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Hilary Devey: Becoming a Dragon

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Hilary Devey Hilary Devey | 12:04 UK time, Friday, 29 July 2011

Being told that I was going to be a Dragon on Dragons' Den was one of the highlights of my life, as I had been a fan of the show for many years.

In the late 1990s, I founded Pall-Ex, a distribution network that revolutionised the process of transporting goods across the UK and Europe, making the movement of smaller consignments of palletised freight quicker and more cost-effective.

The success of my business, and perhaps the incongruity of being a woman CEO in a traditionally male sector, led to my being asked to speak at various charity events and business functions.

Dragons in their den

The Dragons: Duncan Bannatyne, Hilary Devey, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones

Though nervous at first, I discovered that I had a flair for, and enjoyed, communicating my beliefs about business, encouraging others to achieve.

I realised that people were genuinely interested in hearing about the often difficult professional and personal events that I had encountered on the way to the top.

It was this, I suppose, that led to the call from the BBC.

Though it is an entertaining programme, and, let's face it, some good business ideas do slip through the net because the entrepreneurs fudge their pitches or the sums just don't add up, Dragons' Den does get people thinking about self-reliance, sacrifice and having the guts to develop a business idea and then be brave enough to hold it up for scrutiny - for better or for worse!

It's hard to pick any specific pitch from a previous series as being my favourite, but the ones that are the most memorable are those where the would-be entrepreneurs have the personality to match their product - Levi Roots, of course, being the best example.

Gone are the days, particularly in retail, where a founder or CEO can get away with being anonymous and hide behind a desk.

The general public wants to buy into the passion of the creator as much as they want to believe in the physical product.

I like to think that if the younger me had stood there in the Den in front of these intimidating business people, I would have held my nerve, done my homework, and certainly I could have done with the support when I was starting out.

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A trailer for the new series of Dragons' Den

I didn't really know the other Dragons too well before filming, but they were all really encouraging to me as the new girl.

I admire Deborah Meaden a great deal, and I don't think that the fact that we were the women in the Den meant that we behaved so differently to the men when it came to making investments.

After all, I did not succeed in business because I was a woman. I succeeded because I was determined and tenacious.

If anything informed my decisions when it came to investing, it was experience gained within my own business.

We have been involved with the nationwide transport of just about every type of freight under the sun, and so I have insight into a number of different sectors.

I shouldn't give anything away about which investments were made on the show, but I can say that I went for some companies which surprised even myself, so it is going to be fun to develop them.

It's an intense atmosphere in the Den, and a lot of entrepreneurs do suffer from nerves, but I like to think that I was one of the more tolerant and patient Dragons when it came to encouraging people to get to the end of their pitches.

However, I had a lack of sympathy for those who stood before me with dodgy figures or ludicrously over-inflated valuations of their own businesses.

You only get one shot in the Den, and however charming you might be, get your sums wrong at your peril.

Hilary Devey is a Dragon on Dragons' Den.

Dragons' Den is on BBC Two and BBC HD on Sunday, 31 July at 9pm.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

You can press red after the show to get the inside story on the investments made in the Den.

See the BBC News profile on Hilary Devey to find out more about the new Dragon.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    Where did this new Dragon come from the 80s with her padded shoulders, power dressing went out with the brick mobile phone lol

  • Comment number 2.

    @Tony #1 - couldnt agree more! All well and good saying CEOs shouldnt hide behind a desk, but what about hiding behind a big suit?

  • Comment number 3.

    Hilary fantastic entrance you really show that it is possible to make it if you really want it! An isparation to us all

  • Comment number 4.

    Well done Hilary, I had enjoyed watching you as the Business Inspector, and thoroughly enjoyed watching you as a Dragon today. You definitely offer something unique, unfortunately, star power rather than common sense had prevailed in today's deals.

    I don't know what type of blog this is, but I will be starting my own business soon, do you have any advice for new star-up businesses?

  • Comment number 5.

    Good start Hilary. Loved it when you got arsey and told the arrogant chap off. He deserved it for waffling and not knowing the facts.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think Hillary is fabulous. Eccentric, determined and admirable.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hilary, just watched the show and thought you came across very well. No nonsense, firm but fair and very likeable, with supportive, encouraging comments. My only concern is that the shoulder pads can detract from what you offer and what people may only think of when they watch the show... Great first show tho X

  • Comment number 8.

