Businessman, 34, who bagged a £50,000 investment on Dragons’ Den reveals bipolar disorder drove him to make a soaring success of his luxury candle company – and Kate Middleton is a fan of his £35 ‘Anglesey’ scent
- Drew Cockton, 34, from Wirral, founded fragrance brand Owen Drew in 2017
- Quit high-pressured corporate job to turn candle-making hobby into enterprise
- Appeared on Dragons’ Den where Touker Suleyman offered up £50,000
- Drew plans to expand globally, and has a host of celeb fans including Paris Hilton
- Buckingham Palace butler bought one as a gift for the Duchess of Cambridge
A businessman who triumphed on Dragons’ Den has told how bipolar disorder has driven him to make a soaring success of his luxury candles venture – and Kate Middleton is a fan.
Drew Cockton, 34, from Wirral, Merseyside, founded vegan fragrance brand Owen Drew in 2017 after quitting his high-pressured corporate job to turn his candle-making hobby into an enterprise.
He created the world’s most expensive candle, designed to celebrate Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018, after details of the bride’s floral arrangements and bouquet were released. Set in 24 carat gold vessels, they retail at £750 and contains some of the most expensive oils and perfumes on earth, costing more than £25,000 per KG.
Drew pitched to the Dragons in the new series of the hit BBC1 show and impressed them with his honesty about his mental health battles – so much so that retail mogul Touker Suleyman agreed to invest £50,000 in the venture in exchange for a 30 per cent stake.
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Drew Cockton, 34, from Wirral, Merseyside, founded vegan fragrance brand Owen Drew in 2017 after quitting his high-pressured corporate job to turn his candle-making hobby into an enterprise (pictured on Dragons’ Den)
Drew created the world’s most expensive candle, designed to celebrate Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018, after details of the bride’s floral arrangements and bouquet were released. Set in 24 carat gold vessels, they retail at £750 and contains some of the most expensive oils and perfumes on earth, costing more than £25,000 per KG
With a turnover in excess of £1million, ambitious Drew plans to expand globally, and already has a host of celebrity fans including Paris Hilton, Colleen Rooney and Gemma Collins – as well as the Duchess of Cambridge, who was gifted a £35 candle by a Buckingham Palace butler.
But Drew admits he might still be stuck in an unfulfilling office job had he not fought his own challenging health battles which led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
‘I’m naturally very creative and there’s no doubt certain traits of living with bipolar have helped me, rather than hindered me,’ Drew tells FEMAIL.
‘My sense of risk is really low, it’s not something I worry about, so it works for me and drives me forward.
‘Every case of bipolar is different and it’s more of a spectrum, so I tend to have cycles of six months where I’ll feel quite flat, but because I’m medicated it’s not actually depression, it’s just a very low time.
Drew, pictured right with Michael Skeggs, left, told how bipolar disorder has driven him to make a soaring success of his luxury candles venture
Owen Drew now sells bath oils, perfumes, soaps and various other high-end wellness fragrance-based products
‘Then I’ll have six months where I’ve got loads of energy and I’m really productive, want to take on challenges and do new things and feel really creative.
‘Once I’m in that mindset I’m focused and if I decide to do something, I do it. That’s where bipolar helps me, and the lack of concern with taking risks is what made me go on Dragons’ Den – I don’t think I’d have done it otherwise.’
Drew claims a Buckingham Palace butler bought six of his £35 Anglesey candles as a gift for Kate Middleton
Having graduated from Manchester University with degrees in German and politics he became a postgraduate at the uni’s business school.
But as the country struggled to recover from the grip of the 2008 financial crisis, jobs were scarce.
Drew drafted a business plan, earned funding from a bank and opened a 13-room bed and breakfast called EazySleep on Canal Street, but less than a year later Drew’s dreams were shattered when he had to shut it down.
He admits: ‘I got the branding and name spot on, but I was woefully inexperienced. I was doing the jobs of about 10 people and eventually I just burned out and had a breakdown.
