At just 28, Paul Tinton braved the heat of the BBC’s Dragons’ Den and came out with a useful £200,000 to invest in his building-waste disposal business.
Why did you go on Dragon’s Den?
It meant more than money for us – we wanted support. We already had the potential to raise money, but the publicity, the PR and the interest – you can’t buy that.
Tell us about your idea
My firm, Prowaste, takes the six key construction waste types – packaging, plasterboard, metal, timber, inert and hazardous – and recycles them. We provide coloured bins on site for the types.
Then we act as the middleman between the contractor and the recycling facilities. We want to make a better outcome for the damage we cause to the world. It sounds cheesy but that’s how I feel – I’m passionate about what we do.
What was walking into the den like?
I was relaxed until I got to the bottom of the stairs and I could see Deborah Meaden’s feet. They asked me to empty my pockets – I had coins in them that were jingling. I told one of the production crew: “If I win this you can keep it, if I don’t, I’ll have it back.”
How did the dragons react to your pitch?
They congratulated me but then Peter Jones challenged the idea, and it was suddenly me versus five people. He was really intimidating – I don’t think he got me as a person. Duncan Bannatyne stood up for me, which was wonderful.
Three of them refused to invest, but then Duncan made me an offer and I was lifted. But he had only offered £100,000 and I needed to make it up to £200,000 – the rules are that you have to take away all the money you asked for. We needed Deborah, who was the only one left. I knew she would challenge me most. The others had questions about the maths of the business, but Deborah wanted to actually understand the concept.
There was a lot more negotiation than was shown in the 12-minute clip. Deborah was really going at me, asking a lot of technical questions. Then she said, “I like this, and I’d like to make you an offer.” I thought, “Phew!”
What deal did you get?
We gave them 40%, for £200,000. I had agreed with my partner Colin Slade to go to 33% but I knew he’d be happy. We gave away a lot of equity, but you don’t get many opportunities like this – you should embrace them.
What is working with the dragons like?
Deborah’s a lovely woman – very analytical and very intelligent, but also scary, and needs a lot of information.
Duncan comes across as having quite a cold, brutal approach to investing, but I understand that. If he thinks an idea is rubbish, he says so. He doesn’t flower it up or pander to people.
Deborah was really going at me. Then she said, ‘I like this and I’d like to make you an offer.’ I thought, ‘phew!’
We speak to Deborah and Duncan at least once a week, and we had a lovely dinner with them – it made us feel like a proper team.
What’s different about your business?
We’re a waste partner on major building projects, rather than just a skip company. We manage the whole process, from site waste planning to project completion and also supply our own vehicles.
How did you come to set up a business?
Colin set up a demolition company and he found he was subcontracting a lot of his waste work to other companies. He thought there was real opportunity to sort the waste himself. He wanted a partner, so he approached me. I’d been involved in the music industry, but had been interested in business since I was 17.
We began the demolition business by separating metal, timber, hazardous and general waste and it just developed. The colour coding idea was thought up by the Institution of Civil Engineers.
It was a concept that crossed language barriers and maintained high recycling rates without contaminating waste streams.
The landfill tax introduced in April also meant clients and contractors started to ask questions about waste management firms. We had those answers. We knew what happened to our waste the whole way through the chain.
What’s changed since appearing on the show?
The phones have been going ballistic. Some fantastic companies we found difficult to approach before have made contact with us.
Our website has also had 55,000 hits, so Deborah’s internet guru is redesigning it.
Who inspires you?
I’ve always liked the guy behind the scenes, and thought, “Who did that, who made it look cool?” I was once involved in a hip-hop project where I met Eminem and I thought, “who did his marketing?”
Dr Dre was the clever one because he signed him. Oh, and I think Rachel Stevens is gorgeous!
How does success in construction compare to the music industry?
Success doesn’t mean making money to me. I absolutely love my job – had you asked me five years ago if I’d have loved working for a waste company, I’d have said there was no chance!