« Desert Island Discs

Deborah Meaden, businesswoman

2021-10-17 | 🔗
Deborah Meaden is a businesswoman and entrepreneur. She’s been one of the investment ‘Dragons’ in the BBC TV series since 2006. Destined to be a successful entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden launched her first business straight out of college at nineteen years old, importing artisan Italian glass and ceramic homeware goods to the UK. After running various franchise businesses, she joined her family company, Weststar Holidays and eventually became Managing Director. A few years later, when her parents wanted to retire, she bought them out of the business and later sold the company making her a multi-millionaire. Deborah is now a full time investor with a wide ranging portfolio. For the last fifteen years, she has been one of the investment Dragons on BBC TV’s Dragon’s Den. Even though she has many millions in the bank, she has no plans to step back from business. “Why would I stop doing something that I love?” She lives in Somerset with her husband, Paul. DISC ONE: Ride a White Swan by T. Rex DISC TWO: The Bottle by Gil Scott-Heron / Brian Jackson DISC THREE: Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye DISC FOUR: Don't Push It Don't Force It by Leon Haywood DISC FIVE: Money's Too Tight To Mention by The Valentine Brothers DISC SIX: El Condor Pasa by Simon And Garfunkel DISC SEVEN: Suite: The Planets – Jupiter composed by Gustav Holst, performed by BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent DISC EIGHT: Be Thankful For What You've Got by William De Vaughn BOOK CHOICE: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor LUXURY ITEM: A sketch book and pencil CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Be Thankful For What You've Got by William De Vaughn Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music radio broadcasts hallo, I'm event, and this is the desert island discs. Podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them. If they were cast away to a desert island for rights reasons. The music is shorter than the original board. asked, I hope you enjoy listening. I the my castaway this week Is the entrepreneur Deborah meaden for fifteen years she's been making deals and occasionally dashing dreams in the bb BBC's dragon's den, her own entrepreneurial fire sparked at a young age? By the time she was seven,
she was selling flowers from a stool at the end of her families driveway her first official business took off while she still in her teens. She was living in italy and launched a homework company. Selling glassware and ceramics too high and stores back in the uk. After that she worked in fashion, and in the holiday industry joining her families, business arcade concessions in holiday parks. In those years she does with that she was a natural bingo, cooler and unnatural, calling the shots, she started out on the shop floor and worked away up before buying her parents out she built the business up eventually selling her remaining stake as part of a deal with eighty three million pounds. She says I never thought I'd be Melina people. Ask me what my rest, he d success and I have to be honest with them and say I dont know, Deborah maiden welcome to desert island discs. Hello, Lauren, thank you for having me suit. Every can give us the recipe for success by addressing
was a clue by the ingredients that it might require. What have you got out going for you to begin with? I look, shipowners and I and other all different shapes and sizes and an all different personalities, but I think the thing that see running through ah confidence, probably a little bit too much, sometimes good judgment call it a good nose for it. You know and as we ve all got a heads up only looking for opportunity and we want to take a risk, not crazy risks, but we're happy to take a risk. The things that I see it? In most successful entrepreneurs, you receive investor in many different businesses and you ve been on drug instead for fifteen years now, when you decided whether to invest in an idea. What's in the laid your head or your heart. Definitely my head is in the league when it comes to investments. My heart is a to make lots of decisions, but when it comes to not just my financial investment, but also the people are pitching, you know it's important that I helped the businesses
