A WORCESTERSHIRE food producer, who entered the Dragons’ Den and returned empty-handed, has seen a massive boost to her business after appearing on the BBC television programme.

Cathryn Zielinski, of Stock Green near Worcester, founded Simplyseedz about seven years ago and might have the found pitching her business to the five multi-millionaire investors on the BBC Two programme and failing to get a penny from them something she’d rather forget.

But the 58-year-old businesswoman barely had time to consider the consequences of her failed attempt to gain investment as the publicity from being on TV bought a huge boost in the number of people visiting her company’s website, social media traffic, orders and interest from other investors.

Cathryn set up her business producing healthy snacks and flavoured porridge pots after being made redundant from her long-standing job with credit card giant American Express in 2009 during the global economic crisis.

She had been buying seed mixes from supermarkets for her family and thought she could do better herself. By 2010 she was selling her range at farmers markets, at food festivals, in small delicatessens and farm shops.

Over the years Simplyseedz has seen slow steady growth, but when the Dragons’ Den programme researcher rang her out of the blue, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

“They sent me an application form so I thought I might as well fill it in and send it off,” she said. “A lot of people I knew had already said I should try and get on it and I had always said ‘no’. I would never put myself through that.

“There were thousands of applicants and we got asked to do a preliminary pitch to the BBC production team and they whittled it down to about 120 businesses. We were selected to do the show and they filmed us in May but we did not know if it would be aired.

“We were told three weeks before Christmas that we were going to be on. It was shown on Boxing Day and it was prime time TV. We did not get investment from the Dragons but we got exposure which is what we wanted.”

Cathryn appeared on the show with her business partner Paul Lawson. The pair were asking for a £40,000 investment in exchange for 20 per cent of the business to help expand the operation but, after an intense grilling from the Dragons, their presentation failed to win financial support.

However she says the exposure provided by the show brought dividends. “We’ve had over £5,000 worth of orders since the episode aired, had huge social media and SEO (search engine optimization) growth, and have been approached by other investors.

“Investment from a Dragon would have been amazing and grown our business immensely but, looking back on the opportunity, we still gained a great deal - exposure, so many new customers, great words of advice and constructive criticism.” She said during the show Simplyseedz had 13,200 visits to its website.

“We need to get investment but the show is not an end to it – it is the start of it,” said Cathryn. “I am pleased I did it and we will have to see how it pans out once the initial wave of interest passes.

“I am pretty happy with how we were portrayed. We have had so many supportive messages and people saying the Dragons should have invested but we are pretty happy with it.”

Since the show, Simplyseedz has taken on board all the Dragons’ feedback. Cathryn has started looking at SEO support, launched a new plain porridge recipe in response to a Dragon’s feedback and have invested in new tamper strips for the porridge pots.