Why I really turned down TV's Dragons

Tue 21st October 2008

James Halliburton is one of a handful of entrepreneurs who have had the confidence to turn down an investment on TV’s Dragon’s Den - thanks to his next door neighbour’s kids.

Dragons Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis wanted to invest £200,000 into James’ invention which ensured that essential items accidentally dropped in water could be retrieved by an auto-inflating, strengthened balloon that illuminated at night to provide a location beacon.

Although James originally accepted offers from the show’s most respected investors - as shown again tonight on ‘Dragon’s Den (full title) - he later changed his mind and rejected their offers. Now James has revealed the real reason he refused the cash.

At the time he explained that, like Peter and Theo, he had a burning desire to go it alone. But his real motivation had more to do with Alex and James Firth aged 3 and 6, who live next door to James in Crewe.

The brothers gave him the inspiration to turn his Dragon’s Den invention into something entirely different - an illuminated balloon - when their eyes lit up for entirely different reasons than the Dragons.

His new invention, Illoom Balloon, was conceived when he was testing Water-buoy - the product he presented on Dragon’s Den. The kids saw James testing reinforced latex balloons with LEDs inside and wanted some to play with.

Their enthusiasm for the product inspired James to turn the Water-buoy balloon design, which was aimed at the marine and nautical market, into a product for mass distribution.

James said: "Over 64 billion balloons are sold worldwide each year so it’s a very lucrative market. When I saw the excitement on the faces of James and Alex I just knew there was an opportunity to tap into that with an innovative new product.

"It made me realise that my original product’s niche appeal could be broadened to reach a much larger audience. This gave me the confidence to go it alone with Water-buoy, safe in the knowledge that I had an even bigger project in the pipeline."

Now James has secured exclusive listings in Tesco and sold over half a million Illoom Balloons on his first order. His dream is to have the product in every home on the planet and plans are already in line to launch the product in America.

James Halliburton will be appearing on the Dragon’s Den follow up on Sunday 26 October at 8pm on BBC2.