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Duncan Bannatyne – Small Business

‘Everyone should pull their finger out and start a business and to believe in themselves. There is nothing else to it. Anyone can make a £100m. But most people don’t go out and try. They just stand in the pub and complain’

Like Simon Cowell on The X Factor, Duncan Bannatyne was the original tough cookie on Dragons’ Den, incinerating hopefuls’ pitches with his dragon breath.

And Duncan Bannatyne has been just as much a hard nut in life, having spent time both in military prison for assaulting an officer and also being jailed in Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie Prison.

Bannatyne comes from the school of hard knocks; having been told by his mother she couldn’t afford to buy him a bicycle, he asked local newsagents if he could start a paper round, only to be told he would need a bring a list of 100 customers. He painstakingly knocked on doors and eventually went back to the newsagent with his customer list. “I got the job, bought the bike and never looked back,” he wrote.

>See also: Rachel Elnaugh: ‘I’m moving out of that old capitalist business paradigm’

Eventually, Bannatyne moved to the North East where he bought a second-hand ice-cream van for £450; soon he expanded by buying more vans and eventually sold the business for £28,000, founding a care home business instead. Quality Care Homes was sold for £26 million in 1996 and another business, children’s nursery chain Just Learning, for £22 million. His current net worth as of 2021 is estimated at £462 million.

Best known for his Bannatyne chain of gyms and hotels, he revealed in April that he had turned down a £250m offer for his business, surprisingly at the height of the pandemic when everything was in lockdown.

Then again, maybe is not such the hard man as his TV image would have us believe; in 2004 he was made an OBE for his services to charity and he supports many good causes, especially for children. He is also heavily involved with Comic Relief and UNICEF, as well as being a passionate anti-smoking campaigner.

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