A businesswoman has told of her joy after winning support for her fitness product on BBC TV show Dragons’ Den.
Mother-of-two Donna Kerr-Foley, a fitness trainer of 19 years, created The Running Mat – a portable exercise mat that can be wrapped around the waist and used in outdoor locations.
The 36-year-old, from Hebburn, South Tyneside, pitched her product in the dragons’ lair and struck a deal with entrepreneurs Deborah Meaden and Kelly Hoppen, who decided to give her £50,000 for a 40% share in the business, as viewers saw on Sunday night.
Donna, who runs a string of women’s boot camps across the region, said: “I was petrified when I went into the den. It was very nerve-racking.
“I had been rehearsing and preparing for my pitch for a few weeks. I knew my product inside-out, but I was worried about Duncan Bannatyne’s reaction.
“He is from a gym and health club environment and I run boot camps. I knew he was going to be negative.
“He said ‘You must be joking’ and ‘I’ve seen some silly ideas come in, but this one takes the biscuit’. In the end he said he liked me but did not like the product.
“However, the women loved it and I was over the moon when they offered me the deal. I know Kelly is into her fitness and yoga so I was pleased she could see the product working. I can’t wait to really get The Running Mat name out there.
“The three of us hugged it out at the end and I admit I did get a bit emotional. I can’t believe I cried on Dragons’ Den, but at least it was tears of happiness.”
Commenting on her investment, Deborah Meaden said: “I am not a runner myself but was listening intently to the debate between Duncan and Kelly about the usefulness of The Running Mat.
“I came down on the side of Kelly’s view and was won over by Donna’s presentation and professionalism, and I am glad I was. This is a great investment with orders already placed by some of the big retail names.”
Kelly Hoppen added: “As soon as I saw The Running Mat I knew it was something people would use on-the-go or even at home. I can’t believe no one has thought of it before.”
Donna, who is married to Craig Foley, 38, and has sons Rossi, four, and Max, eight, came up with the idea of the mat after she noticed her clients’ workouts being hampered by tough, muddy conditions that affected their hands, joints and clothing.
The mat, which costs £19.95, is cushioned, waterproof and lightweight.
Donna said: “It is worn around the waist or hips and is ideal for runners or hikers who may need to sit and rest. You could unroll it anywhere – on concrete, mud or gravel – and use it for press-ups, sit-ups or other exercises.
“I put in a lot of hard work, I have not stopped for three months. Now I’m excited to be working with Deborah and Kelly.”
Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes is already a fan of the product. She said: “I exercise in all weathers and throwing a jumper over muddy or rocky ground to do push-ups or stretches doesn’t cut it. The Running Mat is such a perfect invention.”