The Start-up Founder Who Dazzled Four Investors on Dragon’s Den
Charlotte Morley is the founder of The Little Loop, who dazzled four investors on Dragon’s Den with her business savvy. Charlotte created The Little Loop, the UK’s first shared wardrobe for kids, to contribute to a more sustainable future by reducing waste that would typically end up in landfills. It also gives parents the opportunity to rent and swap children’s clothes rather than own them.
While The Little Loop is Charlotte’s first foray into entrepreneurship, she is no stranger to taking risks and problem-solving. She spent 10 years in the UK Ministry of Defence stationed in countries like Iraq and Libya before deciding to make a difference on home soil. She started The Little Loop but needed the help of experienced investors – Deborah Meaden and Steven Bartlett from Dragon’s Den, to be exact.
In our latest podcast, we take a closer look at Charlotte’s journey from civil servant to business owner, plus she shares some behind-the-scenes details from her time in front of the dragons.
Out of the frying pan
After ten years as a civil servant, Charlotte returned to the UK without a real plan on what to pursue next. She went skiing for six months with the hope that once she returned home, she would find a job in the private sector and work in sustainability. But, Charlotte admits she lost her nerve. She decided to get into teaching before becoming a product manager at an edtech company. At one point, Charlotte was also a dev manager for Code First Girls, where she started her tech journey, and even overlapped with our very own Alan Haefele at a company called Arbour Education.
“There’s always been a golden thread through my career,” she says. “Although my biggest frustration being a start-up founder is that there is no certainty over the future, no matter how hard you work. If you’re the kind of person that’s always been able to control your career by putting more work in or doing things smarter, the uncertainty of the start-up world can be really hard to come to terms with.”
Despite the challenges of running a start-up company, Charlotte’s vision of what Little Loops can become keeps her grounded. “We’re trying to make sure that every garment is maximised in terms of its lifecycle, which reduces the relative impact of the carbon dioxide that goes into producing clothing. We’re also trying to create a system that’s better, easier, more convenient and cost-effective for parents.”
“We’ve bitten off quite a big challenge. Although our concept sounds very simple, it is very different to what people are used to. We’re two years into the journey; it’s exciting times but also very busy, which I’m happy about.”
Into the Dragon’s Den
Despite working in war-torn regions as part of her time with the UK Ministry of Defence, Charlotte jokes it was her stint on Dragon’s Den that really proved her mettle. “I was absolutely terrified!” she exclaims. “It’s like going into an exam, and everyone is going to watch you do it and find out your results. When I was approached for Dragon’s Den by the researchers of the show, my first instinct was to say no. But then I slept on it and realised that it was such a good PR opportunity for the business. Because we’re doing something so different, we really need to be able to break through and get our company in front of the masses. I realised I would be doing my business a disservice if I didn’t do it. So, I just had to do my due diligence, really work the numbers, and make sure that I knew my stuff.”
Keeping up with the (Peter) Joneses
While Peter Jones decided against investing in Charlotte’s business, the four other dragons battled it out for a piece of The Little Loop. Ultimately, Charlotte made a bold decision and asked for something never heard in the den before – two dragons investing the full amount each, with both receiving 12.5% equity. Not only did Deborah Meaden and Steven Bartlett agree to this, but they were incredibly impressed with her business savvy. In fact, Peter Jones even offered her a job!
“It was just a hugely surreal experience, like nothing I imagined it to be,” she adds. “I knew enough about Dragon’s Den to know that Peter Jones often finds an objection. He likes to play devil’s advocate and throw something out there that’s challenging. If you put it into context, he wasn’t the right dragon for me. It just didn’t make sense for him to invest in this business. Little Loops is a consumer-facing eco clothing business – not his bag at all. So, I think you’ve got to have realistic expectations when going through an investment process. Not everyone will like it, and if they do, there’s probably something wrong with your proposal.”
Nothing to lose
Charlotte explained that she genuinely didn’t expect to get more than one offer on Dragon’s Den. As such, she had quite a pragmatic attitude going into the den. So, it was very surprising to Charlotte that she was able to land FOUR offers. “I didn’t feel like I had that much to lose. I thought it’s good PR and makes great TV. If I didn’t get the money, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. There’ll be other avenues. I wasn’t being cynical; I just didn’t go in there thinking about the money.”
Charlotte admitted that her mindset completely changed once she got there. “I thought this was going to be wild. I told myself to be brave, and if they say no, that’s just too bad. I was just going to give it a go, and no one will remember it in a month. But ultimately, I don’t remember what gave me the idea to make that proposal to Deborah and Steven; I just thought I don’t really have anything to lose.”
Combining fashion and tech
Charlotte says there’s been a massive change in the business in the last few months, and many players are entering the sustainable fashion space. As such, Charlotte is keen to build a tech platform, not just a brand. “I’ve always recognised that this is the way the fashion industry needs to go, and everyone will need the tech to do this. So, while we are a clothing rental brand, we’re building an incredible tech platform that’s extensible so that it can be white labelled and used by other people. So ultimately, we will either have a separate business or pivot into the tech space at some point. That’s always been my ambition.”
This post is based on an episode of The Agile CTO podcast. Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website here.