Simon Woodroffe

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Woodroffe in 2012

Simon Woodroffe OBE (born 14 February 1952[1]) is an English motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He started the sushi chain YO! Sushi in 1997,[2] and has appeared as a 'Dragon' on the first UK series of Dragons' Den.

Simon left Marlborough College towards the end of the 1960s, at the age of 16, with 2 O-levels. He went on the road with the likes of Rod Stewart and The Moody Blues before becoming a stage designer.

After a spell in television, he conceived and launched YO! Sushi in 1997. The business established conveyor belt sushi bars featuring call buttons, robot drinks trolleys, Japanese TV, self heating plates and other such novelties.

Woodroffe was able to launch the business without start-up capital. At the time that his first restaurant opened, despite having customers queuing down the block to get in, he could not get financing from his bank – and he preferred not to work with angel investors. Instead, Woodroffe went to his largest supplier and asked them for extended terms to pay off his debt. To his surprise, the supplier agreed.

Some years later when Woodroffe asked the supplier why they had agreed to help him, the supplier responded that they had believed YO! Sushi would be a 'safe bet' because it had the support of very large Japanese backers Honda, Sony, and All Nippon Airways. In a 2008 interview, Woodroffe joked that in fact those three companies had provided only very limited sponsorship for the business: some cheap televisions and a motorcycle.[3]

In September 2003, Woodroffe sold his controlling interest in YO! Sushi in a £10m deal, backed by private equity firm Primary Capital.[4] Woodroffe retained a 22% stake and continued working as a business entrepreneur, also taking time to present TV programmes. Primary Capital has since sold YO! Sushi. Woodroffe has sold his remaining stake, but is entitled to a royalty of 1% of gross sales in perpetuity.[5]

He currently speaks around the world at corporate and promotional events, and has appeared on stage at the Edinburgh Festival to discuss his YO! ventures including YO! Company.

In 2008, he launched the YOTEL brand.

Woodroffe received an OBE on 17 June 2006.

Personal life[edit]

Woodroffe is divorced from his first wife, with whom he has a daughter. He lives on a house boat, a walking distance from his former partner, actress Cherie Lunghi, whose flat is near the Kings Road, Chelsea.[6][7]


  1. ^ "The Andrew Davidson Interview Im a celebrity get me a deal". The Times (London). 2006-08-13. 
  2. ^ "Yo! History" (Web). Retrieved 2006-05-14. 
  3. ^ "Business television show: Celebrity entrepreneurs on what it takes to succeed" (Videoaccessdate=2009-10-06). 
  4. ^ Growing Business Success Stories - Simon Woodroffe
  5. ^ "Simon Woodroffe, the founder of Yo! Sushi has most of his £1.6m pension in cash". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "In the Middle". Saga. 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  7. ^ Hardy, Rebecca (2009-06-05). "Cherie Lunghi: Why can't I find a man?". Daily Mail (London).