    Another inspiration to an already inspiring team (shame our politicians don't
    inspire like this)

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank goodness for Hillary!! New blood, common sense.. and a babe to boot!! Mainsrtream TV at last... Could you go for PM next maybe..?? Cannot wait for next week's show... Dragons Den now gets all my Jelly Babies for 5% equity!!! (Hilary only, of course!) x. :-)

  • Comment number 11.

    great to see fresh life experience and imput to shake up the old dragons this woman's not for turning

  • Comment number 12.

    Interesting watching the show last night how the Dragons were falling over each other to invest in a photovoltaic solar panel company. The success of this business is largely dependant on the Govt feed-in tarrif - I am not sure taht I would place that level of trust in politicians who could change policy at the stroke of a pen.
    I steered clear of becoming a registered Home Inspector for the Home Information Pack and rightly so as I predicted - I cold have lost £10,000 paying for useless training and accreditation. The Labour govt backtracked and the Tories scrapped it thank heavens.
    As I recall Peter Jones decided not to offer. Did Duncan Bannatyne have second thoughts when he withdrew his offer??.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Mrunemployed (#4),

    Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. Just to let you know, in answer to your question about advice for small businesses, there are several resources for people in your position at the Dragons' Den site, including an online resource for new businesses, although this hasn't been updated recently.

    BBC News also have advice on how to write a business plan and news and features on running a business.


    Assistant Content Producer, BBC TV blog

  • Comment number 14.

    I think that Hilary is a great Dragon, she has individual style and she is a very clever lady with knowledge in software which is unusual in the Den. I like her ability to get a good grip on the products and unravel the facts from the presentations, I give Hilary 10 ot of 10, great well done Hilary and you have me as a regular now.

    Andy, Electronic Product Designer.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hilary was firm but fair.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hilary is a breath of freash air to the dragons, will done. So I hope she reads this as it will make her more richer than Bill gates, as I have found it impossable to tell the other entrepreneurs that my invention of the game Treasure Hunt will be the next big thing to hit the market place and make its investors trillions of £$ dollars around the globe, Heres hoping and praying someone tells her or even one of the other dragons, 1% will go to the person that brings this to her attention, and that could be billions. LOL Be brave. go to treasur hunt and see for yourself [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 19.

    I think the new Dragon Hilary is fabulous. She comes across as a genuinely kind and honest person. She is sharp and not afraid to speak her mind or have her own opinions. A breath of fresh air to the Den. The show keeps getting better.

  • Comment number 20.

    I was outraged by Evan Davis' closing remark, to the effect that "we now know that Hilary has a mind of her own and won't just follow others". Does he really imagine she could have got where she is by NOT having a mind of her own, or following the flock like a sheep? How dare he! How insultingly patronising!

  • Comment number 21.

    Just wanted to say a quick thanks for your comments. It's been a busy few weeks for me, and I don't think I had anticipated just how much interest there would be in me, my investment choices...and my fashion style!

    Miss-Conduct, Expat in Holland, Drew Passion, mrunemployed - thank you for the kind words. Keep watching!

    tony, blade77 - lots of people seem preoccupied by my shoulder pads...

  • Comment number 22.

    My ears pricked up at the mention of a product to improve caravanners' comfort. I too suffer from a bad back from the cushions and had actually thought about buying some memory foam to use to alleviate this problem. Having seen the presentation from Duvalay, I thought I would investigate, with a view to purchasing. However, the first two hits on Google brought up instructions for making your own version - much more cheaply! These sites were in existence before the pitch on the programme, so did not seem to have copied quickly.
    I too felt sorry for the applicants, but with hindsight, felt that they were not as prepared as they should have been. I applauded you when you gave them the money, but I must say now that I hope it wasn't a mistake.
    I'm afraid I shall be sticking to my original plan and popping down to Netto to buy some memory foam. Good luck - hope everything goes well with this investment. It seems to be relying on people who haven't the time or the skills to sort themselves out and who have more money than sense would be my honest appraisal.
    You make a welcome addition to the team, Hilary.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    As a born and bred Northern lass from the great industrial town of Bolton, what would anyone else expect from Hilary Devey? As a Boltonian myself, and still living there, Hilary is a great Dragon, very down to earth and what you see is very clearly what you are going to get.

