The creator of the high-heels protector that Kelly Hoppen and Deborah Meaden loved
Dragons’ Den fans, look no further.
We’ve been talking to star of Sunday’s show, Ally Stevenson, to find out everything you need to know about her ingenious enterprise.
Her company Clean Heels won £50,000 from Deborah Meaden and Kelly Hoppen MBE in return for 12.5% equity.
Clean Heels creates a high-heel protector that stops heels sinking into soft ground. Which anyone who’s worn heel to outdoor weddings or the races (or accidentally trashed wooden floorboards with their stilletos) will know is a big market problem that needed solving!
Stevenson founded the business in 2005, but on the same day she first showcased her product, she was taken into hospital and diagnosed with breast cancer.
She never gave up on the business though, and Clean Heels are now selling in BHS and other retailers – and Stevenon has a clean bill of health to boot.
The Dragons said: “We’re really impressed with Ally’s determination and how she has kept her business going through serious health problems.”
Hoppen added: “The simplicity and versatility of Clean Heels totally won me over. They’re a discrete, inexpensive item that every woman who wears heels should own.”
We asked Stevenson to give us the low-down on her high-heeled success…
Company: Clean Heels Ltd
Founded: 2005 in Hampshire
Founder: Ally Stevenson
Size of team: One person (me) and the Dragons team (marketing team, social media team)
Your name and role: Ally Stevenson, managing director
THE NEED-TO-KNOW: Clean Heels and Dragons’ Den
What problem are you trying to solve?
Preventing heels sinking into soft ground at weddings, the races and all outdoor events.
Also, protecting wooden floors from heels, which are normally banned from stately-home events.
We have all experienced that feeling sinking and ruining our heels with dirt, which is un-repairable, but with Clean Heels you will be able to wear your shoes again.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?
The market is huge – there are over three billion women and with this product women would probably need them once or twice a year.
I would like to own it all! [Laughs.]
How do you make money?
Clean Heels are low cost and have a high profit margin.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?
I have worked alone up to now as the product is low maintenance and simple and I have been driven to succeed, as I wanted to share this with women.
Who’s bankrolling you?
Me, and now the Dragons.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs going on the show?
Be yourself and honest and don’t over ask the money, then enjoy the show. I had a terrific time.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is?
Hard work, and look after your customers. They come first.
And be happy, always.
What metrics do you look at every day?
I have Clean Heels made in the UK, so it’s easy for me to keep an eye on production and quality.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
To be able to juggle business, family life and see my company to grow.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
I don’t think I have made a mistake. I could say my mistake would be not going to the Dragons first for help, as I had no experience and jumped in with two feet.
I knew it was a good idea but I have learnt along the way and grown my business every year.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
Hopefully bigger and better, sharing Clean Heels with all retailers so that the product is easily accessible for women.