COVER STORY

Chanelle McCoy is en­ter­ing the Dragons’ Den and says she’s not there as a pretty face but as a well-es­tab­lished global busi­ness­woman

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - CONTENTS - IN­TER­VIEW Eoin Mur­phy PHO­TO­GRAPHS Kenny Whittle

Chanelle McCoy may be best known as AP’s wife, but she’s in Dragons’ Den for one rea­son only – to make money

It’s In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day and the lounges in the five-star G Ho­tel are thronged with mem­bers of a lo­cal mother and baby group who are mark­ing the day with de­signer af­ter­noon tea. The spring sun­shine has lit up the room in bril­liant sun­shine, the un­sea­son­able light bounc­ing off the sig­na­ture sil­ver orbs that hang from the ceil­ing in the grand sa­lon. It seems fit­ting on such an im­por­tant day that Chanelle McCoy – in­ter­na­tional busi­ness­woman, wife to Cham­pion Jockey AP and mother of two – should be of­fi­cially an­nounced as the new in­vestor on RTÉ’s hit busi­ness se­ries Dragons’ Den.

While many may know her as the woman be­hind AP, one of our na­tion’s most cel­e­brated jump jock­eys, as a busi­ness­woman she has long since fur­rowed her own field.

Pri­mar­ily she is a di­rec­tor of Chanelle Med­i­cal, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany with 380 em­ploy­ees and a €106mil­lion an­nual turnover, which was set up by her vet fa­ther Michael Burke in the 1980s. She has also re­cently opened a bou­tique, Mojo & McCoy, in Hunger­ford, close to the cou­ple’s 80acre es­tate in Berk­shire, with Camilla Parker Bowles’ daugh­ter Laura Lopes.

In short, she is more than qual­i­fied to take a seat in the Den. Her ad­di­tion now makes RTÉ the only fran­chise of the hit show world­wide to have three out of five fe­male dragons.

‘ The whole area of busi­ness in­ter­ests me,’ she says with a smile. ‘I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to busi­ness and sto­ries of en­trepreneurs and how they got started, like the story of Jeff Be­zos of Ama­zon. I can hon­estly say I did [Dragons’ Den] be­cause of a keen in­ter­est in en­trepreneurs in Ire­land and get­ting to see the cal­i­bre of peo­ple out there try­ing to make it.

‘I don’t think any other pro­grammes would have been as at­trac­tive to me. I am in­cred­i­bly proud to be part of a Dragons’ Den that has three women in the line-up. I think it’s bril­liant for women in busi­ness and it’s bril­liant to en­cour­age young women, older women, in busi­ness to say that it doesn’t mat­ter if you are a woman, you are ab­so­lutely even in that board­room.

‘I’m very lucky that in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal busi­ness there’s huge re­spect for women and we have never felt that women are on the back foot in our in­dus­try. But I do know that there are in­dus­tries where women do strug­gle. I have a sister who is a stock bro­ker in Lon­don and that is a very male- dom­i­nated busi­ness and can be very dif­fi­cult as a woman. Hope­fully I can in­spire young fe­male en­trepreneurs to go for­ward with their busi­ness ideas be­cause they see three women there in the Den who have scaled up their busi­nesses. I hope it will make men who look at the show think, you know what, women are pretty good in busi­ness.

‘Of course, we are ab­so­lutely equal in busi­ness – in fact, in some cases I think we are bet­ter.

‘I hope it will fol­low suit in other Dragons’ Dens glob­ally and it is great that Ire­land has taken the lead on this.’

Chanelle is sit­ting on a chair hav­ing her makeup ap­plied. In the front room of the airy pent­house, her mother Mary sits and watches. She’s a big fan of the process be­hind mag­a­zine shoots and is quizzing the pho­tog­ra­pher on some of his re­cent shoots.

The air is thick with the scent of hair­spray and the lin­ger­ing aroma of cof­fee. For many, this sort of ex­pe­ri­ence would be daunt­ing but for Chanelle, it’s just part of be­ing mar­ried to one of the coun­try’s most fa­mous sports­men.

She has been rear­ing her daugh­ter Eve and son Archie while AP ce­mented his legacy, rid­ing a record 4,358 win­ners, mak­ing him Cham­pion Jockey a record 20 con­sec­u­tive times. His re­tire­ment in 2015 gave Chanelle many things she had long de­sired, most of all peace of mind and a more con­sis­tent home life.

‘It has def­i­nitely been fan­tas­tic,’ she says, sip­ping a cof­fee. ‘I have def­i­nite peace of mind now not hav­ing that ner­vous feel­ing ev­ery other day won­der­ing has he had a fall, or the sick feel­ing when the call comes through that he has had a fall.

‘As the years went on and we had the two chil­dren, I found that much harder to deal with as the kids were get­ting older. When we got mar­ried and be­fore we had chil­dren I was a bit blasé about the whole in­jury side of things and just ac­cepted that it was part and par­cel of the pack­age and I was fine with it.

