Sara Davies had a ball on Strictly Come Dancing 2021, but this week she’s back in the world of business as BBC1’s popular reality show Dragons’ Den opens its doors for a 19th series.
County Durham-born Sara founded her own company, Crafter’s Companion, while she was studying for a business degree at York University. After becoming a Dragon in the 17th series in 2019, she will rejoin fellow returnees Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman on the panel of investors.
And, following the departure of Tej Lalvani, there is also a new face in the Den as Steven Bartlett, 29, who co-founded social media marketing agency Social Chain when he was just 20, becomes the show’s youngest-ever Dragon.
Here, Sara, 37, reveals all about returning to the Den, having a newfound confidence, the new Dragon, and life after Strictly…
This is your third series in the Den, how have you found it?
It was really different for me this year, and I think it was because I wasn’t the new kid on the block anymore. I used to sit in the Den thinking the entrepreneurs didn’t know anything about me, but this time I could tell they knew all about me and what I could bring to their business. I felt on more of a level playing field with the other Dragons than I had felt in previous years.
I think it gave me a little bit of extra inner confidence. The producers even commented a few times, saying ‘You’ve really gone for it on some of these pitches!’ When there’s been something that I’ve really wanted to win, I’ve really gone for it, which I think it is a result of that inner confidence that has come with being a few years in.
What is the standard of pitches like this time round?
The calibre of businesses we have had in the Den this year has been exceptional. We see about 100 pitches in a series and only a handful are usually A-star, but there were a lot more of them this year, so there were often times when all five of us were fighting to invest in a business. You see a lot more of that this time around!
I think it’s really great when you get those sort of pitches and the atmosphere changes in the Den. Instead of the entrepreneurs trying to sell their idea, the tables sort of turn and all five Dragons are trying to endear themselves to the entrepreneurs and convince them to pick them. It can get a little bit brutal if I’m honest!
What do you think Steven brings to the panel?
Steven comes from a world that is social-media-focused and dominated by other young people, so he’s used to doing business in an environment with those younger people. It felt like he brought a whole different vision and insight.
Did you offer him any advice about becoming a Dragon?
When I joined the show [in 2019], the other Dragons were outstanding in the way they mentored me through that process. That was really humbling and I wanted to make sure I did the same for Steven. I remember how nerve-racking my first morning was, so we went for dinner the night before so he wouldn’t feel as nervous as I did.
Steven will be the first Dragon not to wear business attire, what do you think of that?
He has come in and said, ‘We’re not in the traditional business world now, we’re in the modern business world and this is how modern business is done. It’s okay to do business dressed like this.’ I think that was a really different dynamic and probably really spoke to a lot of the entrepreneurs who were pitching in the Den.
How did filming this series fit in with tripping the light fantastic on 'Strictly'?
We filmed this series in the summer, so it was all finished before there was any talk about doing Strictly. Some of the other celebrities were filming things during Strictly and it seemed like a pretty grueling schedule, so I was pleased we had Dragons’ Den in the can.
You and Deborah have both competed on 'Strictly', do you think we will see any other Dragons take to the floor?
I’ve always loved the show but it was Deborah [who took part in 2013] talking so fondly about her time on the show that made me want to do it. The others would say to Deborah, ‘I don’t know how on earth you could fit that in with your investment portfolio and all the work that goes with that.’ None of them seemed overly keen, but you never know!
How would you react if an entrepreneur pitched a dance-based business to you now?
I am in! I loved dancing before Strictly, but I love it 10 times more now, so bring on the dancing pitches!
The 19th series of Dragons' Den begins on Thursday, Jan. 6 on BBC1 at 8.00pm.
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