Sarah Willingham

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Sarah Willingham
Sarah Willingham portrait.jpg
Sarah Louise Willingham

(1973-12-21) 21 December 1973 (age 45)
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Alma mater
OccupationBusiness entrepreneur, investor and personal finance expert
Net worth£12m
TelevisionThe Restaurant
Dragons' Den
Spouse(s)Michael Willingham-Toxvaerd (m. 2008)

Sarah Louise Willingham (born 21 December 1973) is a British entrepreneur, investor and consumer champion. She is best known for her management in high street restaurants such as Planet Hollywood and Pizza Express and as an investor in growing businesses on Dragons Den.

Willingham bought the Bombay Bicycle Club while in partnership with The Clapham House Group. She was able successfully to expand the Bombay Bicycle Club from a chain of six restaurants to a seventeen chain business.

From 2015 to 2017 she appeared in the BBC Two series Dragons' Den.


Willingham has two business degrees from Oxford Brookes University[1] and the École supérieure de commerce de La Rochelle business school in France. In 2004 she completed an MBA from the Cranfield University School of Management.



Having spent the early years of her career managing some restaurants including Chessageed Delights,[2] Planet Hollywood and Pizza Express, Willingham decided to go it alone. In partnership with The Clapham House Group, she bought The Bombay Bicycle Club in 2004,[3] and turned a loss-making chain of six restaurants into a profitable chain of 17 restaurants, making it Britain's largest Indian restaurant chain.[4] Willingham sold her share back to The Clapham House Group in 2007[5] where she continued as a main board director responsible for three of their four brands (Tootsies, The Real Greek and The Bombay Bicycle Club) with over 50 restaurants and more than 1,500 employees.[5]

In 2004, Willingham co-established an AIM-listed company, Neutrahealth plc,[6] which acquired six businesses in the vitamin and mineral supplements industry and was sold to Indian company Elder Pharmaceuticals Ltd in 2011.[7]

In April 2008, she helped co-establish a private equity platform in the UK.[8]

In 2010, Willingham invested in the London Cocktail Club. The first cocktail bar opened in 2011 on Goodge Street, London.[9] In February 2012 the London Cocktail Club added their second cocktail bar on Shaftesbury Avenue, Their third opened in Great Portland Street, London in 2013.[10] There are now eight bars with their latest opening in Bristol in September 2018 [11]

In July 2012, Willingham launched a money-saving website called letssavemoney, a free to use money saving website which aimed to help people take control of their time and be smart with their money, encouraging users to take action through one-minute guides to various aspects of money saving. With growing children and lack of editorial resource Sarah Willingham closed down Letssavemoney in 2018 [12]

Being a former owner of the Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant chain, she is recognised as an entrepreneur specialising in high street restaurants.

Management Today[13] and The Sunday Times acknowledged her as one of the "35 most successful women under 35" in the UK. In 2007 she was voted one of the "Courvoisier Top 500"[14] and American Express "Spokesperson for Small Business Saturday 2013".[15]

In January 2016, Willingham was named one of The Sunday Times' '500 Most Influential people in Britain'.[16] In 2017 Willingham received an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University [17] and in 2018 she received honorary doctorates from Cranfield University [18] and Oxford Brookes University [19] in recognition of her outstanding contribution to business and entrepreneurship


Willingham was a restaurant inspector and investor on all three series of Raymond Blanc's The Restaurant and as an independent investor on the Sky television series Cooks to Market.[20][21] She has regularly appeared on various TV programmes, including Daybreak, This Morning, The Wright Stuff and Sky News.

In March 2015, Willingham was named as one of the new "Dragons" on the BBC television programme Dragons' Den from the thirteenth series which began airing in July 2015.[22] She returned to Dragons' Den for the fourteenth series, beginning in July 2016.

Her Dragons' Den investments include:

  • Vitiliglow – £40,000 for 40% equity
  • Sublime Science – £50,000 for 10% equity (joint investment with Nick Jenkins) - sold in September 2018 [23]
  • Grounded Body Scrub – £30,000 for 45% equity
  • Craft Gin Club – £75,000 for 12.5% equity
  • Cocofina – £75,000 for 20% equity (joint investment with Nick Jenkins)
  • Love Me Beauty – £80,000 for 8% equity (joint investment with Nick Jenkins)

In September 2016, Willingham took part in a celebrity episode of The Chase.

Personal life[edit]

Willingham and her husband Michael live in London and Switzerland with their four children.


  1. ^ Willingham, Sarah. "Alumna returns to BBC Two for third series of The Restaurant". Retrieved 16 May 2015. (Registration required (help)).
  2. ^ "The Restaurant – The Inspectors". BBC. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  3. ^ "Clapham House Grp – Acquisition – FE InvestEgate". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  4. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (11 October 2008). "Sarah Willingham: People need to change the way they eat". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b "FE Investegate -Clapham House Grp Announcements – Clapham House Grp: Trading Update and Placing". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  6. ^ "FE Investegate -AIM Announcements – AIM: Sch 1 – NeutraHealth plc". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  7. ^ "NeutraHealth bought by Elder". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  8. ^ Jacobs, Emma (4 December 2011). "Interview: Chain reaction". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  9. ^ "London Cocktail Club". Time Out London.
  10. ^ "Oxford Circus – London Cocktail Club". London Cocktail Club. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  11. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Emma De Vita (1 July 2007). "MT's 35 Women Under 35 2007: Bright young things – Management Today". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  14. ^ "CVTF500 member list". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  15. ^ Andrews, Amy (6 December 2013). "Shop local! Call to spend more in your High Street's independents as Small Business Saturday arrives". This is Money. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Britain's 500 most influential". The Sunday Times. 24 January 2016.(subscription required)
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Cooks to Market". Sky Living HD. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  21. ^ Willingham, Sarah (16 August 2012). "Kitchen commerce for Sky Living HD this September". Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Three new Dragons enter The Den for Series 13 – Media Centre". BBC. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  23. ^

External links[edit]