Rachel Elnaugh

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Rachel Elnaugh
Elnaugh in 2023
Born1964 (age 59–60)
Essex, England
EducationChelmsford County High School for Girls
Known forRed Letter Days, Dragons' Den, Anti-vaccine activism

Rachel Elnaugh (born 1964[1]) is a former British entrepreneur who founded the UK gift company Red Letter Days. She was one of the investors participating in the first two series of BBC Two's reality TV show Dragons' Den.

Early life[edit]

Elnaugh was born in Essex in 1964. When she was young she lived above her father's electrical shop, 'Elnaugh and Son' in Chelmsford. Rachel attended Chelmsford County High School for Girls, a grammar school in Essex. She originally wanted to take art history, but she was rejected by five universities.[2][1] Before she founded her own company, she worked for the accountancy firm Arthur Andersen.[3]


Red Letter Days[edit]

In 1989, Elnaugh founded Red Letter Days, one of the first UK companies to sell experiential gifts, such as motor racing days, hot air ballooning and health spa days.[4][2] She could not get a bank loan at the time, so friends and family contributed £7 000 to the budget.[3]

The company grew to an £18 million annual turnover and led to Elnaugh being a 2001/2 finalist in the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.[5][3]

In 2005, the company went into administration, and the remaining assets and inventory were bought by her fellow Dragons' Den entrepreneurs Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones.[6][7] ITV1's Tonight programme criticised the business model of Red Letter Days, which included unpaid suppliers and disappointed purchasers. The programme suggested that the company failed to escrow or earmark supplier payment equity, using it instead as working capital.[8][9] However, Elnaugh blamed Red Letter Days' bankers,[8] and stated that the decision to go into administration was made to minimise job losses at the company.[10]

Dragons' Den[edit]

In the mid 2000s, Elnaugh joined the BBC's reality series Dragons' Den.[4] She was one of the five investors ("Dragons") in the first two series of the show, being the only female dragon at that time.[11] During her tenure on the show, she made five agreed investment offers[citation needed] – in Grails,[12] Le Beanock,[13] Snowbone,[14] Elizabeth Galton[15] and Bedlam Puzzles.[16][17] After Red Letter Days went into administration, between the filming and release of the second season, her "position became untenable" according to Elnaugh, and was replaced in the third season by Deborah Meaden.[18][19]

After Dragon's Den and Red Letter Days[edit]

In 2005, she was head of a company called Easyart.[2] The following year, she produced a double CD pack consisting of "positive business thinking", The Life Changers, with hypnotherapist Glenn Harrold.[18] In her book Business Nightmares - When Entrepreneurs Hit Crisis Point (2008), she wrote of her Red Letter Days experiences.[20][1] The Evening Herald's reviewer said "A novel and more original approach to the jaded "how to get ahead in business" manuals, even for the casual browser, Business Nightmares makes for a surprisingly entertaining and accessible read."[21] Elnaugh founded the digital publishing and marketing platform Source TV in 2013.[1] Her book Prosperity was published in 2016. She described it as "a summary of Rachel's key teachings around money, flow and abundance drawn from her years as a business mentor".[1]

Political activism[edit]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she aired her views on the vaccination programme, calling COVID vaccinations of 12-15-year-olds "child abuse". She was criticised when she called for Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, to hang.[22][23]

Elnaugh was subsequently part of a group called 'Phoenix Rose' which bought 72 acres of land in Cressbrook Dale, Derbyshire, in an attempt to create a "safe haven away from the threat that humanity [is] facing".[24][25] The scheme, that has been described as an 'anti-vax outpost', proved controversial with locals.[24][1][25] The group was served with an enforcement notice in August 2023, but took no action, forcing the Peak District National Park Authority to forcibly remove the structures at the site, in December of that year.[26][25]

