6 things you didn’t know about Sarah Willingham

The entrepreneur appeared on Dragons Den from 2015-2017, and gave six growing businesses equity funding.

The former Dragon on BBC show Dragon’s Den has been in the restaurant business for over a decade, successfully turning around struggling firms such as Indian restaurant chain Bombay Bicycle Club.

She is best known as an investor and entrepreneur, but here are six things you may not know about the Stoke-on-Trent entrepreneur.

  • She has invested in two subscription based businesses– selling craft gin and beauty products and invested £252,500 in total in The Den. The £75,000 she invested in the Craft Gin Club meant she took a 12.5 per cent stake in the company and an advisory role at the company. The firm sends bottles of gin and sparkling wine out to 33,000 subscribers, making it the biggest subscription gin club in the UK.
  • After co-founding AIM-listed pharma company NeutraHealth, it was sold for £12.1 million to Indian company Elder Pharmaseutical. NeutraHealth sold vitamins, supplements, minerals as well as organic and healthy foods.

  • She’s an advisory board member at the Cranfield School of Management and co-founded a private equity company in 2008, HBG Holdings. HBG is currently a long-term investor and actively supports investee companies to grow their business.
  • After turning around Indian restaurant chain Bombay Bicycle Club, she believes Thai or Chinese restaurants are ready to be disrupted by a chain in the UK.
  • Willingham believes people in the UK should change the way they are eating. In an interview with the Telegraph in 2008, she said she wanted her children to learn how to grow their own vegetables. ‘There are very simple things we can do, like sitting down to eat as a family. It is far cheaper and healthier,’ She also believed that restaurants had to improve customers service to survive.
  • When studying for an MBA in 2003, she was working ‘110 hours a week’ to build up the knowledge in how to acquire a struggling firm. The hard work seems to have paid off, Willingham is now worth £12.5 million.

Sarah Willingham’s Dragons Den investments are:

  • Vitiliglow – £40,000 for 40 per cent equity
  • Sublime Science – £50,000 for 10 per cent equity (joint investment with Nick Jenkins)
  • Grounded Body Scrub – £30,000 for 45 per cent equity
  • Craft Gin Club – £75,000 for 12.5 per cent equity
  • Cocofina – £75,000 for 20 per cent equity (joint investment with Nick Jenkins)
  • Love Me Beauty – £80,000 for 8 per cent equity (joint investment with Nick Jenkins)

Related: What to do about expansion – Sarah Willingham shares her top tips for businesses to achieve growth.

Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2018 to 2019.

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