5 lesser known business people who should be on Dragons' Den

Kristina Grineva 26 August 2014

Now that Duncan Bannatyne has called time on his role in the Dragon’s Den, the search is on for a replacement. Duncan, not one to suffer fools gladly, graced the Den with his humour and sometimes acerbic comments for three seasons. His replacement will have big shoes to fill, but these potential candidates look to have the right qualities to take his seat.

BJ Cunningham
BJ Cunningham boasts a combination of artistic flair and entrepreneurial skill that has seen him climb to the top of the ladder in the business world. His first venture was a car import business that failed, leaving him with massive debts. He subsequently created DEATH Cigarettes, which ultimately brought him into conflict with the tobacco industry and the governments of the European Union and led to legal action in the European Court of Justice, which he lost. He then established a highly successful brand marketing company and later launched a highly acclaimed luxury shoe and accessory business with his wife.

BJ has a good eye for a business opportunity and is not one to shrink from a challenge. He is a highly sought-after speaker and is energetic, smart and provocative – attributes that should make him a perfect fit for the Dragons’ Den.

Karen Darby
Describing herself as a social entrepreneur who likes to make money and a difference, Karen Derby is one of Britain’s top female entrepreneurs. Starting life on a council estate in Mitcham, she now owns a Georgian mansion in up-market Weybridge. Karen’s first business venture was in telemarketing when she was just 22 years of age. From there she went on to establish a business training call centre staff and then another helping people to compare power prices and switch companies.
Karen has a talent for spotting gaps in the market and is committed to giving others the help they need to get their businesses up and running. She is also a popular speaker, who gives sound advice in her easy and witty style. With some three decades of success in business – all the while bringing up a family – Karen has just what it takes to be a Dragon.

Geoff Burch
From an inauspicious start in life – getting kicked out of school – Geoff Burch has become an international business expert and sought-after guru on alternative business. Starting out with an advertising firm, he and his employers quickly discovered that his real talent lay in his persuasive tongue. This ability to win clients led him to establish his own businesses, ranging from vehicle sales to marketing, with varying degrees of success.
Geoff travels the world as a motivational speaker, handing out advice and inspiring business professionals to better things with his inimitable animated style.  He has a particular passion for small businesses and for helping people succeed. With his wide knowledge in a number of areas crucial to the development of new businesses and his wit and energy, Geoff would be a fine addition to the Dragons’ Den.

Jo Fairley
Combining a busy home life and a successful business career, businesswoman, journalist and philanthropist Jo Fairley says that wellbeing and a balanced lifestyle are important factors behind her achievements. Throughout her career, Jo has created several successful brands, most notably Green and Black’s chocolate, all using her own hands-on style and is of course the author of the Beauty Bible series.

Jo is also an inspirational speaker and is sought after on the speakers’ circuit, well known for being informative and engaging her audience. Given that she left school at 16 with just six O Levels, Jo has a great story to share. She would make a great addition to the Dragons, as budding entrepreneurs will be able to benefit from her experience – and maybe her cash.

Michael Acton Smith
Slightly eccentric he may be, but Michael Acton Smith is a highly gifted and successful entrepreneur and philanthropist who started out in 1998 with a mere £1000, a gift from his mother. In partnership with a friend, his first business was Hot Box, an online gadget and gift retailer. The launch of the “Shot Glass Chess Set” put the business on the road to success. They later rebranded Hot Box as Firebox.com. In 2004, Michael launched Mind Candy, a niche online game company. The limited market saw it struggle, but then came Moshi Monsters and Michael has never looked back.

Michael wants to develop the world’s biggest online entertainment brand for the digital generation. An adventurous businessman, Michael is also an accomplished and exciting speaker who is always in demand. As a Dragon, he would bring a wealth of wisdom and a refreshing and lively presence to the Den.

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