Dragons’ Den newbie makes his mark! Show’s youngest ever investor Steven Bartlett, 29, who went from a ‘broke drop-out’ to a millionaire is praised for ‘stamping his authority’ and beating Peter Jones to give £150,000 to cheese app entrepreneurs

  • Dragons’ Den returned yesterday evening on BBC One with new crop of hopefuls
  • Steven Bartlett joined the Dragons for first time as the show’s youngest investor
  • Entrepreneurs included weave training business and cheese subscription app
  • Only two of the five hopeful entrepreneurs bagged investment in their business

Dragons’ Den’s new entrepreneur Steven Bartlett has been praised by viewers after his ‘ruthless undercut’ of veteran Peter Jones as the series returned last night.  

The show’s season premiere, which aired on BBC One on Thursday, saw a fresh crop of hopeful entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to the Dragons in hope of acquiring investment. 

Among the budding business minds was former financier Edward Hancock who sank £720,000 of his own cash into his cheese subscription business, described as the ‘Vivino for cheese’, and his Chief Operating Officer Richard Simpson. 

Alongside Dragons Peter, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman and Sara Davies on the panel was newcomer Steven who at just 29 is the youngest Dragon the programme has ever seen. 

After seasoned Dragon Peter, 55, offered to invest £150,000 in the company for a whopping 20 per cent share, Steven jumped in with a ‘fair’ deal of 7.5 per cent, later reduced to five on the condition of a quick return of his cash.  

Dragon’s Den’s latest entrepreneur Steven Bartlett has been praised after his ‘ruthless undercut’ of Peter Jones – who asked for a huge 20 per cent of a business described as ‘Vivino for cheese’ on Thursday night’s episode  

Entrepreneur Steven, 29, is the founder and former CEO of The Social Chain, a social media marketing agency and the BBC One show’s youngest ever Dragon 

Peter Jones, who was initially dismissive of the company’s valuation, made an offer of all £150,000 for 20 per cent of the business

Among the budding business minds was former financier Edward Hancock (right) who sank £720,000 of his own cash into his cheese subscription business and his Chief Operating Officer Richard Simpson

Social media CEO Steven, who in his book described himself as a ‘broke, lonely, insecure university drop-out from a bankrupt family’ before founding his multi-million pound business, was praised by viewers for ‘stamping his authority’ on the panel. 

‘How good was @SteveBartlettSC on #DragonsDen tonight!! Great feedback & constructive criticism…not to mention the ruthless undercut of Peter Jones!!’, wrote one viewer. 

‘Brilliant watching Steven Bartlett on Dragons Den tonight. Stamped his authority and carries an aura from minute 1. My Business inspiration’, said another. 

‘The addition of @SteveBartlettSC on #DragonsDen will most certainly catch the attention of young & aspiring #entrepreneurs. Brilliant role model!’, commented a third. 

Social media CEO Steven, who described himself as a ‘broke, lonely, insecure university drop-out from a bankrupt family’ before founding his multi-million pound business, was praised by viewers for ‘stamping his authority’ on the panel

The London-based duo appeared on the show with their business, The Modern Cheesemonger, looking looking for £150,000 for three per cent share of the business. 

Described as the ‘Viveno of cheese’, the idea of the business is creating personalised subscription boxes of British cheese using a mobile app which provides bios off cheeses and lets users rate their favourites. 

After investing a massive £720,000 of his own savings from a career in finance, Edwards’ business turned over £96,000 in their first year, followed by £280,000 and 1.54million in year three – however were yet to show a large profit. 

Explaining the appeal of the app, Richard said: ‘For me I would start with the technology, it holds all our cheese universe. We have hundreds of cheeses and profiles on all of it and our customer data feeds into it and works its magic and spits out the five cheeses perfect for that person. 

Described as the ‘Viveno of cheese’, Edward explained the idea of the business is creating personalised subscription boxes of British cheese using a mobile app which provides bios off cheeses and lets users rate their favourites

‘Then customers rate their cheese and that influences what they get in future boxes so their subscription becomes more and more personalised’. 

After being quizzed by Deborah, the pair revealed their business – which also had a £700,000 from other investors – have no huge dairy farms on their books and do not sell cheese which hasn’t come from grass fed cows.  

Despite fears about their supply chain, all but two investors made an offer on the business – with Deborah admitting she has ‘big issues’ in the milk industry and would struggle to cooperate with suppliers. 

Peter Jones, who was initially dismissive of the company’s valuation, made an offer of all £150,000 for 20 per cent of the business. 

However Steven – who is an investor in Vivino – offered all of the money for 7.5 per cent of the business, adding: ‘I’m not going to suck the blood out of you like Peter just did.