that. I think I've got the best chance of survival and the best chance of changing their own lives. So my head gets ninety nine percent of its own way. But when I get to the end of that, I call it a line of switching. I click on this, which is done at the yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes and I get to the last which nothing. Now. How do I feel about this and if it doesn't feel right, I won't invest that very interesting to You say that, because the range of companies in your portfolio include some very interesting things: whiskey ice cream fashion, a dj system I mean sounds like the best night. However, how focused are you on your specific interests and expertise? I am very lucky so, having been in dragon's den for fifteen years, I've been exposed to an awful lot of industries, but actually before that, when I was in holiday parks, if you think about a holiday park at bars and catering, it had restaurants and clubs and swimming pools and
commendation, sewage treatment plants. You know what I'm remember when I first went to dragons dan thinking how Do I know about any change systems you know, but of course I did because I knew about that from the holiday parks, so I feel really lucky to have been exposed to an awful lot of information, but my thing is: all I need to know is enough to know what I don't know. I don't need to know everything I can find the expert. I always look for the experts, in the room. I need to know what I don't know and once I feel like I will know what I don't know, then I can invest Deborah whereby tee
As desk I mean anyone who saw your charger on strictly back in twenty. Thirty will know that you can share me with the best of them. Do you plan to dance on your island the day I can't dance? I might as well give up absolutely I intended ants on the island, so he kept going after strictly I did my husband. Did the most lovely thing during strictly new took up dancing lessons because he could see how much I was loving it and he thought well when it's over for her it's over. Since I came out a strictly, we keep up with those, and we actually went I have two buena salaries to learn, hodge and time tango from the Arjun times so gosh. How was that yeah at and it was absolutely amazing- it's very different to the show tangos. We tried to dance minimum two hours a week, but we tried to get in sometimes for hours a week fantastic. Well, I think we better slip out dancing shoes on then Deborah of what your first choice today, my first it was a music is kind of the first piece of music that I really started to boogie too, and I was a boy
he's got I didn't really like school. I didn't enjoy boarding school, I felt terribly cramped, but off dinner. We were allowed an hour with a record player. We could all bring a record and my record was rider white swans and there, and were we were, and also twelve year old girls have a good old, boogie, the t rex- and ride a white swan, so Deborah
We ve watched watched, perhaps through our fingers, pitches drachen, stand where everything seems to be going wrong for the person trying to persuade you to invest your hoddan cash in their business. How do you you feel when their failing, I feel different things. Pending on how and why there failing so. I've had businesses that come into the den who have been really almost have funds. the questions difficult and sir for them. The sort of thing Do I understand why you don't know that so they can make me feel uncomfortable and actually some of those pictures last three hours. So there's a lot more help. Given you know some prompts given a lot more space, given the probably the viewers say, but the ones that rarely where I don't feel bad at all about the ones who are trying to pull away
Over our eyes or being arrogant or I'll show you dragons and those I think, come on guys. You ve got an amazing opportunity, and this is what you gonna do with it. What's the secret to getting a pitcher right, then the shore is different for different drugs. I dont mind if a pitch is not pitch perfect and even if they forget something because its deep within them and they really properly understand not just learnt they live it that actually they can pull an answer out. That can help us understand the business, so they've kind of got heart. That's what makes a good pitch for me. It's honest, it's got heart and they can demonstrate a real understanding of their business, even if they can't quite get it right. Putting across you've been there fifteen years now, series three, I think he joined and you've invested almost five million pounds over those years as a dragon, or have you received a good return? Yes, I have is actually my first business.
