Inventor Stef Matheou was branded "mad" when he turned down an offer of financial backing from the millionaire panelists of TV's Dragon's Den.

And the taxi driver had to eat humble pie when he was sent to pick up a fare from the same London studio a year later.

Regulars Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones made a special trip outside to taunt him for rejecting an offer of £100,000 in cash.

But Mr Matheou, of Livingstone Road, Hove, is having the last laugh, as a major supermarket chain will be stocking his invention nationwide from next month.

The RakaStaka - a shelving device to stop drinks bottles rolling around in the fridge costing £5 each - is going on sale with gift packs of Sol in 600 Tesco stores from June 1.

They are being sold as presents for Father's Day.

Mr Matheou believes the stores could sell about 1,000 packs a week if they are marketed well.

He said: "This is the first major retailer to get it.

"I'm keen to make people aware of it."

He believes his Dragon's Den experience helped raise his profile and eventually led to the deal he struck with Sol and Tesco.

Mr Matheou said: "Dragon's Den did a follow-up programme last September.

"I got much more interest than the first time I was on the telly."

Mr Matheou turned down an offer of £100,000 from Mr Paphitis, Red Letter Days entrepreneur Rachel Elnaugh and health club guru Duncan Bannatyne because they wanted too big a share in the company.

He described the moment when, while working in London last year, he realised he was on his way to the studio to pick up a fare.

He said: "The BBC was one of our customers.

"When I got there I thought: 'Oh no, it's Dragon's Den.' "I was there waiting for Richard Farley.

"One of the producers recognised me and told Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis.

"They were saying: 'You should have taken the money.' "My heart did sink."

Though he said their jibes were nothing more than friendly banter, he did find it "patronising".

Mr Matheou said: "It truly was a bizarre and comical meeting. There wasn't a lot I could say other than I was still confident of making it without them."

Now he believes his beer deal can be a springboard to make RakaStaka a household name.

He said: "RakaStaka sells well on my website, but this is a fantastic test for the product. I have no doubt that it will sell out ahead of time.

"Everyone needs RakaStaka, now they have the opportunity to get hold of them from their local supermarket."

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