Sara Davies, 35, is the latest – and youngest – dragon to join hit BBC show Dragons’ Den.
Davies began her entrepreneur journey while still at the University of York, where she graduated with a First in business management. She founded Crafter’s Companion, a crafter’s supply company, as a student. During a placement at a tiny craft company, she spotted a gap in the market for a tool which could create bespoke envelopes for handmade cards. With help from her retired engineer father, she designed a product called The Enveloper, going to a TV shopping channel to sell it. She sold 30,000 units within six months. By the time she graduated, her business was turning over £500,000.
Today, Crafter’s Companion turns over £35m and exports to more than 40 countries globally, employing over 200 people worldwide.
In addition to appearing as a dragon, Sara Davies continues to run her business with her husband Simon and has two small children.
#1 – Don’t let emotion drive your business
One of my biggest learnings was when we were turning over £2m a year and stationery giant Helix copied my product. I immediately reached for my solicitor and what I then realised with law was that once you’re in, you’re in. Our legal costs rose to £250,000 giving me sleepless nights and, in hindsight, we could have lost the entire business because of an emotive decision I made. Eventually Helix settled out of court and withdrew its product. But the thing it made me realise was not to be so emotional about things.
#2 – Realise your limitations
My husband Simon quit his job as an accountant to help me run our business, and the first thing he said was, ‘You’re not to look over my shoulder. As an entrepreneur, you need to realise you’re not good at everything. Realise your limitations and delegate to people who are better at specific parts of your business.
#3 – Offer a taste for free but don’t cut prices
If you’re a freelancer offering a service, give your prospective client a taste for free and then charge them the full price if they want. Don’t offer yourself on the cheap from the start. You need to give them a sample of what they’re going to get.
#4 – Don’t be shy to ask for advice
Every business has the same problems and people love to talk about their experiences. Don’t be unconfident in asking for advice.
#5 – Champion your positives
As a working mum, I do get overstretched sometimes when it comes to, say, attending the kids’ school events. Rather than beat myself up about it, I compartmentalise my life so that when I am with my children, I’m 100-per-cent with them. The email gets switched off. And if you do miss something, rather than focus on the negatives, you need to champion your positives. Don’t chastise yourself. What I don’t do is smush work and family together – otherwise you won’t do anything very well.
#6 – Don’t let being a woman define you
Something my fellow dragon Deborah Meaden on Dragons’ Den told me was, ‘If anybody talks to me about being a woman in business, I tell them, no, I’m in business.’ Don’t let yourself be defined by your gender.
#7 – Try and grow your company using your own money
Where possible, always try to grow your company using your own money as this way you are guaranteed to stay in control. By taking on equity investors you lose this control and will inevitably end up making compromises.
Sara Davies was being interviewed by fellow Dragons’ Den panelist Theo Paphitis as part of his annual #SBS Small Business Sunday event in Birmingham, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
To take part in #SBS follow Theo Paphitis on Twitter and tweet him about your business every Sunday between 5-7:30pm. Theo retweets six businesses each week on Mondays at 6pm, giving them a free marketing boost.