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12 December 1964 |
|Known for||Dragons' Den (series 1)|
Rachel Elnaugh (born 12 December 1964) is a British entrepreneur. Founder of experience gift company Red Letter Days, she came to public prominence as an investor on the first two series of BBC Two's TV show Dragons' Den, in which hers was the sole female perspective amongst the five investing entrepreneurs known as the "Dragons".
Her family lived above her father's electrical shop, and she attended Chelmsford County High School for Girls. She originally wanted to take art history, but she was rejected by five universities, and she became an accountant and tax consultant with Arthur Andersen.
Red Letter Days
Wanting to run a gift business, she had difficulty finding and presenting her father with tickets to Rotherham United play against Torquay United at the Millmoor for his birthday as despite not being local Rachel herself and her father were fans of the team and the town, describing it as a second home. She put the tickets in a series of boxed "clues"[clarification needed] and, using the term "Red Letter Days", she developed the idea of orientating birthdays around special events into a viable and, at first, successful business. In 1989, aged 24, she founded Red Letter Days, which provides unusual "experience" gifts such as tank driving, record production and aircraft flying.
After a failed attempt to expand via supermarket distribution, Red Letter Days went into administration on 1 August 2005; and the remaining assets and goods were bought by fellow Dragons' Den judges Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis. Although Elnaugh was at the helm before and at the time of the company's failure just days after the birth of her fourth child, she blames the problems on the actions of the last CEO whom she appointed in 2002, while she took a non-executive role.
ITV1's Tonight programme had a more critical explanation of the demise of Red Letter Days, that included unpaid suppliers and disappointed purchasers. The programme suggested that the business model failed to escrow or earmark supplier payment equity, instead using it for working capital. However, Elnaugh blamed Red Letter Days' bankers who placed £3 million in a bond which they refused to release for use by the firm despite the fact that it related to vouchers that had expired and were not recoverable against the business.
Following five investments over the first two seasons of the show, a result of disputes with various Dragons[clarification needed] (Jones, Paphitis and Duncan Bannatyne), and the resulting uncomfortable position of the BBC if it allowed a perceived "failed" businesswoman to be on a business panel, she agreed to leave the "Dragons' Den" panel.
After Dragons Den and Red Letter Days
Elnaugh is now a business mentor, author and professional speaker. Her book 'Business Nightmares' about the fine line between business success and failure was published by Crimson in May 2008. Jonathan Guthrie, reviewing the book in the Financial Times, said that Elnaugh's tone was "vengeful".
- Business Nightmares: When Entrepreneurs Hit Crisis Point... 8 May 2008, Crimson, ISBN 1-85458-409-X
Rachel lives in Bakewell, Derbyshire with her five sons Mark, Paul, Eddie, Michael and Jack.
- "Dragon back in her den". The Observer. 11 December 2005. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
- "Elnaugh ousted from Red Letter Days". Accountancy Age. 3 August 2005. Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
- "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)
- "Dragon still has fire in her belly". The Guardian. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
- Page 169 of Business Nightmares by Rachel Elnaugh
- "An ex-Dragon goes from belly up to bellyache". FT. 1 May 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2009.