Bartlett replaced Tej Lalvani on the latest series of Dragon’s Den, which arrived back on screens on January 6th; the CEO of social media marketing agency The Social Chain is worth £300 million

‘I’m going to offer you all of the money for 7.5 per cent of your business because I think that’s fair.’ 

After Steven sweetened the deal by offering to drop down five per cent if his money was returned within 24 months, the pair chose to partner up with the Dragon- adding the investor has ‘really obvious advantages’. 

Next to take on the Dragons was Ola Goldsmith, from Nuneaton, founded Naked Weave in 2019 after seven years of working in the beauty industry appeared on the programme asking for £70,000 in return for 15 per cent of the business.

Her product was training sessions for hair technicians to master her discreet weave extensions  – one of the most cost efficient form of adding extensions.   

‘Having kids was an eye opener’, she said. ‘I felt guilty for going to work I felt guilty for not going back to work I didn’t realise you could do it both, be a bad ass business woman and a mother. 

‘To get investment today, the main thing it would mean is someone believes in my business as much as me, so that would be amazing’. 

Next to take on the Dragons was Ola Goldsmith, from Nuneaton, founded Naked Weave in 2019 after seven years of working in the beauty industry appeared on the programme asking for £70,000 in return for 15 per cent of the business

Her product was training sessions for hair technicians to master her discreet weave extensions – one of the most cost efficient form of adding extensions

After enquiries from Deborah, she revealed that it’s the technique she was selling rather than a product itself, with a course priced at £450. 

She revealed the company had turned over £192,000 in their second year, with a gross profit of £104,000 and net profit of £36,000

Despite her impressive figures, the Dragons became sceptical of how sustainable her business model was, with Steven questioning how the business would survive should someone else begin teaching the method once learning.      

After Ola said there are around 1000 hair technicians in the UK, he pointed out that the market is limited and even if every single one in the country took her session, it would only add up to £400,000. 

However then Ola backtracked, insisting there were as many as 50,000 hair techs in the UK – soon admitting that there was ‘limited information’ about how many there actually are.  

After revealing that she wants to expand into selling her own hair eventually, which would prove more profitable than selling the installation technique, the Dragons asked why she hadn’t already taken the plunge with a bank loan. 

The next contestant was Sarah Gleave, who was after £30,000 for five per cent in her anti-theft dog walking lead business, Meg Health Dog Leads

‘The only thing holding me back is I’d just be nervous’, she said. ‘I don’t want to owe loads of money’. 

When asked why she wanted investment from the Dragons, Ola said: ‘I am on my own in this business, I just want someone else to believe in me and come with my on the journey a little bit.’ 

Despite some of Dragons keen on the idea of selling Ola’s product, they felt the brand was not established enough to launch a product – and so none decided to invest.  

The next contestant was Sarah Gleave, who was after £30,000 for five per cent in her anti-theft dog walking lead business, Meg Health Dog Leads.  

The leads have a wire core which is scissor and knife proof and provides an ‘anti-snatch’ handle which allows owners to make the handle tight on their wrists as they walk. 

However the Dragons weren’t a fan of Sarah’s product, with Peter pointing out there could be an element of risk by attaching yourself to the dog if a thief were to come and steal the animal. 

Scottish businessman Grant Bruce showed the Dragons his gizmo, a magnetic miniature flashlight which attaches to your keyring, as part of his business that makes convenient accessories

After being grilled on her numbers, Sarah wasn’t able to tell the Dragons how much profit she was expecting to make the following year and left the pitch with no investment.  

Next was Scottish businessman Grant Bruce who showed the Dragons his gizmo, a magnetic miniature flashlight which attaches to your keyring, as part of his business that makes convenient accessories.  

He was selling the mini-torches for £23 each on Amazon and was after £40,000 for 20 per cent of the company. 

While Peter felt the product was well-designed, Steven didn’t feel there was much of a target market for the torch as the majority of people would simply use the torch on their smart phone. 

Reading-based Chang Liu, who wants to follow in the footsteps of Tesla founder Elon Musk, appeared with a robot which allows those with physical jobs to work remotely asking for an £150,000 investment for five percent of the company, Extend Robotics 

Touker agreed the product was credible, but felt it was over priced, while Deborah and Sara didn’t feel Grant had offered an investable proposition – and he left with mo deal.  

Reading-based Chang Liu, who wants to follow in the footsteps of Tesla founder Elon Musk, appeared with a robot which allows those with physical jobs to work remotely. 

The entrepreneur asked for an £150,000 investment for five percent of the company, Extend Robotics. 

Explaining his product, he said: ‘Technology will replace jobs, but we believe nobody should be left behind and everyone can be part of this revolution. 

