North Yorkshire Tancream duo tell MAXINE GORDON about life after their Dragon's Den success – and another skin cancer scare

AS millions watched North Yorkshire Tancream founders scoop a £75,000 investment in BBC Two's Dragon's Den, only a few knew that founder Gillian Robson was facing another skin cancer scare.

Tancream – the innovative product that combines a sun protection cream and a fake tan – was launched two years ago by Gillian and her friend Katy Foxcroft. The idea for the cream came after Gillian was treated for melanoma, the medical name for skin cancer.

The 51-year-old mum of two from Easingwold was diagnosed with melanoma in 2013 after she noticed a mark on the back of her leg.

"It just appeared and became dark and irregular over ten days. My GP fast-tracked me through the NHS. It was a really great system and it was removed."

Since that first surgery, Gillian has had 12 more lesions removed, including one recently from her face. She is awaiting her latest result, hoping it will be negative, as the other 11 have been.

Gillian is very matter of fact about it all. "Better off than on. I first noticed this one 18 months ago, then it changed and got darker. It was one of those that you just have to get removed and hopefully it will be OK."

She believes her skin cancer dates back to when she used sun beds regularly in the beauty salon she used to run.

She and Katy support a proposal by Melanoma UK to ban the use of sunbeds in the UK.

Tancream, which combines a subtle tanning agent alongside high sun protection, is part of their mission to spread the word and change people's attitudes to looking after their skin.

Katy said: "We spend a lot of time campaigning and telling people about early detection. If you notice any changes to your skin: get it checked out."

They were able to spread that message to viewers of popular BBC Two show Dragon's Den a fortnight ago, when they presented a pitch in a bid to win money and mentoring from the panel of potential investors.

They were delighted to be offered the £75,000 investment and had three of the Dragons fighting over them – Peter Jones, Touker Suleyman and newcomer Sara Davies, a businesswoman from Durham.

The Tancream pair chose to do a deal with Touker and Sara.

"We've gone down in history as the people who turned down Peter Jones," said Gillian with a laugh.

So what was it like in the Den?

"It was quite surreal," says Gillian. "We applied in December and did a screen test. By the time we went on in April we were quite well rehearsed and prepared. We were the first product in the new series and opened the show."

They admitted to not sleeping the night before their appearance in the Den. It was a long day: they had to be at the studio in Manchester at 6am.

Katy said: "We were incredibly nervous – once we were in the Den there was no going back from this. It was very emotional preparing to be humiliated!

"We are two mums from North Yorkshire who developed a product after Gillian’s experience of melanoma. Remaining positive and focused was so important but we knew we had a powerful story behind the brand and a powerful partnership and friendship to hold on to. We have a scientifically proven product which we were so proud of and so it was emotional to hear how much the Dragons appreciated the story, the science and the product.

"Hearing the words 'you two are very credible and diligent and investable' from Peter Jones did bring a tear to our eyes."

And it was definitely worth it to get the extra finance, which they say will allow them to invest in product development as well as raise their profile and grow their business.

The episode was filmed in April, but only aired in August. It meant the women had to keep their success a secret from friends and family, which they admit, was tough.

"There were 40 of us at Gillian's house to watch it going out," says Katy. "We had champagne, so people probably guessed the outcome was OK."

They were grilled for 90 minutes, but only eight minutes made it on to the TV screens.

"We didn't see the edited version beforehand so we had no idea what they were going to show," says Gillian.

It was a relief, they said, that they came across well because going on the show is a big gamble.

Luckily for them it was a gamble that paid off.

The duo hope the increased publicity will not only lead to more sales, but allow them to spread the word about a cause close to their hearts: sun care.

"We've had a big peak in sales – up 20 per cent – and been on Look North, which has given us a Yorkshire peak too," says Gillian.

Tancream is available online ( and at Browns, York, priced £44.95 for 100ml.