When Jenny Campbell heard that Dragons’ Den had a couple of vacant seats, she saw an opportunity. The ex-banker and businesswoman got straight in touch with the BBC and is now preparing to make her debut in series 15.
As she settles in to her chair in the Den alongside fellow newcomer Tej Lalvani and established Dragons Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman, Campbell tells RadioTimes.com how she got there – and what she’s looking for in a business partner.
How did Jenny Campbell make her money?
At 16, Jenny Campbell surprised her teachers and her family by deciding to leave her all-girls private school despite her impressive O-Level results. “I just wanted to get to work,” she explains.
And that’s what she did. Campbell studied hard for her banking qualifications and progressing up the ranks, soon becoming a top banker. “I probably thought I was always going to be a banker until I went home with my pension,” she says. But after 30 years, that changed.
In 2006 she was sent to work at the cash machine business owned by RBS: Hanco ATM Systems. “I thought that was a two year job before I went back to the ivory tower, but the global financial recession changed all that in 2008,” Campbell says. “RBS didn’t want the business any more and I didn’t really want to be a banker any more, so I bought the business and took it from strength to strength.”
Having bought out the business, Campbell re-launched it as YourCash Europe Ltd – and over the next decade took it from “a very unprofitable and unsustainable business” losing £7 million a year to a “very healthy” business making £7 million.
Ten years after taking on an ailing business, she sold the company in October 2016 for £50m.
How much is Jenny Campbell worth?
She’ll only hint at it.
“What I will say is, it’s common knowledge that I sold the business for £50 million,” she laughs. “I was one of a number of shareholders in that, as well as we had to pay the mortgage off, so anythin from nought to 50! But my sons will tell you that I’m priceless…”
How did she get chosen for Dragons’ Den?
— BBC Dragons' Den (@BBCDragonsDen) April 27, 2017
Campbell saw an opportunity when she realised Sarah Willingham and Nick Jenkins had vacated their seats in the Den.
“I’ve always been a fan,” she says. “I saw there were two Dragons exiting, so there was a conversation I had with the BBC around whether or not I could come for a screen test. And the rest is history.”
Was it weird settling in to the Den?
“When I first saw the empty set before our training day, it was quite surreal,” she says. “I felt a bit like goldilocks looking at the chairs and wanting to touch each of them and wanting to sit in each of them.”
Luckily, her seat was “just right”.
Campbell jokes: “I felt like I was sitting there with daddy bear and mummy bear and my sibling bears. Ready for the lift doors open!”
What is Jenny Campbell like as a Dragon?
“I’m not backward in coming forward,” she says. “I’m the only northerner in the Den. I say it how it is, I’m firm but fair.”
Campbell is also looking for entrepreneurs she can work with – and people who will appreciate the time she can give them.
“I’m very focused on the people side of any business,” she says. “So that’s what I look for first and foremost. So they’ll know that, and then I also say in the Den, look I’m sitting here with a blank sheet of paper. I don’t have a business empire to manage any more, which means that you get my time and energy and commitment.
“The inference being, you won’t get as much time from certain other busy dragons! Which they take umbrage to occasionally when I say that. But that’s my selling line.”
Will Jenny Campbell be back for another series of Dragons’ Den?
Yes, if she gets her way.
“I don’t think this is a one series commitment on either side,” she says. “You definitely grow into this role. I already know how I will walk into that den for a next series, and just take things up a level. So I’d definitely like to do two series and then we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Dragons’ Den will return later this summer on BBC2