Dragons’ Den: Rachel Elnaugh

The Red Letter Days founder was only a Dragon for a year but caused quite a stir. She’s since bounced back to become an author and metaphysical expert

Dragon from: Series 1 to 2 – 2005
Number of investments made: Five (but only two deals went through after the show)
Largest sum invested: Offered £100,000 but the deal fell through after the show
Most successful investment on the show: N/A – the two businesses she backed have since dissolved

Who is Rachel Elnaugh?

Rachel Elnaugh is best known as founder of Red Letter Days, the experience gift company she founded in 1989 aged just 24 years-old.

By 2001, Elnaugh has grown Red Letter Days into a brand with over £17m turnover yet the business’ success wasn’t to last forever. In August 2005, while appearing on Dragons’ Den, the company went into admiration with debts of around £12m. It was suggested the business collapsed due to failed expansion attempts, and there was allegations of unpaid suppliers and unhappy purchasers.

Fellow Dragons Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis acquired the remaining assets and goods of Red Letter Days under the duo’s joint venture AIC and the company is currently trading successfully; with turnover of £16.87m for 2015.

Elnaugh as a Dragon

The original female Dragon, Elnaugh’s time as an investor on the show was short-lived and on the whole largely unsuccessful – at least so far as her investments were concerned.

Elnaugh backed five businesses including tailor-made suit company Grails, custom-made jewellery business Elizabeth Galton Ltd, beanbag hammock Le Beanock, Snowbone’s snowboard accessories, and 3D puzzle company Bedlam Puzzles.

Of these deals, only two went through after the show: Grails and Elizabeth Galton Ltd but both of these businesses failed to scale and succeed. Grails closed in 2006 and Elizabeth Galton closed in 2008.

According to reports, the BBC encouraged Elnaugh to leave the show following the collapse of Red Letter Days as it could not be seen to have a “failed” entrepreneur on its investor panel. There were also rumours of arguments at the time with fellow Dragons Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, and Duncan Bannatyne.

Life after the Den

In the 11 years since her time as a Dragon, Elnaugh has established herself as a business mentor, professional speaker and author.

In 2008, Elnaugh authored a book titled Business Nightmares: When Entrepreneurs Hit Crisis Point – published by Startups.co.uk’s former parent company Crimson Publishing – where she gave a starkly honest account of the crash of Red Letter Days and interviewed successful business leaders on their “dark times” in business.

In 2013, she co-founded digital publishing and marketing platform SourceTV which focuses on the metaphysical and promises to help readers transform their lives through “self-expansion”, “happiness”, “vitality”, and “love”. As part of her work for the platform, Elnaugh holds weekly mentoring sessions for thought leaders, transformational coaches, and metaphysical teachers.

In April 2016, Elnaugh announced the publication of her latest book PROSPERITY. The book looks at the principles behind money – it claims to offer key teachings on “money, flow and abundance”.

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