Meet Touker Suleyman – owner of Hawes & Curtis and the new Dragon

What kind of people will he bet money on?

If you like a zero-to-hero story, Touker Suleyman is your man.

In 2000, the Cypriot paid a measly £1 to snap up luxury menswear brand Hawes & Curtis.

Today, the brand is debt-free, boasts a £21m turnover, and has 28 shops in Britain.

Suleyman, 61, is also at the helm of other well-known brands like Ghost that he rescued from administration and is re-launching soon. He also owns Low Profile, a property and manufacturing company based in Turkey that supplies Marks & Spencer and has over 2,000 employees.

While he wouldn’t like to comment on his net worth, we know that David and Victoria Beckham rented his £20m south London home in 2013.

Touker has entered Dragons’ Den as a judge this year with Nick Jenkins, founder of online greeting card website Moonpig.com, and Sarah Willingham, creator of restaurant chain The Bombay Bicycle Club and co-founder of The London Cocktail Club. The new judges have joined older Dragons Deborah Meadon and Peter Jones.

So what would it take to get investment from Suleyman? We ask him for answers:

Q. Tell us a bit about your background, what did you get up to before buying Hawes & Curtis?

From working in my father’s restaurant, I learned the values that I maintain today: a strong work ethic and a desire to cater for the needs of customers, whilst also maintaining a family balance. My dad was definitely the inspiration for starting my own business.

I worked in accountancy for a while, for £5 a week, but I always had a vision of who I wanted to be and that was an entrepreneur. It was a risk to leave the stability of a career, and there have been times where I have craved it; nevertheless going out on my own was the right decision and it has been incredibly worthwhile.

When I was 18, I established my own company, a clothing manufacturer, which would eventually supply to notable high street names including C&A, Dorothy Perkins, Dunn Stores and Topshop. I expanded on this and by the time I invested in Hawes and Curtis, I was heavily involved in manufacturing and commercial property.

Q. Why did you buy Hawes & Curtis and how did you turn it around?

In 2000 when I was manufacturing for Ralph Lauren Europe, I discovered a passion for shirts. I was lucky I had my own manufacturing business which gave me flexible production capacity, which in turn let me open more stores. I scaled the business by opening more stores.

Q. Why did you buy Ghost and how did you turn it around? 

I have always loved Ghost. I have my own garment dye capacity, which has made it easier to turn around. My aim is to restore it to the success that it achieved in the early nineties.

Q. Which other companies have you invested in? 

Hawes and Curtis, Ghost, Bike Soup, Huxley and Cox, Docks Rio and Intelligent futures. At the moment I am in process of acquiring two more brands. I am always looking for new gaps in the market.

Q. Why did you decide to join Dragons’ Den? 

I am incredibly excited to get started, I have been a fan of the show for years. First and foremost I am there to invest and to make money. Further to that, as a result of my varied, and often difficult career, I feel like I am in a great position to give back some of the knowledge and experience I have acquired over the years.

Q. Tell us three things you will look out for in people and ideas you’ll invest in.

1 – Personality is essential, you need to work with people you trust and believe in, I will only be working with people whose character I believe in as much as their business.

2 – The idea, I am always seeking gaps in the market and hopefully these entrepreneurs will bring some ideas to fill those gaps.

3 – Saleability.

Q. What are the key pieces of advice you’d like to give to young entrepreneurs? 

Never give up. If you don’t knock on doors they won’t let you in, you really do need to be brave and bold at the beginning

Know your numbers. You can show all the vision and creative spark you want, but at the end of the day you need a strong foundation. Cash is the bloodline of any business.

Q. What are the biggest milestones in your career? 

When I was in my early twenties I was living the dream, I was chairman of three companies. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not applying appropriate financial research and I also I put my trust into people against better judgement. I lost everything, nevertheless I also learned everything that I have needed to get to where I am today

Q. What has your biggest indulgence been so far?

My house and car.

Q. Where do you live and how many homes do you have?

I have one home in Kensington.

Q. How many cars do you own and which ones do you drive? 

One car, a Bentley.

Q. Where do you like to holiday?

Greece and Turkey with my children

Q. What do you think about London as a city to do business? 

London is the capital centre of business and a great springboard to any business around the world.

 

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