York entrepreneur walks away from Dragon's offer

A Yorkshire beekeeper has turned down £65,000 of investment to go it alone.

York entrepreneur Andy Sugden, who co-founded Just Bee

Viewers of the BBC's Dragon's Den showed Andy Sugden, from York, and his business partner Joe Harper walk away from an offer from Peter Jones for a stake in their honey water brand.

The pair, 31 and 32, manufacture Just Bee, the UK's only honey water, which since their appearance on the show has gone on to be stocked in Boots, Waitrose and Holland and Barrett.

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Andy teamed up with his friend Joe, a fourth-generation Lancashire beekeeper, to launch the additive-free product back in 2015.

The pals wore bright pink and blue beekeeping outfits to face the Dragons, but after an hour and a half of negotiations with Jones, decided to decline the businessman's offer. Although the Dragon met their target investment, he wanted a quarter share of the company in return.

The range of honey-infused spring water drinks contain no refined sugars and are 100 per cent natural. The 330ml cartons come in three flavours - apple and ginger, blueberry and lemon and green tea - and have since been included in the Boots Meal Deal range.

“It was really hard for us to say no to Peter Jones. But we really believe more people are looking for a natural alternative to sugary soft drinks. Using honey is a great alternative and gives us a huge opportunity which we didn’t think Peter’s offer reflected. We’ve received excellent support from national retailers and the public and are excited to see what the future holds. We are very disappointed Peter won’t be joining us though, we’d have loved to see him wearing one of our beekeeper’s outfits!” said Joe.

The friends were sitting in Joe's father's garden, surrounded by the family hives, when they were inspired to set up the venture. They donate 10 per cent of their profits to the charity Friends of the Honey Bee, which aims to preserve the species, and provide customers with free wildflower seeds on request.