Q&A with Theo Paphitis

Theo Paphitis, entrepreneur and star of Dragon’s Den, answers questions from

Image courtesy of Theo Paphitis

Image courtesy of Theo Paphitis

Two things stick in my mind as my proudest moments. The first one is when I bought Ryman because I remember waking up and thinking “I own Ryman! I own Ryman!” It meant a lot to me. And the second one is of course Millwall reaching the FA Cup Final.

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was younger. All I knew was I needed to make money. We were incredibly poor and all I wanted to do was to get out of that poverty trap. I started the school tuck shop at fourteen and got three other jobs. But I did enjoy shop-keeping!

My advice for students going into business is you’ve got to have a passion for it. If you haven’t got passion, don’t do it. Your life’s too short, especially your working career. Follow your dreams by all means and above all else, assume nothing.

Are websites like Amazon killing the high street? Life moves on, life changes, the way we lead our lives is changing. As retailers we’ve got to change with it. The customer works with their purse, so we’ve got e-commerce.

One of my favourite Dragons’ Den investments is Magic Whiteboard. It has done really well, given me my money back and is making a profit. The investment I lost my money on very quickly was Satski, because the guy didn’t do what he promised and put his hand in the till – but he got arrested and went to prison. I lost my money but it didn’t stop me investing in another people. You’ve got to trust people. Now and again you get let down, but it’s not going to change my life.

My most embarrassing moment on TV? Sharing a bed and snuggling up to Peter Jones on Dragons’ Den, that didn’t look good!

I couldn’t do just one dinner party. I’d have to do lots! I love history, I think most of my guests would come from the graveyard. Politically, I’d have to invite Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, John F Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. From the world of sport, no question – Bobby Moore, Pele, of course Sir Alex Ferguson.

I like to go fishing. It takes a lot of time. I feel really guilty because it takes up time that I could be more productive. I also like watching movies, eating, archery and drinking – believe me, you students are just learners!

My greatest fear? Bad health for your family and yourself has to come first. Secondly, I never want to be poor again. Having been there and knowing what people go through, I never want to be there again.

Life has taught me to assume nothing. Expect nothing. You make your own luck by working hard, and the harder you work, the luckier you get.

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