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Working in the family decorating firm in County Durham gave Sara Davies the business bug – and her love for arts and crafts.
And she turned her passion into profit after inventing an envelope-making tool for handmade cards. It proved an instant hit and Crafter’s Companion was born.
In the 15 years since, Sara has built an empire that rakes in £34m a year and employs hundreds of staff.
In 2019, aged 35, she became the youngest Dragon in the show’s history (although the youngest Dragon now is 28-year-old Steven Bartlett).
She’s not ashamed to admit she has it all – business and TV careers and a happy family life with husband Simon and their children Oliver and Charlie. We sat down with Sara, 37, to find out how she does it.
You’ve been on Dragons’ Den for a while. What brings you back each series?
Investing was the next step for me and we see a conveyor belt of fantastic businesses. Dragons’ Den is the place to find the best businesses to invest in.
How competitive is it?
It’s horrendously competitive. Most of the TV people watch are trained actors who are playing a role. We’re not. You get our genuine reactions.
Sarah and the rest of the dragons
(Image: Manchester Evening News)
Is there any backstage bragging when one of you wins?
Deborah [Meaden] is the worst for this. She’ll be like the cat that got the cream. To be honest, we’re all the same, though.
Do people pitch to you in the street?
Yes, very much. I had a cracking one. I was trying on an outfit in the changing room and someone recognised me. They’re like, “Oh, Sara, while you’re there, I was wondering… “ I’m stood there in bra and pants. So yes, people come to me all the time.
You’re TV’s crafting queen. Where did that come from?
I’ve always done crafts. If you’re that way inclined, you can turn your hand to anything.
I went to university to study management, thinking I might take over the family business or start my own. I ended up working for a tiny craft company and it opened my eyes to an industry I didn’t realise was as big as it was. I fell in love with it.
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While building your empire did you ever think about quitting?
It never crossed my mind to quit, but I’ve had some hairy moments. A big company decided to rip off my main product.
I was in my early twenties with hundreds of thousands of pounds on the line and could have lost the business. I remember crying myself to sleep because I didn’t know how we’d get through it.
But we did – and we were successful in defending our patent.
Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?
I used to when I was younger. I’d wear suits or structured dresses and power shoes and heavy make-up. But look at me now – I don’t feel like I have to. I will be me and who I am. I’ve become comfortable with who I am and who I am is good enough.
Sarah says these days she doesn't feel the need to overdress and impress others
How did you and your husband meet?
Well, I was 15, Simon was 19, so it was quite a scandal at the time. He was my first boyfriend and I was his first girlfriend.
Simon was the star of our local cricket team and I remember him coming over and he asked for my number. I was shaking writing my number down and the rest’s history, as they say.
What’s the secret to your lasting romance?
I would say we’re still as madly in love today as we were 22 years ago. We have this deep-rooted respect of each other and the role we play in our relationship. I idolise the ground he walks on.
You work together, too. How do you split work and home life?
We used to be just work, work, work. That changed when we had kids. If I need to talk to him and we haven’t had time during the day, I’ll put in a 20-minute appointment and say the three things we need to talk about.
We’ll have tea, I’ll get the kids to bed and before we put a movie on we’ll have our meeting.
Sara and her husband regularly schedule meetings to discuss big family topics
What sort of a mum are you?
I’m very relaxed and laid-back and I’m one of these, “The answer’s yes and what’s the question?” I don’t always have the most amount of time so what I maybe lose in quantity, I make up for in quality.
You’ve then got to try to find the balance and not spoil them.
How do you balance work and family life?
I’m able to have it all because of the support network I have – a phenomenal support network. We have grandparents who are very active.
So when I have to go away, it’s not a case that Simon is left doing all the school runs, sorting the tea out every night and trying to run the business. One of our parents will step in.
Luckily Sara's family help her out with looking after her two boys
How do you feel about fame?
My husband was nervous about Dragons’ Den because of the impact it would have on the family. He worried people would come up to us in Tesco and bother the kids, but people are respectful and they don’t.
Are you ever starstruck?
It happens all the time. You have to try to look cool. I was doing The One Show and Rhod Gilbert was next to me. I was giddy with excitement because he’s my favourite comedian.
He was like, “It’s so great to meet you. I watch you on the show and I’m so privileged to be on with you.”
I thought, “Oh my God, he feels the same way about me that I’m feeling about him.” It was a real pinch-me moment.