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I’m so glad my booze business was rejected on Dragons’ Den

ENTREPRENEUR Max Ruether failed to secure an investment in the Dragons’ Den lair – but his spirits couldn’t be higher.

His booze business has boomed in the months since filming, and it’s now worth 15 per cent more at a tasty £4.6m.

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The brains behind O’Donnell Moonshine – August Ullrich, Philip Morsink, and Max RuetherCredit: O’Donnell Moonshine
The trio, who have been friends since school, were rejected on Dragons' Den

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The trio, who have been friends since school, were rejected on Dragons’ DenCredit: O’Donnell Moonshine
Moneyman Peter Jones swore as he tasted the powerful drink

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Moneyman Peter Jones swore as he tasted the powerful drinkCredit: BBC

Max was asking for £200,000 for five per cent equity on the hit BBC show, filmed last year.

Despite seeing potential in the handmade spirits brand, Max walked away from the millionaires empty-handed.

But thankfully he’s had the last laugh as Manchester-based O’Donnell Moonshine is now worth £4.6m – 15 per cent more.

Sales also shot up 1,000 in the week since the episode aired last month, so things are only looking up.

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CEO Max, 33, said: “I’m not going to lie, facing some of the most successful businesspeople in the UK and getting their feedback on the brand, products and company was a nerve-wracking experience.

“But once my initial nerves were overcome, it was great to talk about the business.

“Regarding the outcome, of course, in the first instance I was disappointed.

“However, after reflecting on it all, I began to see all the positives in the way we do things.”

The idea for the O’Donnell Moonshine brewed on a trip to South America with school pals August Ullrich and Philip Morsink, both 34.

They fell in love with the concept – inspired by the gangsters of the Prohibition era – and quickly decided to jump on it.

“We do like to drink, especially an interesting drink,” he said.

August and Philip founded the firm in Germany in 2016, before Max joined to bring the product to the UK market.

And after childhood dreams of making it on the show, they found themselves standing before the five fierce millionaires on BBC’s Dragons’ Den to pitch their handmade drinks, served in Mason Jars reminiscent of the illegally distilled alcohol of the 1920s.

Max, from London, said: “We all used to say, ‘imagine being on the show one day, how cool would that be?’

“So, in 2021 I took a punt and applied. We had nothing to lose.”

STRONG FUTURE

The Dragons knocked back the bevs and were seriously impressed with the unique appearance and taste.

Though moneyman Peter Jones winced and swore after taking a swig due to the drink’s high strength.

Fellow Dragon Deborah Meaden also joked “it’s quite strong” as she laughed at him struggling to swallow.

While they could see a strong future for the tipples, all five said “I’m out” after questions marks hovered over the finances.

But Max’s disappointed quickly dried up as sales soared 10 times their normal rate in the week after the episode aired.

It followed a stonking 2021 for O’Donnell Moonshine, which surpassed its targets by 10 per cent – a “huge” achievement for a small business.

Max, who has known his business partners for more than 23 years, now wants to show off their success to those who turned them down.

In the first instance, I was disappointed, however upon reflection I saw all the positives in the way we do things.

Max Ruther O’Donnell Moonshine

“I would love to show the Dragons the results my team and I have achieved in the last year,” he said.

“We have overachieved our turnover targets, paid off a load of the debt, and had a really good year all around.”

The company is named after Edward O’Donnell – the leader of Chicago’s South Side Gang during the beer wars of the 1920s.

It is inspired by the rebellion and inventiveness of the American prohibition era, where illegal alcohol was produced overnight by moonlight to avoid detection.

O’Donnells offers flavors such as Tough Nut, Wild Berry and Sticky Toffee – and 72 per cent ABV High Proof.

O'Donnell Moonshine products are inspired by the rebellion of the American prohibition era

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O’Donnell Moonshine products are inspired by the rebellion of the American prohibition eraCredit: O’Donnell Moonshine
CEO Max was 'disappointed' not to secure investment but can now see the positives

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CEO Max was ‘disappointed’ not to secure investment but can now see the positivesCredit: O’Donnell Moonshine

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