CEO Interview: Jordan Daykin, Gripit

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt (c) Antony Thompson/TWM

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt (c) Antony Thompson/TWM - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

From Dragons’ Den to a £20m business... Frank Tennyson meets a young inventor and businessman giving hope to aspiring creatives

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt (c) Antony Thompson/TWM

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt (c) Antony Thompson/TWM - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

In every interview he gives, much is made of Jordan Daykin’s tender age. In fact, it’s become something of a cliché. But it’s not until you actually meet the Wiltshire-based entrepreneur, that you realise how much he has crammed into his 23 years.

Aged just 13, he and his grandfather invented a plasterboard fixing which a decade later has evolved into a £20m business called Gripit. The story of how Jordan struggled to find a fixing to hang a curtain rail is perhaps familiar, as aged 18 he appeared on BBC’s Dragons’ Den and explained the genesis of his life-changing invention.

On the show he became the youngest person to secure an investment, successfully persuading Deborah Meaden to invest £80,000 for a 25 per cent stake in his business. Today Gripit is stocked in over 5,000 UK stores and available in 32 countries across the world. As Jordan says, it has been “an interesting journey.”

“My grandad was an engineer and we just went in his shed and invented this thing to solve a problem,” recalls Jordan. “There was no real business idea behind it. But then a few weeks later, after a little bit of research online, I found that there could indeed be a market for this.

“It took another four years to get the product tested, patented, and to arrange some marketing around it, talking to suppliers etc.

“We launched in December 2012 and that was quite surreal because we sent 400 sample packs to all the big DIY or building stores. Four days later I got a call from Screwfix – I nearly fell off my chair! Two and a half weeks further on, we received our first order from them.”

So Gripit as a business was an established concept. But there is no doubt that Jordan’s 2014 appearance on Dragons’ Den was transformative. Jordan explains: “The product was already out there in some 500 stores, so we weren’t a complete start-up but it [Dragons’ Den] took us to a new level.

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt (c) Antony Thompson/TWM

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt (c) Antony Thompson/TWM - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

Most Read

“I had watched the show for years and years although I said I’d never, ever go in it. But there I am, at 18, in front of the Dragons showing them my product. To be perfectly honest, I just thought it was a good way of getting to market – free advertising really.”

Alas, the presentation to the fiery Dragons was not without incident. He was grilled for almost two hours, and Peter Jones declared himself “out” when he managed, on TV, to rip Jordan’s radiator prop off its fixings. Even though the malfunction was due to damp plasterboard, it was a real heart-in-the-mouth moment.

“I was bricking it! But I had seen other people on the show fall apart after their product had failed. I kept it together, argued back and I think Deborah liked that,” says Jordan. “I had complete confidence in what we had created and Deborah tells me she recognised that.”

The relationship with Deborah Meaden has been a valuable one – not a PR stunt, certainly not something that existed purely because of a television programme. To this day, the investor takes an active interest in Gripit and is a constant source of advice and guidance.

Jordan says: “Deborah was a sounding board really. She was quite open in the Den that she didn’t have any knowledge of the building industry. But nine out of ten times when Deborah Meaden rings, someone answers the phone – that’s pretty useful.

“So we sat down and discussed the basics – what would make this business successful. And maybe where with other businesses she had been involved with, she might sit down with them every three months for a board meeting, with us we were talking weekly.

“She was really invested in what we were doing. The good thing about Deborah is she always is there when you need her but at the same time she isn’t breathing down your neck every day. It’s still my business and I get to run it the way I want.”

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt, with one of his production machines

Jordan Daykin, CEO of GripIt, with one of his production machines - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

Digging a little deeper into the Jordan Daykin story, it is even more impressive. After a family break up, he left home to live with grandparents at age 13. He departed school at the same time with zero qualifications because of “bullying from teachers”. But a drive and determination that has characterised all of his business career meant he wasn’t about to settle for second best.

“I I had a point to prove,” says Jordan. “I left school with no GCSEs, so I guess I had to do something. My dad said I could go and work for him sweeping the shop floor of his business but I didn’t want to do that.

“So around the same time as the Gripit invention, I started an agency that helped young people find educational tutors either in the evening, the weekend or if they were home-schooled.

“I know when I left school and was looking for tutors for myself, it was really, really difficult. So I designed a website – by learning how to do it on YouTube – and provided a service called Tutor Magnet.

“I’ve recently relaunched it and am looking to build this up over time. I think my own experiences of education and how difficult it can be, gives me a good perspective on what is needed out there.”

In a previous interview Jordan has revealed he – again at 13 – was earning between £2,000 and £3,000 a month in this Tutor Magnet endeavour. But his commitment to the younger generation goes deeper than just monetary reward.

He has recently launched a new enterprise scheme. In this, anyone over 11, and under 16, who has a strong business or creative idea can enter a competition with the hope of winning £30,000. In addition the successful applicant will receive advice and assistance to make the concept a reality.

GripIt products

GripIt products - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

“Too much pressure on people is to go to university. So I’ve recently set up an enterprise scheme where people under 16 can come and discuss ideas. I see it as something like a creative hub,” says Jordan.

“I like innovation and start-ups. I wish there was someone I could’ve gone to when I was younger, so this is an opportunity to help someone get on the business ladder. I can pass on some of my experience, good and bad. We can look into things like, it is it the right product? Will it sell? And how do you sell it?

“I’m looking at setting something up like a mini Dragons Den – but just not on the telly!”

Visit the Gripit website here.