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Theo Paphitis

Theo Paphitis

Theo Paphitis is one of the UK's most high profile businessmen. His empire spans retail, property, finance and consumer goods.

Born in Cyprus, his family came to Britain in the 1960s. Theo first showed his business skills at the tender age of 15 when he was put in charge of his school tuck shop and achieved notable success with the venture.

His formal working career started as a junior clerk (assistant to the tea boy) with a Lloyd's of London broker, before he moved into retail at the age of 18.

He then moved into property and corporate finance, setting up his own company at just 23 years of age.

Theo was Chairman of Millwall FC for eight years, taking the club out of administration and into the Championship, then to the FA Cup final for the first time in their history.

He has also revived the fortunes of notable retail brands such as Ryman, La Senza Lingerie (UK), Contessa Lingerie, Partners the Stationers and Stationery Box. He sold his interest in La Senza and Contessa in 2006 and now retains a minority shareholding. In 2008, he combined the stationery businesses to launch a new chain, Ryman Stationery, where he is now Chairman.

At the end of 2008, Theo was one of several interested parties in the bidding for failed retail chain Woolworths. He later pulled out because of unrealistic numbers quoted by the administrator.

In Spring 2011 Theo launched a new venture called Boux Avenue, which specializes in ladies lingerie.

Through his appearances on Dragons' Den, Theo has advised many young entrepreneurs and invested in several innovative businesses and brands. The Paphitis Charitable Trust distributes all of his fees from TV appearances, speeches and his book to causes close to his heart and charities associated with children.

In early 2009 Theo was appointed patron for Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, which is committed to driving up skills levels in the industry. His special areas of responsibility are as the Retail Apprentices' Champion and for the new National Skills Academy for Retail.

In summer 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Middlesex.

Theo lives in Surrey with his wife Debbie. They have five children and three grandchildren.

Q&A

Name: Theo Paphitis.

Born: September 1959.

Family: Wife Debbie, five children and three grandchildren.

Describe yourself: Competitive, impatient, compassionate.

Estimated wealth: In the hundreds of millions.

Most outrageous purchase: My boat.

One thing I always spend extra on: I don't. If there's extra, I put it away.

The one thing I look for in employees: Passion and belief.

Best job I've had: Doing what I do now.

Worst job I've had: My first - making the tea at a Lloyds of London broker's firm

Dream job: I've got it with Ryman and Boux Avenue.

Favourite book: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Favourite holiday destination: Cyprus and Spain.

Favourite sport, team and player: Football and Millwall.

Favourite pitch: WedgeWelly.

Best investment: Magic Whiteboard.

The one that got away: There's no such thing.

I'd never invest in: Anything immoral or something that exploits others.

Best advice you've been given: Cash is king (from my mother).

People you admire: Churchill, Napoleon, Delia Smith and too many others to mention.

Your motto would be: I take nothing for granted. I now only have good days, or great days. Courtesy of Lance Armstrong.

Theo's business advice

For impressing in an interview / pitch

Dress smartly (a tie is not always necessary).

Research the subject or business as much as possible - do your homework!

Answer questions with honesty and precision.

For running your own business

Work in a subject area that you love.

Understand the detail - if you are a start-up there are many sites like smarta.com that are full of useful tips and advice.

Write down your business plan.

For surviving the recession

Work sharper and smarter in small, tight teams.

Watch your overheads.

Don't forget to invest in people - keep training.

For winning investment

Have a business plan.

Demonstrate your achievements to date, ideally financial ones.

Get testimonials and support from respected third parties.

For making millions

Look for business opportunities with scale, as there must be potential to grow.

Make your first £100,000, knowing the rest will be far easier.

Always keep your feet on the ground.

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