Deborah Meaden is a successful serial entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den Investor.
From a very early age, Deborah knew she wanted her own business. Having left school after O-Levels, she studied at business college and at the age of 19, with very little capital, she launched her own glass and ceramics import company supplying upmarket stores like Harvey Nichols. But despite having sole agency rights, the goods started appearing in other high street shops and without the finances for a legal fight, Deborah walked away.
After this, Deborah built several other businesses, including a franchise for Italian clothing company ‘Stefanel’ and a prize bingo concession at Butlins.
With several successful businesses in the leisure and retail sector under her belt, Deborah decided to take up a position in the family amusement arcade business. Starting on the shop floor, she worked her way up to Operations Director before moving into the holiday park side of the business, Weststar Holidays. Within two years, she was promoted to Managing Director and grew the company to provide high-quality UK family holidays for over 150,000 people annually.
In 1999, keen to secure her future, Deborah undertook a management buyout borrowing the necessary funds from Lloyds to take over the business. Deborah’s long-term plan had been to grow the business, and a period of substantial investment marked the early years of TGGL, her newly formed group.
With three prime sites achieving high occupancy rates in a fragmented marketplace, Weststar soon became the target of several takeover approaches. She finally sold the company to Phoenix Equity Partners in 2005 in a deal worth £33m whilst retaining a 23% stake and an active role within the firm. She sold her remaining stake in the business when Weststar was sold to Parkdean Holidays for £83m.
Deborah Meaden – Dragons’ Den
Deborah joined the panel of investors for series three of the BBC2 programme ‘Dragons’ Den‘. Deborah has been an integral member of the Dragons for over 16 years, currently comprising Peter Jones, Sara Davies, Touker Suleyman and Steven Bartlett. Deborah’s portfolio of investments ranges from Dock and Bay, ultra-fast drying towels, to Hope and Ivy, gorgeous fashion inspired by nature.
Deborah actively supports several environmental charities and initiatives, including the annual Observer Ethical Awards, which she has judged since 2008. Deborah is a fellow of the WWF, the world’s leading environmental organisation, and she also acts as a Patron and Trustee for Tusk Trust. In addition, Deborah is an Ambassador for Lendwithcare, the Roundhouse, and Marine Conservation Society, a Fellow with the RSA and a Patron of the Microloan Foundation.
Today Deborah strives to achieve a balanced life between her business interests, the projects and causes she feels passionate about and spending time with her family, friends and animals.