Dragons’ Den, Coming soon, BBC2
When Peter Jones first started on Dragons’ Den in 2005, he had no idea that he would still be there 12 years later – or that he’d be the only original Dragon left standing.
“It’s quite scary when you say that. It’s bizarre,” says the 51-year-old entrepreneur. “I remember that first day, walking in and feeling incredibly nervous, wanting to be really professional but actually being quiet and unassuming. It was daunting!”
He has seen his fellow Dragons come and go, and this series is no exception with Sarah Willingham and Nick Jenkins leaving the BBC2 show, and newcomers Tej Lalvani and Jenny Campbell stepping into their shoes.
“I’m supposed to say it’s all fiery and there’s a lot of competitiveness, but I genuinely think they’re fantastic. Tej and Jenny are a pleasure,” he says. “The minute the cameras are turned on, we’re individual Dragons and we are out for ourselves, but off camera they are a pleasure to be around.”
Regulars Deborah Meaden and Touker Suleyman will be returning with Peter, and the five Dragons will see more than 100 incredible pitches looking for investment in this new series alone.
Peter still loves the excitement of hearing a good pitch. “Often I look to invest in an individual as muchas in their concept – so you have to show what you can do!” he says. “You get few opportunities to pitch directly to investors, so you have to make the most of them.”
Unfortunately, not everybody makes the most of their opportunity. “It is amazing how many people pitch without having looked into the market sector that they are trying to break into,” Peter reveals.
“Sometimes a simple internet search reveals that their idea has been done before, or that their estimation of demand is completely skewed. Look around at your competitors and see how you can offer a better and more competitive service than them.”
At the age of 12, Peter was helping a teacher at school teach tennis, which, in turn, gave him inspiration for his first business. “When I was 16 I set up a tennis academy. I used to play tennis at county level as a child and I still play regularly with ex-professionals.
That was a real watershed moment in my life. At the time, I had the chance to improve my game with a view to becoming a professional, but there was something in me that wanted to take that talent and develop a successful business from it rather than, say, win Wimbledon.”
Alongside his many successful investments, including Red Letter Days, Wonderland magazine and of course the most memorable one from the Den, the Reggae Reggae brand with Levi Roots, Peter also runs a competition which helps school pupils start their own business, alongside his Peter Jones Enterprise Academy.
He also launched a new higher apprenticeship in innovation and growth, which enables young people to earn while they learn.
“I’ve been campaigning as much as I can and really encouraging, pushing, cajoling, to do everything we can to embed enterprise in our national curriculum,” he says.
But what is the Dragon of Berkshire looking for on Dragons’ Den this time around?
“I’ve got businesses ranging from food to clothing companies and experiences,” he reveals. “I haven’t seen someone walk into the Den with the same vibe and spirit as Levi Roots, though.
“I’m not suggesting everyone needs to get a guitar and sing a song, but that charismatic way of engaging the Dragons in their pitch… I’m looking forward to seeing that again.”
Dragons’ Den, Coming soon, BBC2