Tyneside sisters Jenny and Alex McFadden struck a deal with four of the TV Dragons to help grow their fledgling clothing company.

By Coreena Ford Chronicle and Journal business writer

A North East fashion start-up has been inundated with orders after braving the Dragons’ Den and leaving with a deal involving four of the millionaire entrepreneurs.

Jenny and Alex McFadden, of South Tyneside, appeared on last Thursday's episode of the BBC One show, where viewers saw them pitch their maternity clothing brand Pretty Mama to the panel.

Left to right: Alex and Jenny McFadden of Pretty Mama

The siblings explained how they are juggling full-time jobs with the clothing company, which was launched four years ago after they spotted a gap in the market for feminine and comfortable maternity wear.

The company was launched after Alex had struggled to find clothes she liked when she was pregnant with her daughter. She used her skills from a fashion degree from Sunderland University and combined her sister’s business and legal knowledge to launch Pretty Mama, specialising in breastfeeding clothing.

On Dragons’ Den, they asked for £30,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in the business - but stressed that what they wanted more than anything was advice on how to grow the business.

After hearing their story and determination – including how they’re not yet taking a wage from the business as they look to grow it – Touker Souleyman made a pitch of his own, inviting all the Dragons to team up with him and take an equal 6% share of the company in exchange for the investment they asked for and, more importantly, the Dragons’ expertise.

Deborah Meaden bowed out, fearing too many Dragons getting involved in Pretty Mama would complicate matters, but all the others were happy to be on board.

The sisters readily accepted the unique offer - and are now poised to work with North East entrepreneur Sara Davies, as team leader, Steven Bartlett, Peter Jones and Touker Souleyman.

The deal is still going through the due diligence stage but both Jenny, 25, and Alex, 30, said they can’t wait to get going.

Alex said: “It was really exciting. When we were going to filming, we said we expected to hear lots of constructive criticism about the business and, as much as we wanted investment in a deal we didn’t expect one. It was really surreal.

“I’m a massive fan of the show anyway and it wasn’t until we were in the lift that it hit us how far we’ve come, so I started to panic and got a bit emotional.”

Jenny said: “We were both in shock. The model who came out, Hannah, is actually a customer of ours so I think we were just very authentic and relatable.

“I think we’re both quite relatable – we both work full time and are only a start-up, our figures are all realistic. The way we valued the company wasn’t ridiculous either.”

Alex, who lives in Hebburn and works for the civil service in Newcastle, said she and Jenny both took the day off after the show’s screening – and they needed the time off to pack up an endless stream of orders that poured into the website after Pretty Mama’s appearance.

The website crashed at one point and order numbers have yet to be finalised. The stock is made for Pretty Mama in China, then shipped over to the North East where the girls keep it stored at home. With time, planning, investment and the four Dragons’ input they would both eventually like to work full time on Pretty Mama, moving the firm out of their homes into a permanent base in the region.

Written by Jennifer McFadden

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