Dragons’ Den millionaires called our brand ‘fat shaming’ and refused to invest – it’s now worth £5 MILLION
A COUPLE who failed to secure an investment on Dragons’ Den have peddled their way to success with their brand of plus-size cycling clothing.
Richard and Lynn Bye were mocked from the den in 2014 when millionaires called their products ‘fat-shaming’ – but eight years later they’ll be the ones who will have the last laugh.
Richard and Lynn Bye facing Dragons’ Den Millionaires in 2014Credit: BBC
The Yorkshire couple failed to secure an investmentCredit: BBC
But their business – Fat Lad at the Back – is now worth £5millionCredit: Fat Lad at the back
Fat Lad at the Back (FLAB) is for tall riders with body sizes up to a 60-inch waist and 58-inch chest.
Despite its inclusiveness, Dragon Kelly Hoppen described it as “flawed and morally wrong” and Duncan Bannatyne said he would never wear the range.
However, after continuing what they knew would be a success, Richard, 49, and Lynn, 54, are now the proud directors of a £5million business.
Lynn said, “Of course the Dragons are highly respected and successful entrepreneurs, but they don’t know everything, so we weren’t put off just because they didn’t like our idea.”
The Yorkshire couple entered the Den wanting £80,000 for 10% of the business.
But just seconds into their presentation, they were drawn to their catchy and deliberately self-deprecating name – which refers to anyone in the back of an exercise band, no matter how small.
Deborah Meaden insisted she had “got it” but was still worried, while others were even more critical.
Peter Jones, estimated to be £1.16billion by The Sunday Times Rich List in 2021, said he knew he would be ‘definitely the big boy in the back’ but didn’t want the to be when he walked into the pub.
“I don’t see this as a mainstream opportunity or a mainstream brand,” he said.
Duncan, the mastermind behind the self-proclaimed health club chain Bannatyne, said: “The original concept of this is great, I just think the descriptive ‘fat boy in the back’ title or branding is wrong.”
Businessman Piers Linnery agreed, adding: “I don’t think you’re going to create enough traction, I don’t think enough people are going to buy this stuff.”
And interior expert Kelly went very strong, saying: “Your presentation to me is so flawed.
“Most people don’t want to think they’re getting middle-aged or overweight, they don’t want it pointed out to them.
“I don’t take a positive from it. Morally, I don’t like it because I know people struggle with their weight.
“It would be like a hat company being called ‘bald old men’.”
Despite the onslaught of criticism, Richard and Lynn of Ilkley came away with their heads held high, determined to prove the Dragons wrong.
Richard, 49, is co-founder of FLAB and describes himself as the “original fat boy”Credit: Fat Lad at the back
The Dragons didn’t understand the theory behind the brand nameCredit: BBC
Richard said: “At the end of the day people get it or they don’t and we prefer that to just being another brand of vanilla.
“Peter and Deborah were very complimentary about the success the company had already had in a very short time, but they had no knowledge of the cycling industry or the opportunity Fat Lad represented.
“Kelly couldn’t see past the name, Piers couldn’t embrace a concept of ‘social cycling’ and thought ‘traveling’ and ‘running’ were the only types of cycling that really mattered.
“And Duncan, seeing his last streak, wasn’t really investing in anything, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.”
And although disappointed, Richard and Lynn went to great lengths to bring the brand to the masses.
Lynn said: “We realized that when someone has a problem with the name, it says more about their attitude towards fat than it does about the business and what we’re trying to accomplish.
“We now have customers in 89 countries, 60,000 people in our communities, and we’ve enabled tens of thousands of people to ride bikes and helped them look good while they do it – in many cases, when they never thought they would be able to.
“That was our goal, and the Dragons can take whatever message they want out of it.”
At the end of the day, people either get it or they don’t, and we’d rather that than just be another brand of vanilla.
The idea for FLAB was formed after Richard spent years riding in ill-fitting bike gear resembling “a chicken wrapped in plastic wrap”.
Without a kit to fit the larger frame, he went looking for something more suitable but found there was nothing for the “fat boy in the back”.
He realized the potential and phoned his wife, “I’ve got good news and bad news. We’re starting a new cycling clothing company, and you’re running it.”
After extensive research into manufacturers, Lynn located a family-owned factory in Italy that was prepared to make larger garments to suit larger bodies.
And once made, the first batch of kits sold out in less than a fortnight.
Then, later in the year to satisfy women’s demand, Fat Lass at the Back was launched, followed by an unbranded range for those who didn’t want to carry the name.
Lynn said: “FLAB is a selfless brand. It wasn’t just about selling jerseys for us, it was about building a community and giving fat people ‘permission to ride bikes’ and a place. where to belong.
“I think we were ahead or ahead of the game in building a socially responsible business that wasn’t just about making money, but also had a strong community focus and achieved good results.
“I am immensely proud of what we have achieved – supporting, inspiring and motivating thousands of people to lead happier, healthier lives.
Lynn in action wearing Fat Lass on the backCredit: Fat Lad at the back
Moments after their launch, they were drawn to the brand nameCredit: BBC
Fat Lad at the Back has customers in 89 countriesCredit: Fat Lad at the back