I ever invested in I've I've. You know, they've returned all of my money and I'm still invested in them. You know says some businesses you can stay with for life. Some businesses, a quick turnarounds. Some businesses are in the middle of a growth. You know some of the businesses that I invested in two or three years ago are on a stratospheric journey, but they haven't actually exited yet, but certainly now I'm on the upside, it's wonderful to see people's lives change and yes, of course the finances are fantastic, but you asked most successful entrepreneurs who have actually gotten money in the bank- not to do it anymore, why they do it and it's because they like to see these little sees grow into something huge deeper. We gotta make way for your second disk today, once again away well. I actually left school really really early and I went to brighten to study business. I actually did very little Business study, as a laugh then requires further idea why a law of Dancing- and this is the piece of music but
really reminds me of those days and on going to the curtain club, which was the cool club in Brighton. At the time when I hear alright? I can see all of the friends that I know the dancing on the my spare, so it takes me right back, it is a piece of music by gil scott heron cold. The bottle run it and got a problem as the ban on the bottle bike
will scott heron and Brian Jackson so Debra maiden why the rush to leave school by the time I was eleven had been to three boarding schools for very short periods of time. I find it very restrictive. I even then was fiercely into don't and I think it switch me off school, and I had always known that. I wanted my own business and when I spoke to people about god, as it was all about? You know where you going to be a nurse you going to be adopt what it was a kind of profession I kept saying no, I want to be in business. I didn't see that school or university was gonna, get me any closer and I just couldn't wait to get on with it really and what, where was that coming from one. It's too didn't wanna work for anyone else, you what did your own business from childhood to eating? What was firing that getting I instead tivoli knew that if I wanted to build my own life, probably the best way of doing that was my own business, but I'd also had examples of my mother who, for a while
is on a road? Might she left my father when we were absolutely tiny? She was just twenty two, I think. Wasn't she re, I wonder when we re ass. She was twenty two with two young daughters and it's tough, no real benefits system. Is she just had to get out and make our lives better? And now, I understand when I went to boarding school when I was seven, I was deeply hurt. You know why am I being sent away? But, of course now I understand that it was my mother. By that time she had met my father, but it was their version of in a stability unit, so she met and married Anna was just dodd to you, Brian. Yes, when you were about seven- and that was when you went to school- was that because they had started their business and that was kind of seasonal working in holiday parks and that kind of thing well, as they'd, actually started two businesses. You know this is what I meant:
and opportunistic. So we will one of the first people to have kiddies ride such the lions of longleat, when Lord bath was alive. My father was running that and my mother was working at butlins running a prize bingo. So that's what I mean by stability to build our life. They had to make sacrifices and I think, against that background, the decision for us to go to boarding school was the right one, because I didn't understand it at the time, but I certainly do now. You tell me a little bit more about your dad than Brian he's younger than my mother. It's actually interesting with all the old married younger men that he was younger than my mother and at the age of twenty seven or twenty eight he married my mother, who was, I think,
probably in her early thirties at the time and took on these two daughters, ass, quite a thing to do and we were handful. You know it wasn't easy. Sir he's got lions all day and then you guys at my absolute lay absolutely, but he never flinched we'd had our mom to ourselves for a while, and I think we gave him a pretty rough time. Thank you very much for describing as my father, because occasionally ii has been described as my stepfather, and it makes me flinch because he is the man who is my father Deborah it's time. For you,
I had the choice today. What are we going to hear? I went off to ITALY when I set up my first business and I was driving backwards and forwards to italy on a regular basis. I must have done it a dozen times, and this was a piece of music that I could play over and over that you have an album that I could play over and over and over, but this one in particular struck home because I was already concerned about the environment and what we were doing to our planet and this piece of music completely held it all together. For me,
no it's Marvin Gaye and its mercy mercy me things having gay and mercy mercy me so Deborah made me started your first business when you still in the eighteenth, nineteen and europe,
oozing glass and ceramics from ITALY, where you were living at the time to high end stores. Here in the uk I mean quite daring, quite ambitious for a teenager. How did you make that happen? I go to birth that particular bubble, because what actually happened is that I had an ex boyfriend who moved over to ITALY, and I think I might have followed him whether I liked he liked it or I didn't. Actually. The real truth is that I did have an ex boyfriend who moved over to ITALY. We were still in communication. I was thinking if I don't change something in my like, nothing is gonna happen. I she believed this in life. You know, if you want your life to change, then you ve got to change something, because it's amazing
how even changing a little thing you know, changes your path, so I didn't really have a plan. I just thought I'm going to go over to ITALY and I'm going to see what comes of that. I had a spare day and I went along to an exhibition to look at these lovely products, and I thought I know what I'll do I'll ask people if they've got an agent in the uk and I'll bring the back to the uk, see that the leapt at it isn't it going to ITALY for a boy can imagine that going to Vieira and checking out some glassware? Yes, the bit where you then go. I wonder if there's an agent who can help me Sutton, I mean to be fair. I was running out of money by then so I was kinda thinking. I'm gonna have to do something about it and not confidence that you had what was that bono was not just who you were as a person was that you know the confidence of you swear is kind of common from inexperience. You know what I think is partly the competence of youth, because I dont think at that point. I knew you couldn't do that here. We shouldn't do that unite them.
