Deborah Meaden Interview star of BBC’s Dragons’ Den breathes fire and soul
Deborah Meaden is one of the leading authorities on business with a vast knowledge of the world of commerce. She has had a staggering career and become well known for her “no-nonsense” approach as one of the Dragons on the extremely popular BBC2 Dragons’ Den.
Her background is a success story; hardworking and dedicated with a furious high octane drive. She started her first business at 19 and several businesses later completed a management buy-out of her family business which she later sold for £80million. She has her feet firmly on the ground and although her TV persona can be somewhat fierce, even intimidating, I discover the “pussycat” side of her in the magical setting of the south of France.
Deborah, tell us a little about your childhood and family and what was the driving force behind who you are today.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. In the early days it was just me & my sister, and our mother who had to work to feed us so, although I obviously didn’t know it at the time; I was learning that you have to get on and make your own life – no point complaining about life not being fair, it isn’t! I think taking responsibility and owning your circumstances is a great confidence builder and my mother was a role model in doing that.
How did Dragons’ Den become part of your life? What are the most memorable highlights?
There was a lot of press coverage following the sale of Weststar Holidays which I guess is how I came to the attention of the BBC who was in the process of casting the new season of Dragons. I simply had a call out of the blue asking if I would consider it. My initial response was to say no as I was definitely concerned about stepping into the world of TV, but they persisted and a screen test later I thought “ I will really enjoy this” – so I accepted my chair in the Den. That was 10 years ago!
It is hard to single out memorable moments as there are many of them but it is the moment an engaging, knowledgeable and credible entrepreneur comes into the Den with a great product – it makes my fingers tingle!
Have there been participants’ success stories that have made you proud?
My investments give me many reasons to be proud of them, mainly because they are all people who have come up with a plan and then actually done something about it! They are, of course, all at different stages and success looks very different for all the different businesses. There are those that have hit the headlines such as Gripit, the world’s strongest plasterboard fixing, which is now in 32 countries across the world; but there are quieter successes such as Billy and Margot nutritious Pet foods and Valuemystuff Online Antique Valuations which was recently sold to the largest Antiques online auction House in the World…and many more.
You have the most extraordinary eclectic investment portfolio – is there one that is particularly close to you and why?
I would say that I very much love the one I’m with! By that I mean when I am working on a particular business, that is the only business that exists for me at that moment. I think that has been one of the secrets behind my success as an investor, total focus on the investment in hand when it is needed but not feeling the need to be constantly interactive without purpose.
How would you advise a budding entrepreneur?
There is a lot of talk about passion and it can be a wonderful driving force, but only once you have taken a long hard critical look at your potential business idea. Do all the thinking, planning and research and THEN, if you still really believe the business is going to work…go for it and don’t let anybody distract or undermine you.
It has to be the hottest topic in 2016. What do you see on the horizon for Britain’s “BREXIT”?
I don’t think anybody knows what is going to happen in the course of our separation from the EU and that in itself will cause turbulence in the economy. My worry is that there will be a lot of disappointed people who think Brexit is the answer but who then realize actually it only raises more questions. A disappointed nation is not a pretty thing.
Many years ago I attended the Dogs Trust charity event hosted by you. Tell me about the charities that you are passionate about and how you pro-actively support them?
There is so much to do and so little time so I have a strict Charity Plan to ensure that I am actually effective, not just running around making very little difference. Apart from financial support, I can help with planning, profile, and contacts but I never engage with a Charity unless I have actually seen the work it does first hand and, more importantly, witnessed the difference it makes.
So over to your “Tips du jour” on luxury lifestyles:
Your favorite decadent luxury treat
Getting up in the morning and thinking…what shall I do today?
Your ‘must-have’ garment?
A large scarf; I have a huge selection and I generally always carry one, they are a great way to change a look if I am asked to do a last-minute interview or talk.
Your ‘must-have’ travel item?
Laura Mercier lip-gloss… a great face brightener when stepping off a plane. They also help tight lips feel plump and moisturized.
Your perfume of choice
Perfumes rarely smell good on me; it must be something to do with the chemistry of my skin: so I rely on perfumed body creams such as Ren Neroli and Grapefruit.
Top of your ‘bucket list’
Big Bears. We have done a lot of travel in Africa, South America, and India but have never seen the Big Bears of Alaska.
Your sin(s) of choice
Yee Kwan Chocolate, Miso Ice Cream, Spoon Cereals apple, and peanut granola, marmite.
Finally, your words of wisdom from the heart on a view on life.
Live the life you want not what others want for you. You have yours and they have theirs… spend it wisely.
Deborah proudly is a supporter of the charities:
Medical Detection dogs
World Animal Protection
To know more about this wonderful person, please visit: BBC Dragon