I won Dragons’ Den deal aged 15 – I’m still doing GCSEs but my empire is worth £2.5m and there was big twist after show | The Sun
MOST teenagers complain about doing extra homework on top of school, but Shaye Bhattessa Sharma has created a multi-million pound business while studying for his GCSEs.
Shaye, 16, made history when he became the youngest person ever to go on Dragon’s Den earlier this year, with his board game Football Billionaire.
He was just 15 years old at the time, and managed to secure a deal with Peter Jones of £50,000 in return for 20 per cent of the business.
In an exclusive interview, Shaye now reveals he and Peter parted ways once the show ended, but his business has turned over double what he told the Dragons, and is now worth £2.5 million.
All that and he’s still finding time to study for 10 GCSEs and socialise with friends!
Annoyed dragons off-screen
Billionaire Football sees players travelling around a board purchasing clubs, buying stadiums, and creating the perfect team, by collecting the best players, hiring and firing managers and closing deals with agents.
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It was created one afternoon in 2016, when devoted Chelsea FC fan Shaye was bored.
Combining his love of football and board games, he drew the game up on paper, and then played it with his family, who all loved it, and encouraged him to actually make it into a business.
He started out by selling in West Ham's London Stadium in December 2016, before moving to online sales, and the game is now one of the top 20 best-selling board games on Amazon.
Shaye and his dad Raj applied to Dragon’s Den as “a joke,” originally, with Shaye having been watching the show since he was a child.
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But then, six months later, they found themselves in front of Peter, Deborah Meaden, Sara Davies, Steven Bartlett and Touker Suleyman.
Due to Shaye’s young age, BBC policy meant he couldn’t answer questions from the dragons once he’d finished his pitch, leaving his dad to do all the hard work.
And Shaye says the dragons weren’t happy.
He says: “The BBC has got some policies and some rules about children under 16 being able to film for a certain amount of time.
“They tried very hard to be able to get me on, and behind the cameras the dragons were not the most happy that they didn't get as many questions as they wanted out of me, but I have to respect their rules and I knew that the company and I would be in safe hands with my dad still doing the questioning for me.
“I knew it would all be alright.”
It went more than alright, as Raj accepted an offer with Peter for their board game business.
However, six months on from filming, Shaye reveals the deal never actually went through.
“It was kind of mutual,” he says. “There’s a few reasons why but we thought we could run the business without Peter Jones for the time being, and we’ve turned over double what we said we would on the show.”
Shaye says all the money he’s earned through Football Billionaire is being reinvested into the business, and into creating a new game, Billionaire, in which players collect assets like super yachts and jets.
He laughs: “You’re living the life of a billionaire, which will hopefully be a reality soon! That's the dream.
“We want to get Football Billionaire into the US with our NFL board game, and expand into different leagues and also different sports, and believe we can sell a million games in the next three years.
“I also want to do licensing for every single one of the Premier League clubs.”
'Work hard, play hard'
Shaye says his friends have all been very supportive of his business – even when he has to turn down social plans with them to focus on it.
He says: “Luckily, I've got a lot of great loyal friends, in school and out of school and so they've all been supporting me on my journey and they all understand I can't go out sometimes with them on the weekends to have a bit of fun.
“I've got to do a few other things before parties and they're very understanding about that.”
He adds: “I'm not saying my social life is minimal, it definitely isn't, but, on the odd occasion, I do have to do the board game or even study.
“Work hard, play hard – I'm still trying to live my best life, as I would do as a 16-year-old, juggling business, studying and going out.”
Importance of school
With his business going so well, it would be easy to assume Shaye is thinking about quitting school once his GCSEs are done.
However, he is adamant that school is extremely important, and he has no plans to leave.
“I'm 100 per cent staying in school,” he says. “I think it's very important, not just in terms of working, but socially. Interacting with people is very important.
“Also, I take subjects now that I may not need for the future, but I think you learn a lot of lessons from each subject. For example, Latin, which is something I take now as a GCSE, is something I'm not realistically going to be able to use in the future, but I understand there's lessons in Latin that I can take, like it helps you learn a lot of other languages.”
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Shaye is also pushing for entrepreneurship to be taught as a mandatory subject at school, and has become an ambassador for Immerse Education, a scheme providing hands-on experience with business people.
He finishes: “Young people need to learn to save money, spend it wisely, and how to invest, and I want to help young people, as I have done, go on and start their own businesses.”
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