never moment of thinking? Oh, should I shut my eyes is done thing absolutely it was just look. I wanta. Oh there's an idea, let's go make it happen, and I dont know if you're born with confidence or simply because I had seen a mother in very, very tough times who to build a good life out of it. Once you ve seen that it doesn't feel so scary, ultimately that first italian importing business friendship failed, and how did you deal with that? It was my first lesson and you need to spend your time on the right things, because I had contracts with these companies, but what actually happened as I started, seeing the products appear in direct into hobby, nickels and howard's, and all of the places that I'd introduce them too and for men. I thought I'm not having this I'm going for and then I thought I should know life is too short, so they cut you out date caught me out, but life is too short. I can spend the next year, fighting them
or I can take this as a lesson learned. You ended up joining your mom and dad's family business, which at that point was running, amusement arcades in holiday parks, and you discovered a knack for calling the bingo. I actually ran the prize bingo, and that taught me more than anything it I mean it taught me at a at the right stage of my life, but being in direct contact with a customer who is quite prepared to tell you whether they're, happy or they're, not happy and managing the the team. Creating the right atmosphere make a going to right speed, not too falls not too slow. Make ashore, recognise people so that people who would come back year on year, we would be the first place they would go and I would remember them Oh, how you should also with you and just watching the effect that has that has stayed with me forever Deborah it's time for your next piece of music disk number, four
What have you got for us? Well, I had a little sort of purple patch, with my old assist a gale there's any two years between us and we really didn't like each other when we were young. But when I was about twenty twenty one, we happen to be at the same place at the same time and we suddenly discovered were best friends and we used what really really hard we were in mine had at the time and drive up to bristol off to work. I'm go to night club night cause feature quite a lot in this. This is a piece of music, but absolutely reminds me of that type in it.
Leon Heyward. Don't push it don't force it Leon. He relates to push its dude force. It so never mean you were working in the family. Business send and those can be complex com, a family businesses, the dynamics. What was that like for you in Europe parents. Could you be Deborah the business woman when you were at work rather than dapper the daughter a really short patch before I went to ITALY of working for my parents, and I was still deaf endeavour, the door, the didn't tied to her room up. I think what was radiant
what it is I had been away on. I had had my own experiences and actually when they asked whether I would come back into the business they understood. I had other options and they didn't invite me back as a daughter. They invited me back because they needed somebody to run that business and they said, look we're about to recruit. Is it something you're interested in, so the whole thing was treated in an arms length fashion? I think that's why it worked for us. How old were you at that point? Lw, twenty three? ok, so early twenty early twenties and for all of you, you know your parents- and you are all going into this as a professional, only relationship, absolutely an understanding that the business was business and you look after the business in the business looks after the family, but at work I, what? For my parents
That was it. You know if I didn't do a good job and my job is on the line, doesn't mean to say there were moments when a little bit of you think samuel tool to really do I do, and I think the lovely thing is that we are very close family. We have been through some ups and downs amene in I bought the business from them. We had two different sets of advises. Go here Each policy hearts neuron. Advise that absolutely will you playing hard. Poland will, after they wanted the highest price, and I wanted to pay the lowest price and they were also talking to other buyers, wasn't like a dead search. So I was pitchy against other people who are looking to buy the business really Absolutely and how much money was at stake in those new large many, many, many, many many as many more. He's as you like, doesn't aimed mainly at its and I didn't have them. So I was absolutely hawked up to the eyeballs we'd, better half your next disk. If you wouldn't mind Deborah what is it when I was running the prize bingo and I met my husband, I was a little alarmed poles.
physical taste, to be perfectly honest. He didn't like getting the music that I like that. I remember hearing simply red and monies to tight too mentioned and saying that band are going to be huge. That is a good. Fight take on the original, and he said. Oh, that was original. I said. Oh yes, the original is by the valentine brothers money's too tight to mention, and that's my next piece of music linked to this day with due to the violence.