‘Extend Robotics is building an intuitive human-robot interface software to hep people to work remotely by operating robots through an immersive virtual reality interface this way their job can be safer less travel, and even access to global job opportunities.’ 

Chang explained to Deborah the robot was designed for healthcare, industrial and hospitality purposes and general system and hardware costs around £5,000-£6,000. 

The company are selling the license for their software and Chang predicted the company would start making money soon, with customers already keen in purchasing the robot. 

Due to concerns about entry to the market, the level of the robotics and slow investment return, Touker Steven, Debra and Sara decided not to invest. 

However Peter was fascinated by the idea, and offered to invest all of the money for 25 per cent of the business, a deal which Chang accepted. 

Dragons’ Den airs on Thursdays at 8pm on BBC One

Dragon’s Den’s new entrepreneur, Steven Bartlett, 29, reveals how he went from being a ‘broke, lonely drop-out from a bankrupt family’ – who tried and failed to pitch on the show at 18 – to amassing a £300M fortune 

The new series of Dragon’s Den welcomed its youngest ever dragon – a millionaire yet to hit 30, who’s written books on how to find success in life and love – when it returned to screens on BBC One this week.

Steven Bartlett, 29, joined Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman and Sara Davies on the panel of the business reality show, which sees entrepreneurs decide whether to invest or not in ideas pitched to them. 

His place in the lair is a far cry from his first brush with the programme, shortly after he dropped out of university ten years ago, when he applied to pitch to the dragons but was turned down.

Describing how he feared he’d never make a success of his life after quitting his course at Manchester Metropolitan University, Bartlett, who’s currently single, wrote in his book Happy Sexy Millionaire, which was published earlier this year, that at the time he was a ‘broke, lonely, insecure university drop-out from a bankrupt family.’ 

Steven Bartlett, 29, will replace Tej Lalvani on the latest series of Dragon’s Den, which is back on screens on January 6th; the CEO of social media marketing agency The Social Chain is worth £300 million

The businessman, who admits he felt like a ‘broke, lonely drop-out’ after quitting university aged 18 will join, from left, Touker Suleyman,  Sara Davies, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones on the latest series 

 

Bartlett, now CEO of social media marketing agency The Social Chain – currently valued at £300million – was officially be anointed as a new dragon when the new series aired on January 6th.     

Tweeting last week, Bartlett, who set up his company from his Manchester bedroom after dropping out of university at 22, wrote: ‘10 years ago at 18 years old, I applied to pitch to the Dragons. 10 years later at 28 years old I have the honour of sitting amongst them.’  

The young entrepreneur, born in Botswana and brought up in Plymouth, has replaced Tej Lalvani, 46, on the show. After quitting university, he started Wallpark, a platform for students before setting up Social Chain and Media Chain – brands that have worked with names including Apple, Amazon and Coca-Cola.

Ahead of filming, he told BBC Radio 1Xtra’s If You Don’t Know podcast, that he was determined to join the panel as there ‘has not been a young, black man on the show’ and he wanted to be a role model for others. 

He said: ‘Much of the reason for me wanting to be a Dragon and wanting to do the show is because I know the show is a big platform and I am not represented on that show as an entrepreneur. There’s not been a young, black man on that show.

‘I feel like I have a responsibility to do this because it will show 12-year-old Steve, or other 12 year old Steve’s, that they too can be business people.

The new series sees the young businessman unafraid to voice his opinions, leading co-dragon Touker Suleyman to ask ‘what do you know about business?’

The new dragon pictured during filming of the latest series – the 19th – of Dragon’s Den

Read all about it: Steven is also driven by a desire to appeal to the ‘underrepresented’ and encourage and enable people to thrive in the business world

‘To see someone like me on the show as well that’s not going to wear a suit, and that is into all the same things you’re into – like hip-hop music, jollof rice, Manchester United and whatever else it is – I think is an enabler. 

‘Because role models are most powerful when you can relate to the path they’ve walked.

Steven is also driven by a desire to appeal to the ‘underrepresented’ and encourage and enable people to thrive in the business world.

He said: ‘If you type in “CEO” on Google, what you see is white men in suits. I’m not against white men in suits, but I am against leaving talent off the field because they don’t feel included. 

‘And so by being a black man in a snapback, I will appeal to other black men, and women, in snapbacks. Or anybody that comes from an underrepresented background, and I will let them know that they can sit at the table. 

Inspiring: Speaking on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s If You Don’t Know podcast, Botswana-born Steven said he was determined to join the panel as there ‘has not been a young, black man on the show’ and he wanted to be a role model for others

Bartlett, pictured on This Morning earlier this year, says his success is down to a positive confidence cycle – where trying something new propels you to keep going. He said: ‘What’s happened with me since I was very young, is my self belief has compounded positively upwards. I tried something, “omg I did it, and didn’t die! I’m gonna try something else”.

