A FORMER star from the BBC's Dragons' Den was in the region to help a North-East man that she had heavily invested in on the show.

Businesswoman Jenny Campbell, who was a 'dragon' on the BBC 2 programme between 2017 and 2019, invested a staggering £80,000 on Newcastle-based ProxiSmart in her final show.

Pitched as a means to reward shoppers with 'free or unlimited parking' for every pound they spend in stores, entrepreneur Chris Reed walked away with Ms Campbell's last ever chunk of investment, last year.

The Northern Echo: Chris Reed while on the BBC 2 show Picture: BBC Chris Reed while on the BBC 2 show Picture: BBC

But hoping to again sell the idea to retailers in Sunderland - where ParkingPerx is to be trialled before a national roll-out - Ms Campbell and Mr Reed met with businesses ahead of its Spring release.

At Sunderland College Bistro, Ms Campbell told The Northern Echo why she decided to invest in the Northumberland man's idea and spoke about her time on the show.

The Northern Echo: Chris Reed, left, with Jenny Campbell at the Sunderland launch Picture: JIM SCOTTChris Reed, left, with Jenny Campbell at the Sunderland launch Picture: JIM SCOTT

She said: "When Chris walked into the den, what I saw was initially, a very nervous man, but a man who was very experienced.

"He had built a business successfully before and learnt the pain of losing money, so to me that brought experience.

"He’s clearly got a very good understanding of technology and software, and this was his idea – I really believed in him and wanted to be part of it."

Ms Campbell, who stepped down from the show last year, had become known for her caution when handing over her hard-earned cash to fresh new businesses, but said she felt a "connection" with Mr Reed's business idea.

The Northern Echo: Jenny Campbell on Dragons' Den Picture: JIM SCOTTJenny Campbell on Dragons' Den Picture: JIM SCOTT

She said: “I am really confident about this. When he pitched on the den, I could see a connection with some of my old businesses – I’m a shopper and like to go into town and begrudge a little paying parking, so if I can come back and my parking is free, it would encourage me to shop more.

“Chris was my last investment on the den before I retired after two series, so he’s the special one, but I should say I save the best til last."

Before his staggering windfall of cash, in return for a 45 percent chunk controlled by Ms Campbell, Mr Reed had never planned to appear on the show.

He said: "At the time I was looking for investment and BBC got in touch. I was a fan of the programme, but wasn't sure – because it looks like the most brutal thing ever, you see people crash and burn on it.

“But I gave it some thought and decided to go ahead. It was one of the most brutal things in my life, got an absolute kicking by all the dragons but in a constructive way."

Despite being a "strange process" to achieve investment, Mr Reed said his appearance on Dragons' Den had drastically lifted the profile of his business.

He added: "The timing of it all was also pretty good, it was the last programme of the series, I was the last pitch on that programme, and it was Jenny’s last appearance, so everything aligned.

'I enjoyed filming Dragons' Den'

Ms Campbell said: "I enjoyed doing Dragons' Den, it was great but after two series it does take over your life.

"I'd invested in 12 business and five of them came to fruition, so it made me very busy and I’m very hands on with my businesses, so five was enough for me to manage and I thought it was time to step down."