‘I was severely depressed, lost all my hair, had really bad anxiety and had shaky hands all the time. My mum could see I was really unwell so got me to see a GP who referred me to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. I was 23.
‘I was a bit of a zombie at the time so didn’t really feel anything about the diagnosis; I was just existing and it’s all a bit of a blur.’
Drew admits he might still be stuck in an unfulfilling office job had he not fought his own challenging health battles which led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (pictured with Paula Brown and Michael Skeggs)
With the right medication Drew slowly began to get better and rebuild his life. He spent the next seven years working for various companies using his fluency in German to manage accounts in Germany, Switzerland and Austria for various blue chip organisations.
He says: ‘It was fine as a job, but I hated those environments. I hated the drudgery, the passive-aggressive emails from middle managers, I hated the whole corporate world and it wasn’t making me happy or giving me any fulfilment.
‘As a creative outlet I started making candles, just as a hobby, but people began calling at the house, contacting me on social media wanting to buy them and it just snowballed from there.’
In January 2017 Drew decided to take a gamble, quit his job and throw himself into creating a business.
After a few months his then partner Mike Skeggs, 29, quit his job in investments to become his business partner and they opened their first shop on a trading estate in Birkenhead, embracing the ‘industrial chic’ look.
Drew is now planning to expand the business even further by selling to customers across the world (pictured on Dragons’ Den)
Impressed by Drew, retail mogul Touker Suleyman agreed to invest £50,000 in the venture in exchange for a 30 per cent stake
Drew is now planning to expand the business even further by selling to customers across the world.
‘It was the right time to do Dragons’ Den’ he says. ‘We’d got the business so far but it’s time to do something different. It’s not even about the money, it’s about Touker’s little black book and experience which is really going to change things.
‘When we started it was quite unusual to be making candles out of soya wax instead of paraffin, but now many of the big brands have gone in that direction too.
‘The feedback from customers is that they love the brand, they love the packaging and the stories that we tell with the scents. For example, our Christmas scent is called 1843, which is the year Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol.’
Owen Drew now sells bath oils, perfumes, soaps and various other high-end wellness fragrance-based products.
The Duchess of Cambridge is also partial to the brand; Drew claims a Buckingham Palace butler bought six of his £35 Anglesey candles as a gift for Kate.
Drew also runs a boutique venue called Heatherfield House, an intimate space for business meetings, weddings and parties which comes with a Michelin starred chef and private butler service, and is also launching the country’s first LGBTQ business awards which will take place in September (pictured with Mike Skeggs)
According to the product description, the candles feature a ‘delicate scent, inspired by the windswept shores of Anglesey’, with notes of fresh sea salt that ‘evoke waves breaking white against the rugged mineral cliffs’ while the ‘scent of earthy, woody sage gives the fragrance a mature and masculine finish’.
Drew also runs a boutique venue called Heatherfield House, an intimate space for business meetings, weddings and parties which comes with a Michelin starred chef and private butler service.
And while those interests keep him busy enough, he’s also launching the country’s first LGBTQ business awards (LGBTQbusinessawards.com), which will take place in September.
Drew said: ‘We won at the Small Awards in London it was a catalyst to change things and people trusted us with that behind us. We got a lot of local press and independents approached us to stock our products, it created a real buzz around the brand.
‘I want to help others get that for their own small businesses. We’ve got some big sponsors and it has gained a lot of interest. We want to encourage people from the community to enter but it could be for businesses who go above and beyond to make things more inclusive and accessible for members of the community.
‘It’s for everybody really and it’s never been done before. There are lots of minority awards which is great, but this is the first for the LGBT community.
‘Awards can be ten a penny and are often hundreds to enter and expensive for a table, hundreds for a table and can just be a money-making exercise.’
The North West LGBTQ+ Business Awards is free to enter, tickets are really fairly priced at £75 for a drinks reception and a three-course meal.
Drew added: ‘I feel so fulfilled and happy that I have turned all of my passions into a successful business and also really proud of myself for being honest about my mental health struggles. I hope my candour will inspire others to do the same.’
For more information visit www.owendrewcandles.com
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