BBC Dragons' Den star Sara Davies Shares Her Entrepreneurial Tips
Durham's Sara Davies shares her tips and plans for the future
County Durham-born entrepreneur Sara famously started her crafting business from her university bedroom aged 21, and it’s now a global success. She was the youngest ever female investor to join the Den and has come a long way since her school days at St John’s School and Sixth Form College in Bishop Auckland.
‘I’ve got where I have because of my mindset,’ she tells Dame Allan’s Schools pupils. ‘If you meet anyone who knows me – people who do business with me, the other Dragons – and you ask them to sum me up in a couple of words, the first word to come out of anybody’s mouth is “driven”.’
She hopes to inspire pupils to harness that same drive and passion. ‘I’ve done quite a bit of self-reflection and been on a journey of self-discovery over the last few days, while preparing for this talk, and it’s really made me understand and appreciate just what I was when I was your age and how that’s shaped the person I am today. It’s been a great eye-opener,’ she continues. ‘I wasn’t brains of Britain, I was probably middle of the road. When I did my GCSEs, I knew I could have done better if I’d just pushed myself a little harder.’
Sara took a keen interest in her family firm, Wear Valley Decorating Centre, and chose to take Business Studies alongside Maths, History and French when it came to her A Levels, and worked towards a business degree at the University of York.
‘What I learnt then, as a teenager, was that there’s a direct correlation between how hard I worked and what I got out of the other end of it,’ she says. ‘When I went to university, I wasn’t the smartest person on that course – in fact, the other students didn’t talk like me, they didn’t walk like me, and I stuck out like a sore thumb – but I knew I wanted to succeed more than any of them. I wanted to be the best and that drive really kicked in.’
In her third year Sara did a placement at local crafting company, Graphicus. ‘It was my first real exposure to the business, and I became passionate about it; I fell in love with the crafting industry,’ she recalls. ‘When I finished the placement, I had so many ideas for new products buzzing round my head!’
In her fourth year she invented The Enveloper – an envelope-making tool for card crafters – and sold more than 8,000 units of the product within the first 24 hours of its debut on shopping channel, Ideal World. That led her to Crafter’s Companion.
‘By the time I graduated in May, my business was turning over more than our family firm, which had been running for 25 years,’ she says. ‘I achieved a first-class honours degree and was named the top student on the course across all three years. When you’ve got the drive, you can do absolutely anything. I was never the smartest person in the room, I wasn’t even at the half-way mark, but I had more drive in abundance than every other person, and that’s what made the difference. I worked at full capacity, and always believed there was that little bit more in the tank.’
Sara invests, on average, £500,000 each season on Dragon’s Den. In the last financial year Crafter’s Companion, based in Newton Aycliffe, turned over £37.8 million and currently employs more than 200 people.
Sara has plans to invest in technology and to increase her online presence, and she will appear on television screens in spring as a judge on BBC’s new wedding-themed show, Master of Ceremonies, alongside First Date’s Fred Sirieix.
‘I truly believe I’m a product of the people I have surrounded myself with,’ she says. ‘I’ve got some great influences in my life – particularly my dad and [Sara’s partner] Simon – and they’ve always pushed me to be the very best that I could possibly be,’ Sara told the audience. ‘Then there was the push that came from within. When that switch flicked for me as a teenager, that drive went off the scale.’
The harder you work, the luckier you are….
'Don’t let anyone tell you success is down to luck – yes, you need a sprinkle of luck with everything – but it’s one percent luck and 99 percent hard graft.’
Be the best you can be, and you’ll find that fulfilling…
‘If you do something half-heartedly then it’s a missed opportunity. Give 100 percent effort and you’ll be proud of what you do.’
You are a product of the people you surround yourself with…
‘Surround yourself with good people who have a positive influence on your life and push you to be the best version of yourself possible.’