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Rachel_Elnaugh

Rachel Elnaugh

Rachel Elnaugh (born 12 December 1964) is a British entrepreneur, who came to prominence as an investor on the BBC Two TV series Dragons' Den, in which hers was the sole female perspective alongside four male entrepreneurs known as the Dragons.

Biography

Her family lived above her father's electrical grocery shop, and she attended Chelmsford County High School for Girls. She originally wanted to take art history, but a bad teacher's reference led to her being rejected at five universities, and she became an accountant and tax consultant with Arthur Andersen.

Career

Wanting to run a gift business, she found difficulty finding and presenting her father with tickets to go and see the England cricket team play India at the Lord's Cricket Ground for his birthday. She put the tickets in a series of boxed "clues" which he loved, and she developed the idea round special events, using the term Red Letter Days. Aged 24, she founded Red Letter Days, which provides unusual "experience" gifts such as tank driving, record production and aircraft flying. The company grew to a £17.5million turnover, and in 2001/2 Elnaugh was a finalist in the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which resulted in her joining the BBC's Dragons' Den.

After a poorly made strategic and financial choice of expanding via supermarket distribution, Red Letter Days went into administration in 2005; the remaining assets and goods were bought by fellow Dragons' Den judges Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis. Although Elnaugh was at the helm before and at the time of the company's failure just days after the birth of her fourth child, she blames the problems on the actions of the last CEO who she appointed in 2002, while she took a non-executive role.

ITV1's "Tonight Programme" had more critical explanation of the demise of Red Letter Days, including unpaid suppliers and disappointed purchasers. The programme suggested the business model failed to escrow or earmark supplier payment equity, instead using it for working capital.

As a result of disputes with various Dragons (Jones, Paphitis and Duncan Bannatyne), and the resulting uncomfortable position of the BBC if it allowed a perceived "failed" business person to be on a business panel, she agreed to leave the "Dragons' Den" panel.

Elnaugh is now working as a venture capital adviser and business speaker. She has also written a book about "the entire business life cycle and the kind of lessons you learn along the way - through bitter experience - not just through my own experiences but through the eyes of the other entrepreneurs". Reviewed by Jonathan Guthrie in the Financial Times newspaper

It is unlikely that Ms Elnaugh would have created a business with £17m in turnover without the towering self-belief that also makes her such a sore loser. When she was starting out, she endured countless rejections from potential business partners. Advised by friends and family to "go back to accountancy", she stuck to her guns instead. "Interestingly," she notes, "every person or company who was abusive to me in those early years either went out of business or came to a sticky end". Including, she claims, a hotelier killed in a car smash. Scary lady.

Personal life

Having put her Sandhurst home up as security in the attempt to save Red Letter Days, Elnaugh presently lives in Bakewell, Derbyshire with her five sons: three from her first marriage - Mark, Paul, Eddie; and two from her second - Michael and Jack.

References

External links

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