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Deborah Meaden – Small Business

‘Don’t expect anything from anybody, work hard, put your head down, be good at what you do and good stuff will happen…’

Bluff, no-nonsense advice from Deborah Meaden, who has occupied one of the chairs on Dragons’ Den for 15 years. Over the years, Meaden has invested over £3m in over 70 business ideas pitched on the show.

However, Meaden’s own business career wasn’t an instant hit. She started young. At just 19 she moved to Italy to launch her first business, exporting ceramics and glass to UK retailers, including Harvey Nichols. The company was a flop and she folded it after only 18 months — knowing when to fold your hand, she said later, is one of the most important lessons for any business owner.

>See also: Deborah Meaden: ‘The shortest pitch I’ve ever seen was 11 minutes. It was just wrong on all counts’

She then joined her own family’s business, Weststar Holidays, which ran holiday parks throughout the South West. Meaden started at the bottom, emptying slot machines in amusement arcades. However, she became managing director three years later, aged 32.

Meaden made her fortune after staging a management buyout of her family business after her mum and stepdad retired. Under her ownership, the company was providing holidays for more than 150,000 people each year with a turnover in excess of £11m. The company was sold off in chunks to private equity and, in 2007, her final stake of 23 per cent was bought by Alchemy Partners for a reported £19m.

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