to the financial and mentoring support which Gemma Connolly also won the Lancashire Innovation Challenge – a competition for entrepreneurs run by Lancashire County Council as part of its Innovate Lancashire initiative – she has also enjoyed support from Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub.

In 2021 she contacted Boost and enjoyed guidance and coaching in areas such as digital marketing, e-commerce, finance, and staff training.

Now, having both the financial and strategic backing of Sara Davies, and the huge publicity generated by her successful pitch to the Dragons on prime-time TV, she is aiming to take the Scoff Paper brand global.

Connolly, also a Guide Dogs for the Blind Ambassador, said of her Dragons’ Den experience: “I’m not good at blowing my own trumpet, but I gave it everything I had when I went into The Den and was proud of my presentation and my responses to the Dragons’ subsequent grilling. It probably helped that I had Leo by my side.

“When Sara said she believed in me and my vision, it meant so much. I’m over the moon that she chose to invest in my little company that’s got its eye on global domination. After all, is there a dog on this planet that doesn’t love a tasty treat? With Sara’s know-how and support, I can put 100% of my time and focus into our business and get the bespoke manufacturing facility running at maximum capacity.”

Maya Ellis, LCC’s Innovation Programme Lead said: “For Gemma to have secured a significant investment from the likes of Sara Davies on Dragons’ Den is incredibly impressive and a great advert for Lancashire’s creative and commercial spirit. To know that winning our Innovation Challenge helped Gemma to successfully expand her company is also fantastic, and it demonstrates how initiatives like Innovate Lancashire can really help grow dynamic Lancashire businesses like Scoff Paper.”

Andrew Leeming

Andrew Leeming, Programme Manager at Boost, said: “Gemma received support through Boost’s Business Advice Service in 2021 and our team helped her to clarify her business goals and what she needed to do to achieve them, as well as providing marketing advice on developing her website and using social media. In addition, she received mentoring as well as support through Boost’s Access to Finance service.

“We’re always thrilled to see Lancashire businesses flying the flag on the national stage, especially when Boost has helped as part of that business growth journey. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Dragon’s Den investment allows the business to continue to expand and help Gemma achieve her ambitions over the coming years.”