Destined to be a successful entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden launched her first business straight out of college, before setting up one of the first ‘Stefanel’ fashion franchises in the UK.
Deborah went on to become Managing Director of Westar Holidays, overseeing its expansion from one to five holiday parks and leading a management buyout. Deborah retained a 23% share of Westar Holidays when it was sold to Phoenix Equity Partners in 2005, before its eventual sale for £83 million in August 2007.
In 2006 Deborah joined series 3 of BBC2’s ‘Dragons Den’ and has invested more than 2 million in businesses ranging from market research to online antiques valuations and life saving equipment for hospitals.
Deborah has judged the Observer Ethical Awards since 2008 and is an Ambassador for the WWF, Lend with Care, Hoof, The Roundhouse, fellow with the RSA and Patron for Tusk Trust.
In 2009 Deborah acquired Fox Brothers, a historic textile firm based in the South West which was on the verge of closure and in 2011 ‘The Merchant Fox’ was launched, an on line venture selling an exquisite collection of British-made goods with provenance.
Born: February 1959
Family: Husband Paul, and 3 sisters - Gail, Emma and Cass.
Total amount invested in den: £2,010,000
Prized possession: Independence
Greatest inspiration: Many and varied people I meet in everyday life
Ideal holiday: Remote, active and involving Wildlife.
Way to relax: Horse riding, walking
Best advice you've been given: Remember what is important to your Customers
How do you ensure that you stay on top in business?
Paying attention to what is going on around as well as inside a Business is important and I do that by talking, reading, observing and doing.
What unique attributes does it take to be a dragon?
Good judgment, knowing what questions to ask and ability to make a decision under pressure.
Will you be looking for something different in the den this year?
I am always looking for something new, something different.
What do you hope for when an entrepreneur walks into the den?
The tingle at the end of my fingers that tells me to pay attention, we may have something here.
What has been your most satisfying den investment to date?
The one I am working with at the time.
What moment in your business career stands out the most?
I can’t answer that… things that seemed really big and important at the time fade as you step forward.
What is the secret of being a successful entrepreneur?
There is no secret… work hard, be good, judge well, commit hard and enjoy.