Who is Deborah Meaden?
Deborah Meaden is a British businesswoman and television personality who is known for her appearances in BBC’s successful business programme Dragons' Den. In the show, entrepreneurs pitch in their business ideas before five wealthy venture capitalists, who if impressed, provide investment for their business. Deborah has served as one of the venture capitalists (dragon) since 2006 and invested in a variety of businesses like Good Bubble and Grip It. Earlier, she successfully managed her family holiday business Weststar Holidays and undertook a management buyout. Later, she sold the business and invested in new business ventures like Fox Brothers and The Merchant Fox. Her business ventures aside, she is also associated with numerous charitable organisations that support wildlife, environment, music and theatre and people in need. She has also published a book.
While studying at Brighton Technical College, Deborah Meaden worked as a salesroom model. At the young age of nineteen, she moved to Italy and launched her own business supplying glass and ceramics products for sale back in the UK. Though her clients included British departmental luxury store chain Harvey Nichols, she had to wind up her business in just eighteen months. Manufacturers were selling goods at other high street shops without her and she lacked the financial capability to pursue a legal battle against it.
Upon returning to the UK, along with her partner, she purchased one of the first Stefanel textile franchises in the UK; however, she did not continue with it for long and a couple of years later, sold it completely to her partner. Another of her successful ventures included a prize bingo concession at Butlins in Minehead.
After establishing her own business track record, she joined her family amusement arcade business in 1988. She began from bottom, monitoring the slot machines in the arcade and later became an Operations Director. In 1992, she moved across to the Weststar Holidays, holiday park side of the business. Just two years later, she rose to the position of Managing Director. Under her, the number of holiday parks increased from one to five and provided high-quality holidays for more than 150,000 people annually.
In 1999, when her parents retired, she initiated a management buyout and acquired the majority shares of the company. She sold part of her stake in the company to Phoenix Equity Partners in 2005 and the remaining in 2007 to Parkdean Holidays.
A couple of years later, together with her fellow shareholder, Douglas Cordeaux she invested in the last surviving woollen cloth mill, Fox Brothers. In 2011, she created an online store – The Merchant Fox – which sells British luxury goods.
In between she began appearing on the hit BBC television show Dragons' Den in 2006. The show has entrepreneurs pitching in their business ideas before venture capitalists (dragons) who, if they like the proposal, invest their own money in exchange for equity. Deborah Meaden joined the show from its third season and continues to be part of the programme even now. She has invested in numerous business including novelty ice creams, an outdoor exercise mat and children’s backpacks. Amongst her successful investments are Good Bubble – natural bath and hair products for children – and Grip It – world’s strongest plasterboard fixings. The show made her a household name.
In 2013, she took part in dance reality competition show Strictly Come Dancing with professional dancer Robin Windsor. She was eliminated in the fifth week. She has appeared as herself/businesswoman and entrepreneur in numerous other chat shows, panel shows and breakfast programmes including The One Show, Loose Women, The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Good Morning Britain. She has also made appearances in TV series like Hustle and Room 101; documentary series like Eamonn & Ruth: How the Other Half Lives as well as TV movie documentaries like EastEnders: Last Orders, The Greatest 80s Movies and The Toys That Made Christmas.
Deborah Meaden is associated with numerous charitable organisations that work for the betterment wildlife, environment, music and theatre as well as underprivileged people. She is the ambassador of The Marine Conservation Society, Medical Detection Dogs, The Roundhouse, The Brooke, Lendwithcare and The Clean British Energy Campaign; a trustee at Tusk Trust; a patron at The MicroLoan Foundation and a Fellow at World Wildlife Fund.
In 2009, she published a book Common Sense Rules too.
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Family & Personal Life
Deborah Sonia Meaden was born on 11th February 1959 in Somerset, England. Her parents separated when she was still very young. Her mother, Sonia Meaden took her daughters – Deborah and Gail – and moved to Essex. She married Brian Meaden and Deborah got two more sisters.
She was briefly sent off to Godolphin boarding School in Salisbury after which she attended Trowbridge High School for Girls in Wiltshire. She then joined Brighton Technical College to study business. From a very early age, Deborah Meaden was ambitious and knew she wanted to run her own business.
She met her husband Paul in 1985 and the two got married in 1993. She has homes in London and Somerset. An animal lover, she has two cats, three dogs, six horses, three pigs, four sheep, numerous birds and three geese at her Somerset residence.
She has received honorary degrees from University of Exeter Business School, Staffordshire University (both in 2010), Keele University (2013) and Bath Spa University (2014).