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Deborah Meaden

Deborah Meaden

From a very early age Deborah Meaden knew she wanted her own business.

Having left school after O-levels, Deborah studied at business college. Following graduation she worked as a sales room model in a fashion house before moving to Italy.

At the age of 19, with very little capital she launched her own glass and ceramics import company supplying upmarket stores like Harvey Nichols. Her next business venture was starting up one of the first Stefanels franchises in the country, but she soon became dissatisfied with the franchise model and sold her share to her business partner.

Several successful businesses in the leisure and retail sector later, she joined her family's business.

Starting out on the shop floor, Deborah eventually became Managing Director of Weststar Holidays. In 1999 she went on to acquire the major shareholding in a management buyout, later selling the company in a deal worth £33m whilst retaining a 23% stake.

Deborah still retained an active role at Weststar, but began to devote more time to finding good investment opportunities, including those she found on Dragons' Den, which she joined in 2006 at the start of Series 3.

In August 2007, she sold her remaining stake when Weststar Holidays was sold for £83m. She is now a full time investor with a portfolio which ranges from fashion to software, waste management to market research.

Deborah supports a number of charities and is chair of the Childline 'Child's Voice Appeal South West'. She is also involved with environmental charities and initiatives and has recently accepted a role as an Ambassador for the WWF.

Deborah lives in Somerset with husband Paul and a variety of pets.

Q&A

Name: Deborah Meaden.

Born: February 1959.

Family: Husband Paul, and 3 sisters - Gail, Emma and Cass.

Pets: 1 cat, 3 dogs, 4 horses, 10 chickens, 6 Indian runner ducks.

Describe yourself: Competitive, loyal, frank, driven, independent, private.

Estimated wealth: Undisclosed.

The one thing I look for in employees: Caring about what they do.

Best job I've had: All have had their moments.

Worst job I've had: All have had their moments!

Favourite film/play: The Shawshank Redemption (film), War Horse (theatre).

Favourite holiday destination: Central/South America, although a recent trip to Ningaloo Reef to swim with Whale Sharks runs a very close second.

Favourite sport, team and player: Rugby union. Favourite team is Bath, I guess, but I like a good game.

Favourite pitch: Layline duvet covers... although that was Peter and Theo spooning not the actual entrepreneurs! John Jackson's rotary washing line... what a lovely man, just not a great product. But we all loved him for doing it!

Best investment: I can't answer that... it's like asking who is my favourite child!

The one that got away: Tangle Teeze.

Things that interest me: Anything that satisfies a clearly unfulfilled need.

I'd never invest in: An entrepreneur I did not trust.

Best advice you've been given: Know what is important and spend your time on that.

Deborah's business advice

For impressing in an interview / pitch

Be clear, concise and honest. Address the most important business issues upfront. Do not waffle, do not make things up. Your pitch or interview doesn't have to be perfect, just credible.

Doing your homework on the person you are presenting to, and explaining why you/your business is the perfect fit, will also impress.

For running your own business

Know what is important to your business and where and how the profit is generated, and spend your time on that.

For surviving the recession

Think about how your customer is feeling and behaving in the current climate and flex your model to make sure it is relevant and appealing.

For winning investment

Choose your target investor wisely, tell them why they should invest and what returns they will achieve in a clear, concise, and credible way.

Explain what you require from them and what you will offer in return. Simple, but not easy!

For making millions

Being a millionaire is not a career. It is something that happens because you do something of value that enough people want to pay for.

For you to become a millionaire you simply need to provide a product or service to a large enough market, at a viable price - that's it!

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