Touker Suleyman boasts five decades of experience in both retail and manufacturing, gaining recognition as the proprietor of the esteemed British menswear brand Hawes & Curtis and the women’s fashion label Ghost. Touker became a part of the Den during Series 13.
Commencing his career in retail at the age of 18 after a brief stint in accountancy, Touker initiated a joint venture in a leather factory. Subsequently, he founded a clothing manufacturing enterprise, becoming a supplier for major names on the British high street.
Touker’s ascent in the business realm has not been without hurdles. In the 1980s, auditors uncovered substantial debt in one of his ventures. Faced with a daunting challenge, he had a mere six weeks to secure £2 million. Regrettably, a potential investor withdrew support, leading to the liquidation of the business. Undeterred, Touker rebuilt from scratch.
Despite setbacks, Touker went on to establish a flourishing international clothing manufacturing venture, which remains a core component of his business portfolio. Presently, he is a serial entrepreneur, providing support to seven retail and commercial property enterprises. Touker takes a keen interest in nurturing startups and invests in various small British companies, including Bikesoup (a marketplace and store for pre-owned/new bicycles), Matchstick Monkey (specializing in baby teethers and toys), and Sonisk (offering on-the-go toothbrushes and dental care).
The total amount pledged for investment in the Den stands at almost £3 million. Some of Touker’s notable investments include Timberkits (Series 13, handcrafted wooden automata toys), Tru Tension (Series 15, tools and products for motorbikes and bicycles), Wool Couture (Series 15, a British-made range of crafting kits in knitting, crochet, weaving, macrame, and embroidery), Gener8 Ads (Series 18, a browser and app allowing users to earn from shared data), Little Hoppa (Series 19, wooden baby furniture and eco-friendly toys), Mood Bears (Series 20, plush bears available in 8 emotions to aid in mental health for children and adults), Bobhead (Series 20, motorcycle apparel and protective wear), and Pop-Up Games (Series 20, pop-up books that transform into familiar classic games).
Explore the Q&A session with Touker below.
You have a keen interest in small companies and start-ups, were there any homegrown businesses that really piqued your interest in this series?
All of the ones that I made offers on! Seriously though, I had gone into the series looking for opportunities specifically in the pet space and was very impressed with those that were pitched.
Who is your biggest business rival in the Den?
Probably Peter – but I am competing with every Dragon for every pitch that I think is worthwhile pursing!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs in the current economic climate?
Advice that I give every founder, whether the economic climate is good or not. Cash is king. Make sure you have a tight grip on cash coming in and going out and remember that rent is due Every. Single. Day.
What can the viewers look forward to in this series of Dragons’ Den?
Well for the first time we have some Guest Dragons which will be sure to inject some different energy to the line-up! Look out for the businesses that have battled through a tough recent economic climate and are ready to go to the next level.
What kind of businesses are you looking for in the Den?
Am always open to any opportunity on the show, but the key thing am looking for are founders who have the grit and determination to take their businesses to a higher level.
Why do you think people still enjoy the show?
The viewer base is getting younger and this reflects the enduring appeal of an entrepreneur pursing their dreams – something that I think resonates strongly with the show’s following.
Are there any general trends in the type of business that are pitched to you?
A lot fewer whose business models rely on subscriptions!
Dragons are known for being strong and fierce, do you think strength is the most important trait for a business person?
Key thing is that an entrepreneur has the conviction to stand by their belief (there is often a lot of outside noise) while being purpose-driven which allows them to listen to others.