‘That’s why I felt a sense of responsibility. It felt like this wasn’t really about me, it was about enabling a lot of people like me.

‘You don’t have to wear a suit, you don’t have to pretend to be someone else, you can just be yourself and sit there.

‘I’ve never worn a suit in business. There’s not been a day at Social Chain where I wore a suit, not one day in almost a decade, where I went to a meeting, a pitch, to meet an investor, where I wore a suit. 

‘So why would I then change for TV? I’m trying to represent the real modern world of business and the real world of entrepreneurs and that’s not suited and booted for the majority. 

‘It’s the internet, social media, it’s wearing whatever you want. Right now it’s like working at home. Imagining going on Dragon’s Den wearing a suit when 80% of the world are remote working in their boxer shorts.’  

Discussing his age and going onto the panel alongside fellow older multi-millionaires  Touker Suleyman, 67, Sara Davies, 37, Deborah Meaden, 62, and Peter Jones, 55, he said: ‘The other thing with going on that show, especially with the age component, is to feel “happy to be here”. 

‘There is such a thing as respecting an opportunity more than you respect yourself. People do that when they get jobs and they don’t speak up, or they just want to blend in.


Goodbye: Former dragon Tej Lalvani announced in January that he would not be returning for the show’s 19th season and stepped away from the Den following a four-year stint. Right: the young pretender; Steven Bartlett will take his place in the 19th series 

‘It’s like “happy to be here syndrome” – where you never saw yourself this high, so you’re just trying to hold on to it. Whereas if you saw yourself higher, when you get there you’re still striving, you don’t feel like you’ve punched above your weight.

‘You can have “happy to be here syndrome” where you just wanna, you don’t wanna do anything that might risk the position you’ve reached. And you’re just holding on thinking “oh my god I can’t believe I’m here”. 

‘And that comes from the immigrant mindset and also, me not seeing another Dragon like me on the show, is going to give me a bit of “happy to be here syndrome”. And I know that I’ve got to counteract that.

Steven also gave his tips for succeeding in business, citing the importance of ‘quitting’ before taking a leap of faith. 

Dragons’ Den has been delivering high-stakes TV drama since 2005 and for its 18th series moved from BBC2 to BBC1

He said: ‘Everyone glamourises starting… but you usually have to quit something before you start. The quitting part is actually the really hard part. Letting go of the branch and falling is much harder than grabbing on to a branch for me. 

‘People don’t talk about the art of quitting and how pivotal that will be, probably even more important for you to become a success.

‘Everyone says this in my DMs. It’s like “I just don’t know where to start”. And the truth is, that is a mental Mount Everest that we choose to put in front of ourselves. Today, instead of trying to move Mount Everest, pick up one stone and move it out the way. Think of the name of your business today.

‘There’s not a perfect place to start – in fact when you’re starting a business you have a list of 100 things that need to be done now. When you’re starting you have name, website, etc… all at the same time. So just pick one of them and make a start on that today. That is the truth. You just need to start.’ 

‘What’s happened with me since I was very young, is my self belief has compounded positively upwards. I tried something, “omg I did it, and didn’t die! I’m gonna try something else”. And when you get in that positive confidence cycle… then you get to a point where you start to believe there’s not many things you can’t do.

‘Not taking life too seriously is one of the most important coping mechanisms anyone can have when you go into a high, intense, chaotic situation.  

The BBC show sees budding entrepreneurs given three minutes to pitch their ideas to five multi-millionaires in the hope of securing financial backing.         

This year Steven released a book titled Happy Sexy Millionaire and he also hosts a podcast called The Diary Of A CEO. Steven said he is ‘honoured’ to be appearing on a show he has watched since he was just 12, Metro reports.  

Tej announced in January that he would not be returning for the show’s 19th season, and would be stepping away after four years on board.

Tej, who serves as CEO of the UK’s largest vitamin company Vitabiotics and has an estimated net worth of £390million according to the Sunday Times Rich List, joined the show in 2017.

He said of his decision: ‘I’m truly excited for the upcoming series of Dragons’ Den, which looks set to be one of the best.

‘However after an incredibly enjoyable four years as a Dragon I have decided that this next series will be my last.

‘My commitment to the international growth and expansion of my core business and the numerous investments over the years sadly means I will be unable to dedicate the necessary time moving forward.’

Dragons’ Den has been delivering high-stakes TV drama since 2005 and for its 18th series moved from BBC2 to BBC1.

The last series was filmed in 2020 after the introduction of fresh guidelines allowing TV production to resume during the pandemic. 

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