Raj Dhonota

Investor | Entrepreneur | Mentor

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
-Goethe.

Welcome to my website. If you are a looking to launch or grow a business, you have come to the right place. From blogs and news about starting or growing your business to information on how I can help you with your journey - I hope this site will be a useful resource for you.

My Blog

News, opinions, links and essential resources for startups

The Apprentice

What was it like to appear in Series 1 of The BBC's flagship series? Find out now...

Start Up Fund

Find out more about my £1,000,000 Start Up Fund and how else I can help your business.

About Me

My approach to business and why I'm so passionate about start-ups.

Ventures

My current portfolio of business ventures is an eclectic mix - take a look!

About Me


If you’re a start-up, or a small business looking to grow you’ve come to the right place. It’s an exciting place to be and I’m happy to share my expertise with you. I’m currently directing a wide portfolio of ventures including start-ups ranging from property to FMCG. If there’s a common thread that ties these projects together, it’s the application of my personal business philosophy.

I firmly believe that the entrepreneurial drive is innate; and it’s so important to foster this spirit in any entrepreneur, young or old, looking to start up or grow their business.

I’m lucky enough to have met some inspirational mentors on my journey, starting with my uncle, a successful and assured businessman who took the time to let me share in his knowledge. Every entrepreneur can accelerate their business growth by gaining access to the resources and knowledge they need, and here’s where it starts for you.

You’ll find lots of free resources and information right here that will prove invaluable so if you’re looking to make that leap from employment to self-employment, and you’ve got a great business idea but you need that injection of inspiration to make it a reality, come and have a read and get involved.

I’m an investor, as well as a mentor and I’m happy to make public appearances and share how my business philosophy enables me not only to facilitate successful ventures

Is it possible to extract a business philosophy from a personal approach to life? There’s a question to consider in more detail another time! In the meantime, I can distill my business philosophy into three main pillars of thought:

1. Facilitating Success

My experience on The Apprentice made me even more determined to share my knowledge through schemes that genuinely nurture and develop entrepreneurial talent. Personal success is a difficult thing to quantify and for me there is a huge satisfaction that comes from fostering success in others. Many potential entrepreneurs stumble because the risks involved in setting out on their own are just too great. Through a combination of providing confidence-boosting resources, mentoring and investing I can help others succeed whilst reducing this risk.

2. Open the door to the Global village

The era of the superpower is over. Globalisation is a concept that should now be as familiar to an eBay ‘etailer’ as to a corporate leviathan. Many startups look to their own backyard as their first focus, but it’s entirely possible, even probable, that their product or service offering is better suited to a new or emerging economy. Making that introduction is at the very core of my business offering.

3. Pay it forward

I do this through outreach programmes at schools, schemes such as Apps for Good and The Start-Up Academy as well as through more directly charitable initiatives such as. The Caring Enterprise Scheme. We live in an excessively time-poor era, but taking the time to give something back is essential.

Arguably the most important part of succeeding as an entrepreneur is the ability to fail. This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but the reality of it is that the ability to accept failure, to learn from it, make necessary improvements and resolve not to repeat those mistakes, is where entrepreneurship really begins.

Taking risks isn’t about throwing money at a project. It’s an emotional transaction. Failure is personal, it attacks you somewhere very deep inside and it takes real strength to come back from that. For many people it’s an unthinkable option. For an entrepreneur it’s what keeps them doing what they do.

For me it happened early in my career; I wanted to start my own business, but of course I didn’t want to do something that simply replicated a thousand others. So I decided to launch a new property marketing concept. I was confident of success and poured my heart and soul into the scheme, as well as every penny I had. I was working 18 hours a day, for months on end and it was heartbreaking to have to make the final decision to admit failure.

But even there, at that lowest ebb, I learned a valuable skill – the ability to know when to call time on a project – it’s another essential tool for the entrepreneur’s armoury. Without that key skill, the level of emotional energy required to motivate yourself to believe in your ideas and achieve success would be the very thing that destroys them all. Keeping that balance of ‘realism’ and ‘just enough crazy’ is the hard part!

If you’re at the beginning of your journey, take a moment to stop and consider how intend to measure your success. I guarantee you that your definition will change as you develop yourself and your business and it will be interesting to note this evolution.

Most of us emerge from our early years with a very simplistic definition, and generally speaking it comes down one thing – profits! Of course businesses need to be profitable in order to sustain themselves, but be wary of defining your personal success in the same way.

This is an area I enjoy debating and is often a thread in my public speaking. I have walked away from extremely profitable businesses, projects that would absolutely be defined as successful, simply because my heart wasn’t it. True success comes with many layers.

My appearance on The Apprentice is not something that one would necessarily label successful (I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek) and yet my next move following The Apprentice was to complete and roll-out plans for Global Proximity. Within just three years I grew this business into a multi-million pound company and its sale left me in a position to pursue ventures that I was truly passionate about.

That passion shapes where I am today and facilitates my involvement with my current projects. If you’re at the stage where you’ve got a brilliant business idea that you want to grow, get in touch for a chat about how I can help.

Ventures


Currently I’m involved in several ventures that help people and companies make the transition from idea to start-up to success.

Through these ventures I’m focused on helping others achieve their own success. Many of these businesses offer budding entrepreneurs and start-ups the opportunity to establish themselves, make new connections and essentially use me as their stepping stone to success.

