If it wasn’t for the hen parties, I’d have quit the Den – Duffy
He is seen as the last of the famous five - the only remaining member of the original Dragons’ Den panel who has stuck it out over six years of whiz kid entrepreneurs and whacky inventions.
However, Kildare business guru Gavin Duffy reckons he is the lucky one with some of his investments over the years proving more than lucrative and sealing his decision to remain with the long running show.
The media and retail expert told the
“I decided about one or two years ago that I wasn’t going to do the programme, but now I am in a very different place,” he says.
“Some of my investments have worked out very well and that puts you in a very different frame of mind if you have done reasonably well from the show.
“As the programme has gone on, I now know what works and what doesn’t work.”
One such investment which stands out in Duffy’s mind is a lucrative investment in celebration company Henparty.ie, one of the most successful investments to ever have emerged from the show.
“A woman named Kate Hyde came in with the idea four years ago and if ever I saw a business that was recession proof, this was it,” Duffy says.
“It is a private company, but it has turned over millions of euro and is probably one of the most successful investments that we have ever seen on Dragons’ Den.
“Kate’s premise was whether there is a recession or not, there will still be 27,000 weddings ever year in Ireland, but there was nothing for hen parties so that is what she did.
It has been a phenomenal business and it really took off when we had a lot of these hotels around the country who were taken over by NAMA and subsequently got on board.
“During the boom they would have turned their noses at hosting a hen party at the weekend, but now Henparty.ie are able to buy up all these rooms at the start of the year and offer them to people.”
Ever the pragmatist, Duffy concedes that it will be a long time before some of his investments are in the same boat financially, but argues that the recession has had a positive effect in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.
“There is a lot of evidence around the world that proves you see more start ups in a recession,” he explains.
“You wouldn’t imagine in a boom that would be they case, but if you are in a good job and things are going well, you are not as likely to jump ship. But if they’re not working, people might decide to give business ideas a go themselves.”
With strong links to the retail world thanks to his part ownership of the HRM Group of Companies, one of Ireland’s biggest players in recruitment, and his experience with business in the media sphere, Duffy has kept an open mind in terms of his Dragons’ Den investments, going for a wide range of areas, including fake tan company Tan Organic, set to turn over a multi-million euro profit.
And Duffy said he is ready for more, pledging his future to the show if RTE bosses decide to give production com pany Screentime ShinAwhil, the green light for a seventh series.
“Personally and because Dragons’ Den has gone very well for me over the last six years, if it goes ahead next season I will gladly do it,” he says.
“That is being entirely presumptuous that they still want me,” he adds with a laugh.
Born on a farm outside Naas, Co Kildare, Duffy had early ties to the media world, setting up a local radio station which employed 20 people by the age of 18.
In 1989, the dad-of-four set up leading local station LMFM, which was sold to UTV for €11 million in 2004 and he also worked on several projects for RTE, although he is reluctant to take on more work with the state broadcaster for the time being.
“I am embarrassed to say this but I absolutely love making Dragons’ Den and I enjoy TV,” Duffy says.
“I’m flattered because RTE have asked me about other things over the last year, but I think that because of my background in venture capitalism it suits me and I really like doing that.
“You are committed to the show one way or the other for about six months, then I have my investments and day job so I said to RTE that as long as Dragon’s Den is running that’s what I am going to concentrate on.”
While his various business pursuits, see him travel the country, Duffy is based five miles outside Drogheda with his wife and business partner Orlaith Carmody and their four children - Lorcan, Cormac, Cathal and Aisling.
With two of his older sons now studying at college and his youngest, 16-year-old Aisling, concentrating on her Junior Cert, Duffy said he and his wife are still getting used to the changes as his children begin to fly the nest.
“It’s funny when you have four kids who are born close together because now they are big men in their twenties and late teens and we have our 16-year-old daughter,” he said.
“But they are great company for us. Myself and Orlaith are getting used to being left at home as the kids are growing up, the two of us staring at each other and saying: who are you’,” he adds, laughing.
And there are signs of a continuation of the Duffy empire.
His children may yet follow him into the media and retail business.
“What I feel across all of them is that they are very people orientated,” he said.