Having started her working life as an office junior, at the age of 24, Rachel Elnaugh created the market leading experiences brand Red Letter Days on a shoestring budget from the front room of her home. Red Letter Days went on to generate over £100 million in turnover in the 16 years that she ran it and in doing so she had pioneered the UK’s £250 million experiences sector.
Rachel Elnaugh was awarded the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year award in 2002 and was short listed for 2001, Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award and the Growing Business Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2002 before she came to public prominence as an investor on the BAFTA award winning BBC Two TV series Dragons’ Den.
Calamity struck whilst her back was turned when, whilst taking a break to have her fourth child, the poor financial actions of an appointed CEO resulted in the crash of Red Letter Days. Remaining assets were bought by fellow Dragons’ Den judges Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis. Leaving the BBC in an uncomfortable position she left the Dragon’s Den behind her and stepped away from the business spotlight…
Between working as a venture capital advisor to entrepreneurs and small businesses, she is also non executive director of Aberdeen based Enterprise North East Trust which handles the Business Gateway Contract for Scottish Enterprise. 2007 saw the launch of her unique entrepreneurial profiling system, a free online profile test for those thinking about starting a business. Her book was published in 2008: Business Nightmares … The Unseen Moments When Successful Business Personalities Hit Crisis Point and How They Faced the Dawn.
Following the birth of her fifth child Rachel has been developing further business interests. As one of Britain’s highest profile entrepreneurs and a true female inspiration, she speaks honestly about her ‘pull no punches’ approach and bounce back to business.
“We were delighted that Rachel was able to join us at the European Business Conference at the Harvard Business School. Students enjoyed both talking to her informally at lunch and listening to her speaking on the Entrepreneurship panel. She was very ready to share good, practical advice in a friendly and approachable manner, thereby making it easier for students to relate to and learn from her experiences. She also encouraged budding entrepreneurs to “take the plunge” and capitalize on opportunities by scrutinizing the ways of the world and reinventing existing business models. Students were impressed by her realistic and balanced discussion of her own business in terms of its strengths and weaknesses and the challenges it is likely to face in the future. At the same time her “can-do” attitude combined with her commitment to growing her business were inspiring. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed Rachel’s visit and found her contribution to the conference very valuable.” Elizabeth Hopkins, Harvard University
“Rachel, many thanks for your excellent key note speech at our event. I felt that the content of your talk really hit the right buttons and was tailored perfectly to the audience. The feedback we have received on the event highlights your talk as highly motivating, informative and most of all an interesting real life case study that has inspired many of the women at the event to say “Yes, I can do it.” Deepak Goyal, Strategem Ltd – ‘Women Into Business’ event in association with East Midlands Development Agency