In May 2023, Elnaugh stood for a seat on the Derbyshire Dales District Council, under a party that she co-founded earlier that year called the LOVE Party. However, the party is not registered with the Electoral Commission,[27] so she appeared on the ballot as an independent. She came in sixth place with 175 votes, being beaten by Conservative Party candidates Mark Wakeman and Gareth Bryn Gee.[28]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2023, she has five sons and has been married twice.[1][23]


  • Elnaugh, Rachel (2008). Business Nightmares: The Unseen Moments When Successful Business Personalities Hit Crisis Point and How They Faced the Dawn. Crimson. ISBN 978-1-85458-409-0.
  • "PROSPERITY" 23 April 2016, Source Publishing


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gatens, Katie (23 April 2023). "The Dragon's Den star who built an anti-vax outpost in the Peak District". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  2. ^ a b c Parkhouse, Sam (11 December 2005). "Dragon back in her den". The Observer. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Womersley, Tara (17 April 2002). "Bosses who proved sceptics wrong". The Scotsman. Retrieved 6 January 2024 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  4. ^ a b "Interview with Rachel Elnaugh". celebpreneur.com. 11 August 2007. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2009. (link via Internet Archive)
  5. ^ "Rachel Elnaugh". The Right Address. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  6. ^ Osborne, Alistair (1 August 2005). "Red Letter Days experiences a plunge into administration". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  7. ^ Brodie, Sophie (28 May 2007). "Red Letter Days £7.2m in red despite TV dragons' efforts". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  8. ^ a b Elnaugh 2008, p. 169.
  9. ^ Dee, Johnny (29 July 2011). "Dragons' Den: will new boss Hilary Devey breathe fire into the show?". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  10. ^ "Dragon still has fire in her belly". The Guardian. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  11. ^ Moir, Jan (7 August 2006). "The dragon lady strikes back". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  12. ^ Davies, Catriona (19 April 2006). "BBC under fire as Dragon firm goes down the drain". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  13. ^ "Surviving the Dragons' Den". BBC news. 22 February 2005. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  14. ^ "'Grandma' shows she knows best". Sunday Telegraph. 13 February 2005. p. 64. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  15. ^ Brass, Richard (19 September 2005). "Dragons' Den fired investors' interest". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  16. ^ "Puzzle creator says no to dragon cash". The Daily Telegraph. 29 November 2005. p. 38. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  17. ^ Thorp, Liam (24 April 2015). "Businessman who rejected £100,000 from Dragons' Den launches movement that says 'no' to party politics". The Bolton News. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  18. ^ a b Ellen, Barbara (8 July 2006). "Spare me the alpha males". The Observer. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  19. ^ Dowell, Ben (18 May 2007). "I'm out: dragon dropped from den". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Kasumu, Barbara (2 October 2012). "Ladies and gentlemen, it's OK to fail at business". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 January 2024.
  21. ^ Galvin, Tom (24 May 2008). "Tales of bad business from 'Dragon' lady". Evening Herald. pp. 20–21. Retrieved 6 January 2024 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  22. ^ Rodger, James (15 September 2021). "BBC Dragons Den star under fire over 'vile' Chris Whitty tweet". Birmingham Live. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  23. ^ a b Wells, Andy (15 September 2021). "'Dragons' Den' star Rachel Elnaugh says Chris Whitty 'will hang' after recommending vaccines for children". Yahoo News. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  24. ^ a b Wilson, Katie (19 April 2023). "Dragons' Den star ordered to tear down 'anti-vaxxer sanctuary' in Peak District". The Mirror. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  25. ^ a b c Ball, Tom (21 December 2023). "Dragons' Den star loses planning battle over 'shamanic' commune". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  26. ^ Ash, Joseph (28 December 2023). "Residents 'delighted' after removal of TV star's Peak District sanctuary". Derbyshire Live. Retrieved 10 January 2024.
  27. ^ "Heart". Love Movement. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  28. ^ "Election results for Bakewell, 4 May 2023". democracy.derbyshiredales.gov.uk. 4 May 2023. Retrieved 16 December 2023.

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