How Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne turned one ice cream van into £280m fortune exposed

Mr Bannatyne came into the public gaze when he joined the BBC’s programme, Dragon’s Den, where successful entrepreneurs choose which start-ups to invest in. The Scottish businessman starred on the programme from 2005 to 2015, and invested in 36 new companies during that time. As Britons look to grow their savings during the pandemic, an interview from 2013 reveals how Mr Bannatyne transformed his life and became a business magnate.

Presenter Alex Belfield quizzed the entrepreneur for Celebrity Radio and asked: “It seems to me that people like yourself are very canny, you make certain decisions — I’m sure you make mistakes as well, but isn’t it seeing an opportunity when it’s presented to you?”

Mr Bannatyne replied: “Yes, but everybody sees these opportunities more than once in their life.

“I did, and I’ve turned them down before, and I’ve taken the opportunity to do it and built up a great business.

“Anyone can do it.”

Mr Belfield then asked: “What I was reading about you was your first venture, which was an ice cream van, one ice cream van, that then turns into a hundred ice cream vans and the next thing, you’re making money.

“How do I do that then, do I look for something that’s missing in a market, start small, and then grow slowly?”

Mr Bannatyne agreed and said it was key to start with one business and gradually increase.

He continued: “Some people will go out, and they want to have the biggest hotel chain and they’re going to get money from this equity provider and this bank. What’s the point?

“Get one, own it, run it properly.

“Open a second one, it doesn’t matter what the business is, take your time and build them up.

“Fantastic, you know what you do — go and do it.”

Mr Bannatyne was recently reported to be worth £280million, according to the 2018 Sunday Times Rich List.

He has released seven books throughout his career, such as ‘Anyone Can Do It’, ‘How to be Smart with your Money’ and ‘How to be Smart with Your Time’.

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The Dragon’s Den star spent most of his twenties hopping between jobs, including acquiring a HGV licence and repairing tractors.

During the BBC programme, he once stated that he did not have a bank account until he was 30.

Mr Bannatyne then moved to Stockton-on-Tees and purchased an ice cream van for £450.

He explained on his website,, that he “soon expanded by buying more vans and eventually sold the business for £28,000, founding a care home business instead”, called Quality Care Homes.

By 1996, Mr Bannatyne was able to sell on this business for £26million and moved into a children’s nursery chain called Just Learning before acquiring Health Clubs.

By August 2006, he had 26 Health Clubs, making him “the largest independent chain of Health Clubs in the UK”, according to his website.

He was later awarded with an OBE for his charitable contributions.

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