Shaye Bhattessa-Sharma, a British Indian teen entrepreneur from London, made waves on the popular BBC television show 'Dragons’ Den', winning over the “Dragons” with his innovative business idea to become one of the youngest to secure a lucrative deal on the reality show.
'Dragons’ Den' is where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of seasoned and tough to impress investors – known as the 'Dragons'. Fifteen-year-old Shaye, accompanied by his successful entrepreneur father Raj Sharma, pitched an innovative football board game concept. The Dragons were impressed by Shaye's idea, business acumen and confident pitch at such a young age and the father-son duo went on to successfully negotiate a deal with one of the Dragons – Peter Jones.
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"I came up with the idea to create a football board game because I love football, specifically Chelsea, and I have loved chess since my primary school days. There was no football board game on the market that interests me. So, I thought if I need one, I'll make one," Shaye, founder of the bestselling board game 'Football Billionaire', told iGlobal.
Notably, now 'Football Billionaire' is ranked one of the highest-selling board games on Amazon, selling thousands of copies.
The young entrepreneur, who turned 16 this month, started working on his board game when he was nine. Balancing studying and trying to create a new board game and setting up a business around it isn't easy, especially for a nine-year-old!
"A lot of hard work and dedication went into it. We absolutely nailed the pitch in the show, but unfortunately, due to the show's age restrictions, I had to leave the room at some point, when my dad took over. However, I knew I was leaving it in more than capable hands," Shaye said.
Inside the Dragons’ Den, Shaye and Sharma pitched for £50,000 in return for only 5 per cent business equity. But Peter Jones was so impressed with Shaye's pitch that he offered to run the whole business in return for 20 per cent equity, which turned out to be a sweet deal for the duo.
"They interviewed us for over an hour, but only eight minutes of it was shown on the TV. Shaye was fabulous in answering all so many questions," shared Sharma.
The interviews, the pitch and everything went smoothly and didn't feel like much of a struggle for Shaye. However, because of his age, being taken seriously by others felt like a challenge for the young prodigy.
"I think this can be a challenge for any aspiring young entrepreneurs like me. When one sees a 12-year-old boy or 13-year-old boy in a business environment giving a pitch, some people might take it as a joke. And then there're people trying to take you down, or perhaps they simply don't believe in you.
"But I think it is crucial to believe in yourself. For as long as you believe in yourself, no one can take you down. You can only achieve as much as you believe you can achieve," said the inspiring youngster.
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Raj Sharma has been a pillar of support and an influential figure in Shaye's life, providing guidance and nurturing his entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. As Shaye embarked on his entrepreneurial journey, Sharma continued to be a supportive presence, providing valuable advice and mentorship.
"I'm ecstatic that he not only managed to get the investment, but also the way he held himself in that tough environment. We've taught him to grow up to be a confident young man and also be humble and keep his feet firmly on the ground," Sharma said.
However, the supportive father consciously avoided giving a pep talk before the show to prepare Shaye for unfavourable outcomes.
"Failure wasn't an option for us. We didn't consider or discuss it. Obviously, if he had lost, I would have supported and encouraged him then. But I feel it's essential to go for the win and keep a winner's mindset," Sharma shared.
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The remarkable journey of the dynamic father-son duo and their success story is a testament to the power of entrepreneurial spirit, resilience, and family support amongst the diaspora in achieving success in the competitive business world.
Sharma said he and wife Reena, an IT Account Director, treat their sons – Shaye and his younger brother (12) – as young adults. They discuss their business day with them, share everyday work experiences, sit together and chat.
Raj and Shaye share an open and frank rapport, "more like best friends", which has only strengthened after the win.
"I want him to do the normal things in life: get his degree first. And then it's up to him what he wants to do with his life.
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"But Shaye's been flying at the moment; everywhere he goes, he gets recognised, getting fantastic messages and emails!" the proud father said, jovially.
Raj Sharma hails from Punjab and Reena Bhattessa from Gujarat. Shaye plans to visit his parents' hometowns after his GCSEs.
"People are hugely encouraging us, and we're grateful for that," the duo signed off.
*Info: Football Billionaire