Tyne brothers and money's too tight to mention the perfect choice for the den Debra maiden so Deborah said you don't need to take my gender into account. I'm in business full stop, do not think of yourself ass, I'm a woman in business. Just do your thing, just be good at it. Now we often about the under representation of women in business. Are you gender isn't worth thinking about at all, and now I Yes, my message is more about. If I take my gender into account, it clearly signals to somebody else that they need to take my gender into account. But it is of no consequence of owning your own business is a very good place to be for women, because your consumer doesn't care what gender you all they just care about your product or service that your delivering and I thought long and hard because I'm in a really good position to be able to encourage women into business, but I don't think it's helpful to come.
my gender around. I know you also then saying that you know it's not the job of women in the business world to solve their own underrepresentation. Might they just need to crack on another people need to fix her? No, I don't I it. She do think it's our job to show that there is a place for people and business, but often that can just mean showing people that business is a good place for women to be in that's the part that I've chosen to do Well, you know I've. I've sat for a long time. I was the only woman in the den one day. I hope that it could well be there's any one man in the Daniel and it kind of doesn't matter, because it doesn't matter what the gender mix is, and what about the structural issues
and would you have a view on increasing diversity in boardrooms, for example? Yes, I sometimes think, though, whilst I'd intrinsically don't believe in quota and obviously the place that we do need to go is purely and simply that people are there on value and and and when that happens, you know everybody will be represented because everybody has their value to add. But I also do think that sometimes you have to intervene to make that happen, because otherwise, if people look into a boardroom- and they don't see anybody who looks like them- then it can be a fearful place for them to go.
So I do think intervention can play. It's part diverts time for your next piece of music today. What is it and why have you chosen? It Paul and I spent quite a lot of time, traveling around central and south america, and whilst I love the music, I think I must have heard Simon and garfunkel's EL condor pasa en three hundred different ways: it'll be a different instrument to obey a different time. It will be unrecognizable, it will be exactly like Simon garfunkel, so I can't think of south america without Simon and garfunkel's EL condor past running through my brain. So that's my next record,
the Simon and gulf uncle AL condo, passer, Deborah got very high profile on social media and our policies will not be surprised to hear if they haven't seen you that that you have a pretty no nonsense voice on the platform and, among other things, he views that to talk about your concerns about breaks it. How was it impacted your businesses? Well, I think we're still learning how its image,
ding businesses, but we ve been in a state of flux because from the minute the boat happened, businesses haven't really known what breaks it would look like, and I am she did a whole piece on social media before we actually left the EU sang guys. This thing about get breaks. It don't forget everything. Leaving is the end of it. We gonna end two years and years of negotiate and working out what our relationships going to look like him for business. That's really bad news, what it meant the mai businesses all of them. anybody trading with the EU has been disrupted, some of them fatally supply issues are a big problem. Star fishes are a big problem and then overlay that, with a pandemic, it's tough. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to seize those challenges, but a lot of them have been unnecessary and I just think what a better place we would all been. If we just didn't, have that throne
into the path. Are there any advantages for businesses now that we're outside the european trading area? You said locally entrepreneurs sees advantages. You see that happening there will be, but we're in very very early days, you know, is still working the relationships, action of coal selby opportunities. I do see that some of the environment issues if we seize them. You know, there's some really good stuff happening and, for example, but while some of the some of the new farming policies, but the government needs to support the transition, you can't just say we're going change the way we do things and it's over to youtube to bear the brunt of this because a lot of businesses a lot of farmers, they won't survive, there's some great policies, but they need support to get there. We need to me net, you know at the moment I just still hear sound bites. I need to see action the time for your seventh choice today, Deborah. What are we going to hear while I was incredibly
When we had the holiday pause, my grandfather was in burma, so my grandfather was in burma and we, we organised a burma's star reunion for people who had actually been in burma and their family, so he was frightened at that. He was fighting out there and we organizes reunions and we all sides robots should lead. You reunions, which meant for two weeks of the air, are parks were full of service people. and I would always go down unmixed with them, and I cannot tell you how honoured unlucky. I was to experience that because some of the people I met there and you see these tiny wizened people and they would never talk about the heroism, but they would always point somebody across the room and they would say see that man over the bravest man I ever knew save the life all of you know me with they would tell this story and I'd go, and I talk to that person over there
