The New World
Christopher Columbus – perhaps history’s most famous navigator – is renowned for discovering the New World while trying to find a westward passage to the Orient. However, his was the voyage that almost wasn’t. Were it not for the benevolence – or avarice – of the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, this discovery may have been delayed for decades, even centuries. Appeals for sponsorship having been previously denied by the courts of Portugal, France and England, Columbus was finally granted patronage by Queen Isabella of Castille in 1492.
Trunki, the ride-on suitcase for kids, shot to fame when the concept was brutally rejected on hit BBC television investment show Dragons’ Den, its inventor enduring ridicule after judge Theo Paphitis managed to pull the handle off. However, since then, Bristolian founder Rob Law has sold a whopping 1.8 million units, and has gone on to launch similarly successful ranges that include travel blankets and backpacks for children.
The brainchild of Cambridge graduates Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, Innocent Drinks was born when music festival-goers convinced the trio to quit the nine-to-five in favour of smoothie making. Innocent initially struggled to raise capital to develop its business plan, but received a £250,000 cash-injection from American businessman Maurice Pinto. Now majority owned by The Coca-Cola Company, Innocent has maintained its ethical credentials by ensuring the soft-drink giant continues to donate 10% of net Innocent profit to charity.
Despite receiving little in the way of remuneration throughout his career, William Blake is now regarded as a seminal figure in the canon of English literature. Considered a lunatic by many during his lifetime, Blake was kept afloat by a small circle of friends and admirers who were keen to see him continue producing his poetry and prints. His poem Jerusalem was set to music in the First World War and adopted as a secondary national anthem, moving the nation to tears when sung by soaring-voiced choirboys at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Cup-a-Wine, another Dragons’ Den reject, is a now hugely successful product, produced by James Nash’s Wine Innovations. While touting for £250,000 in return for a 25% stake in his company, Nash was told by sophisticate Duncan Bannatyne that consumers would not take to wine in plastic glasses. M&S disagreed and, since 2010, have watched Cup-a-Wine fly off the shelves. Now, it’s almost impossible to walk through a park, or train, without seeing someone enjoying a cheeky plastic.
Italian shoe designer Mario Polegato was turned down by a string of sportswear producers when he presented them with his design for breathable soles. Undeterred, he founded Geox (Greek for earth and the letter x represents technology), gaining patents in more than 100 countries. Now, Geox is worth around $1.8bn (£1.1bn) and counts the Pope Emeritus as a customer.