    Those guys in the Den are there because they are shrewd, switched on to their game and let us all face it, when you are dealing in handing over your own very hard earned wonga you have to be cruel to be kind.

    Long may she stay in 'The Den'.

  • Comment number 25.

    The dragons are shrewd. The contestants are shrewd. It would be a shame if we were to judge anyone on their appearance - we should merely judge them on the decisions they make

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    I have never watched this program nor am i likely to. As along with most of the BBC programs theses days it is nothing short of mindless drivel . As i was looking at the comments on here quite a few have been removed. If you don't want people to have an opinion on this or any other subject what is the point in having this comment page.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hilary is the best thing to happen to DD. I think she has a wicked sense of humour and is fab. Go team Hilary

  • Comment number 30.

    Quote: jonnyboy
    I have never watched this program nor am i likely to. As along with most of the BBC programs theses days it is nothing short of mindless drivel . As i was looking at the comments on here quite a few have been removed. If you don't want people to have an opinion on this or any other subject what is the point in having this comment page.
    jonnyboy, if you have never watched it how would you have ANY idea whatsoever that it is mindless drivel?

    The programme is far more than what you see. It's about learning and understanding how these investors work and think and how the contestants work and think also. Your comment just doesn't hold any weight, in fact it's totally contradictory. As for mindless drivel try a helping of Big Brother!

  • Comment number 31.

    Hilary Devey is a great dragon who isn't just interested in profits, but genuinely wants to know about the person behind the product and the journey. It's brilliant, refreshing and important that she brings in this human dimension to the Den as being an entrepreneur is such much to do with people engaging with each other. At the other end of the spectrum I feel Duncan Bannatyne is incredibly cold and harsh, although maybe this is the way the show is edited?

    Back to Hilary though, she's an excellent dragon, but (and there's always a but), she still scares me with the shoulder pads, fringe and 40-a-day voice.

  • Comment number 32.

    Dear Hilary,
    I do like you because you are more concerned others's feeling, other dragons and person infront of dragons. But maybe you could be more brave to join competitions with your professional. I do wish to see you and Duncan have more successes.

  • Comment number 33.

    I love the Dragons' Den so much that I applied to appear on the show twice, even though my invention was established and doing very well anyway. I know I would have wasted the Dragons' time, this is why I didn't go through to the audition stage - I explain this story in my blog, please copy & paste following link into your browser - http://www.creasestream.com/blog/how-i-could-have-ended-up-on-the-dragons-den-tv-show

  • Comment number 34.

    I really like this series, Hilary brings so much more to the show, including the somewhat scary shoulder pads! But you can really tell that she cares about the feelings of the people who come in to pitch, a genuinely kind and thoughtful person. Perhaps that's the reason why she has to wear the shoulder pads, because otherwise she would be too nice to let on the show! :)

  • Comment number 35.

    I think that Hilary has fitted in faster than previous Dragons and is doing great. No one can argue with her track record and you can see that the other Dragons take her seriously - and thus far none of them shake their heads or cut her up if they have different views
    Hilary, if you are reading this, I would love an opportunity to meet you - I have two companies that promote and sell my own products, one is globally successful and established, the other is just getting under way and I would truly value your feedback as we export many products/machines.
    I don't need financial support, I am not looking for money, just a chat. Hopefully you may find it interesting as we are a Leicestershire based concern and you wouldn't have to travel far for coffee and chat.

  • Comment number 36.

    I really liked the rehab swing and would like to find out more about it as well as make contact with Wendy Thompson. From my quick investigation I cannot find Wendy on the chartered society of physiotherapists. As you were interested in the rehab swing I hope you dont mind me approaching you.

    I thought your personal comment about your own medical condition was particularly valuable for those people who have experienced a cva and their families. Its important to see that people can achieve following a severe neurological insult. Thank you in ancticipation.

    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Allison [Part time post grad student School of Health Science University of Southampton]

  • Comment number 37.

    In regard to the comment no1, i always thuoght dress sense, was a choice we could make. And although it may be acceptable to comment, it should be done without the addition of abuse.


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