Let Me Help


My £1,000,000 Plan To Launch 2 Start Ups Each Week During 2014. (Apply For Investment Here)

I am extremely pleased and excited to announce that on 6th January 2014 I launched a £1,000,000 start up fund for UK businesses as part of my plan to help launch 2 start up businesses each week during 2014.

I have been investing in start-ups for several years now, but I have always wanted to do something more significant because of my own background and experiences. I know too well how hard it is to establish a viable and profitable business without finance, support and experience, and I want to help entrepreneurs avoid similar setbacks that I encountered.

It is for this reason that I have put together not only a start-up fund which provide the cash investment start-up businesses need to launch or grow, but also access to the resources and expertise they need to ensure they succeed.

Although my investments to date have been primarily for ventures that are able to take advantage of the global marketplace that we now live in, the Start Up fund is available to any entrepreneur with a great idea which needs launching or growing. It is open to start-ups in all sectors and to people of all ages.

I am particularly looking for ventures that offer something new, rather than reinvent the same wheel; ventures that target niche markets, rather than those that seek to ‘improve’ what’s on offer. Most importantly, I am looking to invest in people with the passion to make their business happen – for me that’s more fundamental than the actual idea or stage of the business.

Finally, being very entrepreneurial in my outlook on investments, I am not risk-averse. That means I probably enjoy backing the more riskier ventures over those that simply offer the safest ROI. However, although I am not risk-averse, I strongly believe that the person or team I am investing in should have, as Warren Buffet coined the phrase, skin in the game.

So, if you’ve got a great business or business idea that needs funding APPLY NOW! Let’s see if we can make it happen together!

Would your business event benefit from a public speaker who’s experienced the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey and lived to tell the tale?

Would your audience benefit from someone who has appeared on a business reality program and can give an insight on how far they really represent true business life?

Do you have an audience that would benefit from a speaker that can engage and inspire them into action – whether that means giving them the confidence and knowledge they need to start their own business or increase their productivity?

Are you an organisation involved with individuals or groups that could become our next generation of successful business people – whether an educational or commercial organisation?

If you are in any of the above categories, there is nothing I would enjoy more than speaking at your event in order give your audience the insight and confidence they need to take their next steps towards their own personal goals.

Get in touch today to discuss a public appearance tailored to your audience.

Having the guidance of a good mentor can make all the difference in achieving your business goals. One of the most common roles that I perform as a mentor is creating the bridge that takes a business to the point that it is ‘investment ready’.

Either personally, or through my extended network I can help put you in touch with a mentor from your industry that has been there and done it. That experience really helps them deliver REAL business results. What’s more, we generally do not charge for our mentoring packages but prefer to make an investment in the people we mentor – ensuring our success is linked directly to your. This gives you an assurance that we’re committed to ensuring your long-term success.

The key benefits to you of engaging a business mentor are:

Experience: Learning from the experience (and mistakes) of others can provide accelerated growth

Guidance: A fresh set of eyes looking in can open up paths to achieving your objectives that you will never have considered

Contacts: Many businesses fail not because of a lack of enthusiasm or great ideas but simply by not being well-connected. Expand your network with your mentor’s contacts!

Accountability: Mentors are there to ensure that the goals and objectives that have been set in your business are achieved.

Mentoring is designed to fit around you and can be as scalable as you need them. Clients can choose from 2 hours per month up to 2 full days and we’ll liaise with you to help decide on the most appropriate timeframe and level of support for your business.

In The News

A Small Business guide to alternative funding

Date-1.Apr.2014

The Guardian writes about the various funding options available to small businesses including my Start Up fund.

Budget 2014 Ignored Start-Ups

Date-1.Apr.2014

Huffington Post publish my response to the 2014 Budget and why I felt it ignored start-ups.

More opinion on the Budget 2014

Date-20.Mar.2014

startups.co.uk publish some of my comments on the Budget 2014.

Budget 2014 and Start Ups

Date-19.Mar.2014

My comments on what the Budget 2014 did for start-ups.

Budget 2014 and Exports

Date-19.Mar.2014

Business Zone detail my response to the measures announced for companies looking to export.

What I Want From the Budget 2014

Date-18.Mar.2014

What i would like to see from the upcoming Budget announcement for entrepreneurs and small businesses


View All News

The Apprentice


My 8 weeks on The Apprentice has been well-documented but for those who don’t know, I was one of the 14 candidates selected for Series 1. I’m often still recognised and approached to offer my opinion about The Apprentice, and it’s always interesting to me to find out during public appearances what the public perception is of the show now.

My sole reason for applying for the show was the challenge of being pitted against ‘the 14 best entrepreneurs in the country’ and proving my business ability in a show structured to foster talent. Those of you who are regular watchers of the show, or who understand how ‘Reality TV’ works may already have wry smiles on your faces but, back then, the whole concept of Reality TV was in its infancy and I’ll admit to a certain degree of naivety as to what I was getting myself into!

Suffice to say The Apprentice is all about providing TV entertainment, just like any other show of its ilk. The producers make the decisions about what’s going to happen, and when. As candidates, most of the time we were pushed into tasks with rules and regulations so restrictive that there was only one possible route to take.

I found that aspect of it disappointing but, regardless, I lasted 8 of the 12 weeks of the series and took from it new resolve to achieve success. I’ll be completely honest here though and say that it was one of the least enjoyable experiences of my life!

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