Entrepreneurs hauled into the den once more

Heat is on: From the left, Dragons Duncan Bannatyne, Hilary Devey, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.
Heat is on: From the left, Dragons Duncan Bannatyne, Hilary Devey, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.

While watching this year’s Apprentice final, which saw the remaining candidates having their business plans ripped to shreds by a panel of experts, some viewers found themselves thinking ‘Wouldn’t they have been better off going on Dragons’ Den (BBC Two, 9pm)?’

We’ll get another chance to compare and contrast the shows this week, as Dragon’s Den returns for a new series, and unlike The Apprentice, there won’t be any rule changes.

However, that doesn’t mean everything is the same in the Den - for a start, they’ve gained a new Dragon in the shape of haulage expert Hilary Devey.

She’s certainly got the right qualifications to join Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones on the panel.

Devey scrimped and saved to launch her own business Pall-Ex in 1996 - Lord Sugar would definitely approve - after she failed to secure backing from the banks. The gamble paid off when her venture helped to revolutionise pallet distribution in the UK and whose business model has now become standard across the industry.

Now, she’s looking forward to bringing all that expertise to Dragon’s Den.

Commenting on her new role, Hilary says: “At a time when the banks are failing to invest in British small businesses, I am proud to be able to do my part to support the next generation of UK entrepreneurs.

“In order to set-up Pall-Ex in the mid-Nineties, I had to sell my house and car to get the start-up capital necessary to fulfil my business ambitions, as none of the banks appreciated my potential.

“I would have loved the opportunity to have stood before the Dragons, and I will remember my own experiences and the realities of running a business today, when choosing to support - or reject - the budding entrepreneurs joining me in the Den.”

Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two, is also excited about the new addition, saying: “Hilary is a welcome and impressive addition to the Dragons’ lair. With her extensive business experience, she will bring a new dynamic to the Den, turning up the heat on prospective entrepreneurs as they seek that all important investment.”

But will the people delivering the pitches be glad to see her on the panel, or will they find themselves wishing James Caan was still there?

We’ll soon find out in this first edition, as a fresh batch of hopefuls arrive take up the challenge.

Georgette Hewitt from Kent finds out exactly how nerve-wracking it can be to pitch an idea to the Dragons. It’s a real battle to compose her nerves but she’s going to have to keep her cool in order to tempt the multi-millionaires to invest in her answer to a common birthday party headache familiar to all parents.

It is to be hoped that Chris Hopkins from Yorkshire has done his homework as he reveals his business venture, which is designed to capitalise on the solar power feed-in tariff. However, it turns out that one of the Dragons is already an expert on the industry.

The first episode also sees the most unusual use you could ever think of for a plastic egg; a circus act that’s sure to go with a bang; and a mind-changing massage service.

And if all that fails to impress the new Dragon, at least Evan Davis is on hand to sympathise.