With BBC’s 12-year old business show set to return to our screens on August 20, Business Advice takes a look at the backgrounds of the two new Dragons’ Den investors.
It’s about to start its 15th series and has seen hundreds of entrepreneurs originating from all manner of backgrounds, building businesses of all shapes and sizes, pitch for startup and growth capital.
However, one of the most interesting parts of each new series is the new Dragons’ Den investors who assume a seat at the table. This time round, incumbent business gurus Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Touker Sulyman are joined by two fresh faces – making them the 16th and 17th investors to join the show.
A real one-company story, Tej Lalvani joined vitamin business Vitabiotics as a forklift driver more than 20 years ago and worked his way up to become CEO. This journey was made slightly easier by his father being the company’s founder, but under Lalvani’s stewardship Vitabiotics has increased its turnover to more than £300m and dramatically increased the amount of countries it exports to.
Despite never having been on TV before, Lalvani is no stranger to the celebrity world – having employed the likes of model David Gandy as a brand ambassador for its Wellman products.
Not much is known about his business activities away from Vitabiotics – whether he’s invested in an angel capacity before – but Lalvani has picked up a host of business awards during his time.
Rumour has it that the new Dragons’ Den investor made more investments during filming for the new series than any of his other fellow backers. The record for investments in one series was Peter Jones during the 10th, when he backed ten different businesses.
Lalvani wasn’t actually originally signed up to join the BBC show, and was only added after Nick Jenkins’ replacement Steve Parish (chairman of Crystal Palace Football Club) pulled out after saying he couldn’t give it his undivided attention.
Check out our other Dragons’ Den content:
- Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham: My investments are like children to me
- Former Dragons’ Den investor Kelly Hoppen: “You to have that belief – that’s hard to teach”
- Dragons’ Den reject claims it can be the next Tangle Teezer
As an entrepreneur at the helm of a much smaller company than Lalvani, Jenny Campbell has had a similarly impressive career.
After leaving a job as a senior manager at Royal Bank of Scotland in 2006, she launched a restructure of Hanco ATM Systems and led it to profitability. Despite being asked to lead the sale of the company, she instead closed a buyout (remortgaging her home to do so) and grew it further before ultimately selling the rebranded YourCash Europe in 2016 for £50m.
Leaving school at 16 has not held Campbell back from achieving her business dreams, with awards such as Vitalise Business Woman of the Year showing how respected she is.
Campbell is also an ambassador for the employment charity Tomorrow’s People – helping young people achieve long-term employment.
And the ones that remain…
As the only original investor on Dragons’ Den, Peter Jones has backed 64 companies in his 14 series appearances (it is not known how many of those deals ultimately completed).
The holiday park entrepreneur has notched up 12 series appearances, during which she’s added an impressive 63 businesses (again, it is not known how many of these completed) to her portfolio, and remains one of the most outspoken of Dragons’ Den investors,
The 15th series will be Touker Suleyman’s third, and the garment business owner will be hoping to add to the seven businesses he’s invested in so far.
Every investor to appear on Dragons’ Den – in order of first appearance:
- Peter Jones
- Rachel Elnaugh
- Simon Woodroffe
- Doug Richard
- Duncan Bannatyne
- Theo Paphitis
- Deborah Meaden
- Richard Farleigh
- James Caan
- Hilary Devey
- Piers Linney
- Kelly Hoppen
- Touker Suleyman
- Sarah Willingham
- Nick Jenkins
- Jenny Campbell
- Tej Lalvani
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