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For many in the UK, the name Duncan Bannatyne is synonymous with Dragon’s Den, the hit television show in which young entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to venture capitalists, hoping to secure funding to make their dreams a reality. Bannatyne sits on the panel and is famous for his no-nonsense approach. He is a multi-millionaire business owner of fitness and hotel chains across the UK.

And he has dyslexia.

Bannatyne grew up in Scotland in a family where money was scarce. He always struggled in school, and actually left secondary school at age 15 with no GCSEs or qualifications. Due to his reading problems, English class was always a particular struggle. And although he could do sums well, maths word problems were an issue because of the reading component.

His entrepreneurial spirit kicked in when he was a young boy all because of ice cream. His mother insisted they didn’t have any money for the delicacy, but Bannatyne was determined. He visited the newspaper office and volunteered to work as a delivery boy. He was told that they didn’t have any customers needing papers delivered. So Bannatyne hit the streets and drummed up 100 customers before returning to the office. He saved up enough money to buy ice cream for the whole family.

Bannatyne’s rebellious spirit carried him through two stints in prison for misdemeanors as a young adult, including getting dishonorably discharged from the Navy for throwing his commanding officer overboard.

His entrepreneurial drive was undiminished, however (as was his love of ice cream), and his first business was managing an ice cream truck in Stockton-on-Tees. Over several years, he turned a fantastic profit that enabled him to start a nursing home. He soon expanded from this into health and fitness clubs, which he now operates in chains across the country.

To this day his dyslexia is still something he struggles with – he is often at the centre of some Twitter battle about his poor spelling! Bannatyne has become a champion of dyslexics in recent years through his social media presence.


Sarah Forrest is a System Coach for the Easyread System, an online course for children with reading difficulties, especially due to dyslexia, auditory processing disorder or highly visual learning styles. Easyread works through short and fun daily lessons, using Guided Phonetic Reading techniques. Find out more at