Belfast Telegraph

Dragon slayer Levi tells firms to get passionate

By Clare Weir

Dragons' Den star and spicy sauce magnate Levi Roots has urged Northern Ireland entrepreneurs to have more 'passion' in marketing their business ideas.

The charismatic Londoner was in Bangor this week to address a conference organised by the SIGNAL Centre of Business Excellence at the Clandeboye Lodge hotel in which he explained to the owners of small firms how he "slayed the Dragon" and emerged from the BBC show with a £50,000 investment in his Reggae Reggae Sauce in 2007.

He received a joint cash injection for a 40% stake in his business from 'Dragons' Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh.

While Farleigh has since cashed out, Jones, who helped Levi get a foot in the door at Sainsbury's, has become a family friend as well as a business mentor.

Since Levi's musical TV appearance, the brand has exploded, with a move into the microwave meal and cookery book markets and a recent launch into soft drinks.

The total range is estimated to be around £30m.

He said that the time has never been better for entrepreneurs to think big, despite the recession, and is himself preparing into a move into export outside of the UK.

"Now is the perfect time for people to go into business," he said.

"When I went onto the show, people were already predicting the downturn and things were on the slide," he said.

"Ireland has had it tougher than most, but people are always looking for something different, something special, no matter what the economic climate - in hard times, a special idea can be even more important.

"What I am telling people here in Northern Ireland is that if you have a USP - a unique selling point, then you can do anything. Also, people need to be passionate about their ideas.

"I did not do the perfect pitch on Dragons' Den, I mixed my figures up, but I had passion and I knew I had a unique selling point.

"If you don't have passion, if you don't believe in what you are doing, then no one will pick up your idea. Lack of passion stops investors taking you on. You need passion, no matter what."