and they would say you see them over their brave as people. I have a new and I heard the most amazing things I used to go down for a sunday service and one of the hymns we would always saying is I vow to day my country, and I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual person and I still can't listen to jupiter from holes planets without welling up to be honest the
the the the
gee jupiter from holst's planet suite by the BBC symphony orchestra conducted by some welcome sergeant soda,
for maiden the investors. Life is very different from the standard nine to five. I think and different from running your own business too. Is it a work life balance that you're happy with, or is there some sort of retirement plan that kicks in one until the day. I feel like I'm not on my a game. You know, I think, that's what will stop me when I feel I'm not adding value, and but until that day, why would I want to stop something that I absolutely love you're, still having fun at central? Absolutely of course. You have some time to put your feet up on the islands. Is it possible that your come up with a new business idea that very likely
whether or not I'll have the tools to implement it. And, of course business is not just about the idea it's about the implementation and the market, and I think the market might be quite small, the desert island. It's me I'll, be the bucket we're going to let you play one more track, though, before you go water gonna, be your final selection today. Well as a thank you to desert island discs for making me think about this, because we are key in the country were born and the people were born to, but we can build our lives through that, but I am incredibly thankful for the life that I've had and am having. I've got wonderful parents, my sisters on my best friends, Emma casket of my best friends. I got to find the person in the world that I could marry unhappily spend the rest of my life with, and I get to do the thing that I absolutely love in terms of investing in businesses
a meeting all of these creative people and its see to say it isn't the money when you ve got money? I completely get that, but when I think about the things that I am thankful for, money doesn't come onto that list and unless there is a wonderful song, I love I love it just for the song, but I also love it because it reminds me of something that I am on a daily basis, and that is, I am thankful for, I've got so it's william divorce, be thankful for what you ve got Goodbye for, though you may not drunk with diamond than the sun dig in the same with a guy, then the white tv.
in the past will de VON be thankful for what you ve got so Deborah aden, I'm sending you away to the island. You'll have three books with you: the bible, the complete works of shakespeare at one of your own choosing, but will that be during lockdown paul, and I have been every day turning the pages of my book that I would choose and its history of the world in a hundred objects. So we would turn the page as we look at the object we read about it and out of that would spring so much conversation is so much thought about the world as it has been and it sort of hopeful. When you look about what we would do, thousands of years ago? You know and and it's hopeful that we will carry on being creative and amazing into the future. So my book is a history of the world in one hundred objects
you can also select a luxury something to meet your time on the island, more bearable. I absolutely cannot draw and I would love to draw and I'm guessing on the islands that I would have an awful lot of time to practice so I would like and I'd like to cheat hereby I'd like a sketch book and a pencil. Oh, we can do that with an excellent sketchbook at a pencil you will even throwing and finally, which one of these discs would you save above the others, if ya, to William DE born, be thankful for what you ve got, because it would prompt me thinking about things. You know and looking for things on the islands that make my life better deeper maiden. Thank you very much for letting us hear your desert island, six. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it,
the I hope you enjoyed that interview with Deborah Ann, I hope she's enjoying had joined. passed away. Many entrepreneurs, including duncan bonnet time, dame Stephanie Shelly, answer richard bronson, and you can hear that programmes if he's through BBC sands or on a programme website join me next time when I'll be talking to the philosopher Michael Sundown. The That's the moment it hit me. I'm like. Oh my gosh. I think I'm in a occult I used to myself, these people are mad. When to la realism on that as well, I'm paris lees, and this is the flip side from BBC radio. In each episode. I tell
stories from opposite sides of the coin to ask questions about elements of the human experience that we times take for granted. I know that, where genetically related in my mind, I don't have the feeling that we on the server you kin my dad said you know that we love you and I am your father, but subscribed to the flip side. With me, paris, lease on BBC sounds.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.