Deborah Sonia Meaden is an English entrepreneur who previously operated a multimillion-pound family holiday company before completing a management buyout but is now best known for her appearances on the BBC Two business show Dragons’ Den.
Meaden demonstrated enormous economic savvy as a toddler by starting up a flower stand in a neighbor’s driveway.
Deborah married her long-term partner Paul in 1993, and the couple currently resides in Somerset.
In 1985, Paul met Deborah while working at Weststar during his undergraduate break.
They split up momentarily because she didn’t want to start a family, but after a trip to Venezuela, she returned to London and they married.
Meaden, a horse enthusiast, previously slogged through summer jobs at the age of 11 in order to purchase a pony. She enrolled in Brighton Technical College to study business at the age of 16.
Soon after, she traveled to Italy to sell glass and ceramics to well-known merchants such as Harvey Nichols, although her work was also sold by others. Meaden gave up the business because he wasn’t prepared for a court battle. Unfazed, she pursued new projects, including a franchise for Italian fabric company Stefanel, which she sold two years later for £10,000, according to sources.
Meaden studied business at Brighton Technical College after finishing high school and then worked as a sales-room model for a fashion store.
Meaden and a partner purchased one of the first Stefanel textile franchises in the UK, which was headquartered in the West Country; she sold it to her partner for $10,000 two years later. She went on to run a number of successful leisure and retail businesses, including a prize bingo room at Butlins in Minehead.
Meaden joined her family’s firm in 1988 to handle the amusement arcade operations, and in 1992, she joined Weststar Holidays, a family holiday park operator located in Exeter, Devon, with significant locations around the South West of England.
Fox Brothers, a West Country textile mill founded in 1772 and currently situated in Wellington, Somerset, was acquired by Meaden in 2009, along with fellow shareholder Douglas Cordeaux, former creative director of Pepe Jeans London.
In a disagreement over the granting of village green status to a field on which Mudstone LLP, a firm in which she is a partner, wanted to develop 48 dwellings, a planning inspector rejected Meaden’s evidence to his investigation as “implausible.” In a disagreement over the granting of village green status to a field on which Mudstone LLP, a firm in which she is a partner, wanted to develop 48 dwellings, a planning inspector rejected Meaden’s evidence to his investigation as “implausible.”
Degree of honor
The University of Exeter Business School presented Meaden with an honorary degree in July 2010.
In the same month, she was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Staffordshire University.
In July 2013, Keele University bestowed an honorary degree on her.
Meaden was honored by Bath Spa University with an honorary degree in July 2014.