Steven Bartlett under fire for comments on beauty entrepreneur’s Dragons’ Den appearance

By Becky Bargh 4-Apr-2022

British businessman would not invest in mother of two Zara Saleem’s Delhicious Body due to a dip in sales when her children were at home during the pandemic

Steven Bartlett – a British businessman and co-founder of Social Chain – has come under fire for his comments of one budding beauty entrepreneur on Dragons’ Den.

Zara Saleem appeared on the hit BBC One show with her Ayurvedic-inspired body care brand Delhicious Body, asking for £50,000 for a 15% share in her company.

The mother of two said she would use the investment to scale her brand and launch into the facial care category.

Following a grilling from other ‘dragons’, Bartlett began his line of enquiry into the business’ finances.

After a successful year one, Saleem said her sales had dropped over £39,000 during 2020 due to the pandemic.

When asked why, she admitted she had scaled back her business during the months of lockdown due to having her two young children at home full time.

“I don’t know how that’s possible, even considering the Covid circumstances, because the unpredicted chaos of Covid, perfectly represents the journey of an entrepreneur,” said the 29-year-old businessman.

“Things happen and it’s absolute hell at times, and as an entrepreneur, your outcome – success or failure – is often determined by how you adapt, and what I can see in that year is that we weren’t able to adapt when unexpected chaos showed up, that for me is concerning.

“And I can’t get over that. I’m out.”

Saleem left the den with no investors.

One viewer, however, said that Bartlett’s comments left her “infuriated”.

“As I watched tonight’s Dragon’s Den I was infuriated at the rejection of one particular entrepreneur – Zara Saleem of Delhicious Body,” Anita Phagura, a leadership coach wrote on LinkedIn.

“Not even the decision to not invest (although it seemed like she had real promise and a cracking product) but your comments as to the reason why you wouldn’t invest, as not being able to get over the time a mother of young children stepped back from her self-run and managed business in a global pandemic as she should have been able to take the ups and downs and unexpected challenges as an entrepreneur would.

“As if that was a demonstration of her lack of resilience and commitment.”


She continued: “So the decision to not invest in this eloquent entrepreneur because of a dip in turnover in 2020 seems well a bit short sighted.

“But the real infuriating bit is that it compounds the gender inequities, women, mothers and female founders are already facing to miss out on investment opportunities.

“And yep we know female businesses are less likely to get investment as it is already.”

Others have been quick to respond.

One LinkedIn user wrote: “Showing up to Dragons’ Den is [a] huge indicator of her success and courage.”

Another described the comments as “awful”.

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Saleem declined to comment on the backlash.

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