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drag' race Irish couple to appear on tonight's Dragon's Den with their revolutionary baby mat

Dubliners Aileen and James McCauley are hoping to tame the BBC's Dragons with their 'Wriggler'


James and Aileen McCauley brought The Wriggler to The Dragon's Den

James and Aileen McCauley brought The Wriggler to The Dragon's Den

The Dragons’ Den panel

The Dragons’ Den panel

The Wriggler as featured on tonight's Dragon's Den

The Wriggler as featured on tonight's Dragon's Den


James and Aileen McCauley brought The Wriggler to The Dragon's Den

On a scale of one to 10, just how scary is it braving telly's Dragons' Den?

Try 50,000, jokes Aileen McCauley, who together with her husband James, is bidding to secure that amount on this week's episode of the hit UK series.

The Malahide couple are set to brave the BBC's famously unforgiving lair with their genius baby changing mat called The Wriggler this Thursday.

And mum-of-two Aileen is secretly partly relieved they won't be able to host a viewing party to watch the reality show with family and friends.

"We were like, 'Could we do something on Zoom where we're all watching at the same time?', but that would be just weird," laughs Aileen. "So it's going to be WhatsApp [with everyone going], 'Oh my God, did you say that?'

"It's a pity, but then at the same time I think if we had everyone around we'd probably be hiding behind the couch, going 'Oh my God', cringing."


The Dragons’ Den panel

The Dragons’ Den panel

The Dragons’ Den panel

After 18 seasons and 16 years, by now, viewers will be familiar with the angsty elevator ride into the Den, where budding entrepreneurs get just one shot at wowing the Dragons and winning the investment that could help their business go global like Reggae Reggae Sauce, memorably pitched by Levi Roots on the programme back in 2007.

And facing Sara Davies, Touker Suleyman, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani was every bit as nerve-racking as it appears at home, admits the educational psychologist.

"The doors open and these five faces are sitting in front of you," she says. "People that we've been watching for years, and you're suddenly standing in front of them, thinking this is the scariest interview you'll ever do in your life.

"In the back of your head, you know it's going to be watched by millions of people and, for entertainment, there's going to be lots of strong opinions given, so yeah, it's terrifying in that sense.

"But then, in another way, it's weirdly familiar because we had seen the Den so much from watching it, and you've seen these faces, so there was some comfort in that."

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Co-entrepreneurs James and Aileen first came up with the idea for the anti-roll changing mat around six years ago when their eldest child Daniel (7) was in the wriggly phase.

"Nappy changing just became an absolute nightmare," recalls teacher James. "It would either take the two of us to keep him still or, if there was only one of us, it would take both hands to keep him still and we'd have no hand left to change the nappy.

"We just got really frustrated, looked for a solution and we couldn't find one."


The Wriggler as featured on tonight's Dragon's Den

The Wriggler as featured on tonight's Dragon's Den

The Wriggler as featured on tonight's Dragon's Den

But necessity is the mother - and, in this case, father - of invention, as Aileen explains: "James actually borrowed a sewing machine and he taught himself to sew on YouTube.

"We had our own kind of working prototype and it worked so well the nappy-changing battle just ended.

"I remember one day we went to my dad's, who was looking after Daniel, and he was like, 'You don't have the Wriggler with you?' - we'd forgotten it.

"The look on his face at the thought of trying to change Daniel without the Wriggler, we were like, 'Oh my God, this is something that could work for loads of people.'"

Priced €39.99 from thewriggler.com, the award-winning product has already revolutionised nappy-changing for thousands of parents across Ireland and the UK.

But the couple - who also have a five-year-old daughter, Sarah - revealed how they almost missed the biggest opportunity of their new career after filming was originally put on hold due to Covid.

"Never in our wildest dreams did we really expect to get on the show, so it was just an unbelievable experience," tells James.

"We applied in April 2019 and then we heard nothing until January 2020. We went over for an audition and they were really happy and offered us a filming date in March - and then Covid hit. Everything locked down and we were like, 'Oh my God, we just missed the biggest opportunity of our lives'.

"But then they got back in touch in October and we went over and did the filming, and it was all Covid compliant, and then when we got back we had to quarantine for two weeks."

With just a fortnight to prepare for the petrifying pitch, the couple called on pal Sean Murray - who owns Snap Ireland printing company - to help put them through their paces.

"We nearly saw him as a Dragon," says Aileen. "He knows business inside out and back to front.

"Even over Zoom, he was firing questions at us, asking us the tricky questions and making us pitch, 'Do it again, do it again'. He really drilled us in that time and really helped us."

Although they can't say how they fared on the show, which airs on BBC One this Thursday at 8pm, one person who's not too keen on business going through the roof is original 'wriggler' Daniel.

"All he knows is every day he has to go to the Post Office to post Wrigglers," laughs his mum. "He's like, 'Ugh, are we going to the Post Office again?'

"So it's probably more of a frustration for him than reaping the benefits but, please God, he'll be grateful in the end!"

Dragon's Den goes out on BBC One tonight at 8pm

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