Hilary Devey is the fresh blood into the Den. Her appointment is interesting on many levels: tipping the gender balance and adding a straight-talking Lancashire twang to the panel. In contrast to James Caan's polished, chin-stroking style, Devey is a fire-cracker who says exactly what's on her mind.
Devey: The entrepreneur
Devey's entrepreneurial CV is impressive. She started Pall-Ex back in 1997, a lone woman in a male-dominated haulage industry. She pioneered a new business model, creating a freight network that would allow small consignments to be distributed quickly and effectively.
This was no mean feat. Devey has plenty of horror stories from the early days: difficulties raising finance; company directors that refused to do business because she was a woman. But, displaying true tenacity, she overcame all the obstacles to make Pall-Ex a resounding success. The firm now turns over £104m and handles over 9,000 deliveries every night.
Devey: The TV star
Dragons' Den isn't Devey's first time in the spotlight. She appeared on Secret Millionaire in 2008, giving away £145,000 to help families and businesses in the Falinge estate, Rochdale, near her home town of Bolton. And in 2010 Hilary appeared on The Business Inspector on Channel five. Each week, Devey would attempt to turn around a struggling small business. The entrepreneurial equivalent of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.
Devey: The investor
Devey is currently involved with two fast-growing young businesses: WOW Table Art and Pronto Sameday Couriers. WOW Table Art creates self-lit centrepieces and illuminated furniture. This investment shows that Devey is happy to look beyond her comfort zone and take a punt on businesses outside the logistics sector.
Devey: The philanthropist
All of the Dragons in the Den espouse charitable causes. Likewise, Devey is patron of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and The Stroke Association. She has also set up the innovative 'Penny a Pallet' scheme which donates money to her chosen charities on an ongoing basis.
Devey, in her own words:
"At a time when the banks are failing to invest in British small businesses, I am proud to be able to do my part to support the next generation of UK entrepreneurs.
"In order to set-up Pall-Ex in the mid-nineties, I had to sell my house and car to get the start-up capital necessary to fulfil my business ambitions, as none of the banks appreciated my potential. I would have loved the opportunity to have stood before the Dragons, and I will remember my own experiences and the realities of running a business today, when choosing to support - or reject - the budding entrepreneurs joining me in the Den."
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