by Alison Smith-Squire
A mum and son whose lookalike dolls were rejected by Dragons' Den have done a £100,000 deal with posh toy store Hamleys.
Tracey and Keiran Cannon sank every penny they had into creating their £65 My Lookalike Doll – an 18in figure which children can customise to make 'mini-me' versions of themselves.
But they were told by all five Dragons on the hit BBC2 show that they should give up on their dreams after they asked for a £75,000 investment.
Design guru Kelly Hoppen told them: "This is not a viable business I would want to put my money into."
And mobile phone boss Peter Jones warned: "Do not spend another pound taking this forward."
Tracey, 45, said: "Going on Dragons' Den was absolutely devastating – one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. But the rejection by the Dragons made both of us even more determined to succeed, whatever the odds."
Now their persistence has paid off after Hamleys told the pair they loved their idea – and placed orders for hundreds of the dolls.
Tracey said: "Hamleys made an initial order of 100 dolls plus outfits which sold out. So this week they ordered 500 more – and told us they will need at least a further 500 dolls plus accessories by Christmas.
"The whole order is worth around £100,000 and they're worried we won't be able to make them fast enough."
Tracey, from Glasgow, set up the company in 2011 after a visit to the States, where she bought a doll for her daughter, Khyra, now 11, which 'looked so much like her'.
The doll was such a hit with Khyra and her friends that Mrs Cannon decided to start the business with her son, now 23.
She said: "I knew I was taking a gamble but I took redundancy from my lecturing job, putting the £20,000 pay-off into the business. A further £40,000 came from remortgaging the house, £20,000 from a bank loan and the rest was made up of savings.
"It amounted to £120,000 to make hundreds of dolls, matching clothes children can buy to wear themselves, plus storage."
But she says her 'heart sank' when she and Keiran appeared in the Den in September last year when she gave the Dragons their own mini-me dolls.
Tracey recalled: "Deborah Meaden seemed impressed with her lookalike, but Kelly seemed terrified by hers and hid it under her chair!
"At the time we were only selling three dolls a week. No one seemed interested that we were a brand-new start-up. They were quite rude."
She added: "The Dragons made us look like fools. Although I realise their blunt comments made good TV, it was a crushing blow. But our passion for the dolls and belief the Dragons were wrong kept us going."
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