Blackwood Design Awards Finalist Makes a Big Impact on BBC’s Dragon’s Den

The wheelAIR cooling backrest cushion was offered a £75K investment deal by four Dragons on the latest episode of Dragons’ Den after hearing a pitch by Staels Design’s Managing Director Corien Staels. Corien was a finalist in the Blackwood Design Awards 2016 with wheelAIR, narrowly losing out to Pittsburgh University’s entry - MeBot.


The Dragons decided to pair up - Peter Jones teamed up with Deborah Meaden, and Touker Suleyman with Tej Lalvani – with both groups of investors offering Corien £75,000 in return for a 30% equity stake, with the option of buying back 10% of the shares once the initial return on investment was made.


After some grilling of the Dragons herself and weighing up the two offers, Staels accepted Meaden and Jones’s offer. She noted this was because of the Dragon’s connections within the manufacturing and mobility industry, as well as the opportunity to be mentored by such experienced serial investors.


In a notable moment of the pitch, Staels and Kerr demonstrated the wheelAIR to the Dragons. Meaden – wearing a tweed jacket – on sitting in the wheelchair exclaimed: ‘I can already feel it!’.


Equally notable, Staels fainted during the filming, at one point saying, ‘I’m sorry… I think I am going to pass out’.


Corien commented:

‘It wasn’t actually until I stood in front of the Dragons, ready to pitch, that I realised what I was about to do. Having experienced plenty of high pressure situations in national pitching competitions certainly helped me prepare for the pitch, but standing in a studio with bright lights pointed at you, a television crew watching and five high profile investors ready to start grilling you was quite something else. I actually forgot to eat anything all day in the excitement of it all. I think that, and the heat of the lights, is what led to me feeling so faint… And of course the pressure. I first started sweating profusely, then became very nauseous and, while I said those words, everything just went black. After using the wheelAIR to cool me down and eating every biscuit available, I knew I had to go back in and bring this home. There was a life-changing opportunity in my sights to win the money needed to get wheelAIR off the ground, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me!’


The patent pending wheelAIR has been carefully designed in Scotland with the input of Paralympic athletes as well as wheelchair producers and Blackwood residents from Glasgow’s Belses Gardens Care Home. The innovation provides a much-needed modern solution to the problem of temperature regulation.


Overheating is experienced by the majority of those in wheelchairs, often on a daily basis, and is not only uncomfortable but can be a serious health threat.


Conversely, the wheelAIR uses inbuilt fan technology to subtly cool the users back and reduce their core temperature by taking away excess heat and moisture. This allows for instant comfort and better temperature control. The cushion also offers extra support through a unique blend of carefully selected foams and fabrics.


If you missed it you can catch the latest episode of Dragon’s Den on BBC iPlayer.


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recognised this when I watched the programme in Spain last week!! Good to see the design going further


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