Baby joy for Norfolk’s Dragons’ Den winner Ross Mendham following wife’s miscarriage misery

Ross and Kelly Mendham with baby Oliver. Photo: Bill Smith Ross and Kelly Mendham with baby Oliver. Photo: Bill Smith

Saturday, February 1, 2014
6:30 AM

It was a “rollercoaster” of an ordeal which saw a Norfolk entrepreneur and his wife suffer the heartbreak of three miscarriages in just two years.

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About Barenakedfoods

Ross Mendham first pitched for investment in his company, Barenakednoodles, in 2013 on the BBC show Dragons’ Den.

He successfully got a £60,000 investment from Peter Jones - the same dragon who invested in Levi Roots and his now hugely successful Reggae Reggae Sauce brand.

Now branded as Barenakedfoods, these low calorie, gluten-free noodles are made in China and already being sold by Holland & Barrett and GMC, as well as through the Barenakedfoods website.

In April the brand will be selling in Boots and Mr Mendham is working on developing ready meals.

The noodles are produced from the Asian-grown plant Konjac, which is low in carbohydrates, sugar and calories. The 100 gramme packs of the noodles are marketed as having under 16 calories.

But now the couple from Wymondham are able to cuddle their “miracle” baby boy in their arms - despite his mother being affected by a rare heart disorder.

Last year Ross Mendham had the highs and lows of his life laid bare to millions of people on TV show Dragons’ Den, when he pitched for investment in his food company.

The 30-year-old former City of Norwich School pupil broke down in tears in front of the BBC cameras when he revealed his wife Kelly, 33, had just had her third miscarriage.

The couple, who live at Blazey Drive, married at Norwich Cathedral on June 15, 2012. But two days after they returned from their honeymoon to Thailand Phuket they discovered Mrs Mendham had a blighted ovum - a condition where the fertilised egg implants the uterus but a baby does not develop.

Ross Mendham of Barenakedfoods on Dragons Den. Picture: BBCRoss Mendham of Barenakedfoods on Dragons Den. Picture: BBC

Three months later she became pregnant again, but in October 2012 - after nine weeks - the same thing happened.

Then on New Year’s Day last year they found out they were expecting again.

A specialist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital had put their misfortune down to “bad luck”, Mr Mendham explained.

“We thought New Year, new start,” he said. “But just four weeks before filming started for Dragons’ Den, we found out Kelly had her third miscarriage.

Ross Mendham of Barenakedfoods.Ross Mendham of Barenakedfoods.

“It was so fresh in my mind. I did not have time to grieve over it really. Kelly was suffering from post-natal depression but she still wanted me to on the show and pushed me to go for it.

“That’s why I broke down.”

Mr Mendham thought he had “blown it” when he froze under the intense questioning and stuttered over his answers. He abandoned his investment pitch and left the studio.

But encouraged to come back by the dragons he returned, resulting in Peter Jones offering him £60,000 for a 50pc share in his business , Barenaked Noodles, now called Barenakedfoods.

Click here to read more about his Dragons’ Den success

“It was weird breaking down in front of five millionaires and 30-odd cameramen but I could not stop. I managed to pull myself together though and thought that if I can go through what me and Kelly had then I could go through this.”

Following his success the couple made the decision the hold off trying for a child and instead bought an old English sheepdog Messi - named after the Argentine footballer.

But in last April Mrs Mendham discovered she was pregnant again. This time the couple agreed not to get their hopes up and to take it “stage by stage”.

“Everything went to plan and we got to full term. Then suddenly baby Oliver was here.”

Following an emergency caesarian, Oliver-Jude was born on January 7 at the N&N weighing 9lbs 12oz.

Mrs Mendham was discharged a week later but, in a twist to the tale, on January 14 she started experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath.

Mr Mendham rang 999 and she was taken to hospital were she was diagnosed with heart failure.

Doctors said she was suffering from post peripartum cardiomyopathy - a rare type of heart failure that occurs in one in every 10,000 pregnant women.

“Kelly was told she had the heart of an 80-year-old woman. If she had gone into active labour she would have probably gone into cardiac arrest.”

Now recovering at home with medication doctors are “optimistic” she will make a full recovery within months.

“Oliver is even more special now as we have been told we can’t have any more children for fear of her condition returning. For us he is this little miracle baby.”

Mrs Mendham added: “I never thought we would end up having a baby but everything worked out in the end. Now I just want to be a normal mum and help to raise awareness of this condition.”

The couple paid a heartfelt thank you to the staff at the N&N and their family and friends for their “support and kind words” during “an absolute rollercoaster”.

The son of former Norwich City player Peter Mendham, Mrs Mendham said: “He has been so supportive and will be a fantastic granddad.”

• Have you overcome adversity to see your dream come true? Call reporter Donna-Louise Bishop on 01603 693892, email donna-louise.bishop@archant.co.uk or follow on Twitter @donnaloubishop.

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