Pitches To Riches: The Rise Of TV’s Dragons
Entrepreneurs have been lining up to face a panel of investors on the hit BBC show Dragons’ Den for almost 15 years. The format consists of entrepreneurs presenting their business ideas in three minutes to already established multi-millionaires (the Dragons). Once the pitch is over, the Dragons are given the opportunity to determine whether or not the ideas are viable – and whether to put their money or time behind them.
The Dragons have provided inspiration for countless budding billionaires, and they demonstrate the rigorous investment process involved in becoming a business owner. What perhaps makes them so influential is their humble beginnings. Likewise, for a franchise business owner, simply purchasing your first territory can be the start of a specialist cleaning and restoration empire!
In this article, we discuss the paths that some of the key Dragons took to get to where they are today – and how you could easily follow suit.
Leaving school with no qualifications and a dishonourable discharge from the Navy doesn’t sound like your typical multi-millionaire’s background, yet Bannatyne is reportedly the wealthiest of BBC’s roster.
An original member of the Dragons, since retired after 12 seasons, the Scotsman was born just west of Glasgow. After floating around in his twenties doing various mechanical work, Bannatyne settled in Stockton-on-Tees and purchased a £450 ice cream van. He slowly began to build business by purchasing a fleet of vans during a period of controversy for the trade.
Once he’d amassed a small empire, he sold it for £28,000 and purchased Quality Care Homes. This was subsequently sold for £26m in 1997 along with the Just Learning nursery chain for £12m. His ability to expand operations in the same format as a franchise business led to the establishment of his health clubs – which have ultimately made him a household name.
Leading pony rides along Minehead seafront was the precursor role to Meaden’s ultimate success. After studying business at Brighton Technical College and moving to Italy aged 19 to set up a glass and ceramics export agency, Meaden moved on to purchase one of the first Stefanel textile business franchises in the UK, selling later for £10,000.
She then went on to lead a string of successful investments in leisure and retail, joining both her family business and Weststar Holidays by 1992. Seven years later, she had led a management buyout and acquired the majority shareholding. The business, by the time she had exited, valued her stake at £19m.
Coming full circle in 2009, Meaden acquired Fox Brothers, a textile mill in Somerset. She returned to her roots in a partnership with Douglas Cordeaux – experiencing the same success she had with the Stefanel franchise.
Unlike the two Dragons above, Jones had a more established start. Growing up in Maidenhead, he set up his first business at the age of 16 in 1982, where he built personal computers under his own brand. During its success, he opened a cocktail bar which then collapsed after selling his business to IBM – losing £200,000.
When speaking of this period, Jones explains that he lost everything including his home and cars. He needed to live with his parents until he acquired Siemens Nixdorf – a move which reinvigorated him as he set up Phones International Group in 1998.
His progression as an entrepreneur was less focused on expansion and more so on acquisition. In 2005, Jones and Theo Paphitis (a fellow Dragon) bought gift experience company Red Letter Days from another Dragon, Rachel Elnaugh – further solidifying Jones’ existence on the show and demonstrating his ability as an investor.
Is it time to start your own story?
Most franchises don’t require outstanding qualifications – or, in Rainbow’s case, none at all. Clear business acumen and a desire to be successful is enough to perform well in a franchise setting, as both Bannatyne and Meaden prove.