‘But there have been some se­ri­ous falls in re­cent years that bring home the real dan­ger of the sport. Ob­vi­ously JT McNa­mara, un­for­tu­nately he has passed away now, but he was left in a wheelchair. Ja­son McGuire, who luck­ily sur­vived but was re­sus­ci­tated a num­ber of times on the track when he fell. Rob­bie McNa­mara, who is now in a wheelchair, that is just such a tragedy.

‘So yes, life has been bril­liant now that the risk and worry is gone. It has been re­ally nice hav­ing AP around the house more and be­ing able to go to things to­gether. Even be­ing able to eat to­gether is a nov­elty.

‘ This year was the first Christ­mas we could have din­ner to­gether and he could have sec­ond help­ings. For the first cou­ple of months, Eve ➤

➤ was just in awe that daddy was at the din­ner ta­ble for all our meals. She found that such a nov­elty. I’ve been watch­ing AP go­ing through the last two years now, watch­ing him ad­just to it, and he’s deal­ing with it very well – bet­ter than I thought. Prob­a­bly the big­gest ben­e­fit is that he’s very ac­cept­ing of re­tir­ing.

‘ There are days when he strug­gles, es­pe­cially on Satur­days when he sees the good horses win­ning the big races. You can tell that he misses the buzz and the ex­cite­ment but he’s not an­gry or bit­ter. He’s a plea­sure to live with.’

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses, how­ever, as Chanelle ad­mits that oc­ca­sion­ally there are bizarre mo­ments that ig­nite that com­pet­i­tive pas­sion and de­sire in her hus­band.

‘Last week, Barry Ger­aghty had a bad fall in Kemp­ton and is now side­lined for Chel­tenham,’ she says. ‘Barry has taken AP’s po­si­tion rid­ing for JP McManus. AP was there when Barry was put into the am­bu­lance. When he came home that night he said to me: “You know, I was look­ing at Barry and I was jealous. I wanted to be where he was. I wanted to be in­jured in the am­bu­lance. I miss the dan­ger. I miss get­ting a good kick­ing and be­ing able to sur­vive it and get through that.”

‘I sup­pose that’s built into any elite sports­man who has lived a dan­ger­ous sport­ing life. That’s part of the buzz but he def­i­nitely felt a bit of jeal­ousy, which from a psy­cho­log­i­cal point of view I found very in­trigu­ing. Or dis­turb­ing.’

Chanelle breaks out into a broad smile as she fin­ishes the story. It would be easy to pi­geon-hole her as a rac­ing WAG who minds the chil­dren while pot­ter­ing around her bou­tique. This, how­ever, would be an er­ror in judge­ment as Chanelle is as happy ne­go­ti­at­ing mil­lion- euro con­tracts through­out Asia, Europe and the Mid­dle East as she is pack­ing school lunches.

‘Day-to- day life is the same for me re­ally,’ she says of the time since AP re­tired. ‘What has helped me as a mother is that he’s around more. He rides out most morn­ings and there’s the odd time he can do the school run. If I’m away on a busi­ness trip, he’s there to watch a movie with them or put them to bed and they don’t mind as much if I’m away as they used to. It’s a bit of an ex­tra sup­port mech­a­nism for me so I can keep the head down with work.’

It’s clear that get­ting Chanelle was a ma­jor coup for the pro­duc­tion com­pany Shi­nawil. She joins Eleanor McEvoy, Ali­son Cowzer, Gavin Duffy and Barry O’Sul­li­van in the Den, re­plac­ing Ea­monn Quinn, son of su­per­mar­ket mag­nate Fer­gal Quinn.

‘I just feel that this for­mat re­ally is the only fit for me,’ she says. ‘I could have done more over the years if I’d wanted to build a pro­file. There was var­i­ous of­fers to do TV projects but I never did them be­cause they didn’t in­ter­est me. This is the only one that has in­ter­ested me.

‘I’m happy not hav­ing a big pro­file and not at­tract­ing any un­wanted me­dia at­ten­tion. Through the years, be­ing with AP, you have an el­e­ment where peo­ple are in­ter­ested in a cer­tain amount of your life be­cause he was in the pub­lic eye. I was com­fort­able with the level of pro­file we had and my ob­jec­tive wouldn’t be to build up my own pro­file.

‘I’m very aware that peo­ple may know me just as be­ing AP McCoy’s wife and may not be aware that I work in our fam­ily busi­ness and that I have a ca­reer my­self. When I was ap­proached to do Dragon’s Den I was very con­scious of peo­ple look­ing at the TV won­der­ing why is she on it? What has she done for her­self?

‘But I feel com­fort­able in a board­room chal­leng­ing my team and re­ally work is my com­fort zone – maybe more so than home life in cer­tain ways. I find it eas­ier at times to run a busi­ness than man­age the kids and run the home. I sup­pose that busi­ness is some­thing that I have just grown up with. From five or six years old I worked for pocket money and that work ethic has never stopped.’

It isn’t just the pub­lic that Chanelle has to win over. Her first ma­jor hur­dle was in­te­grat­ing with the cur­rent Den line-up. All five in­vestors will ul­ti­mately go head-to-head to try and land the best deals pos­si­ble, of­ten fight­ing tooth and nail to try and out-pitch a ri­val Dragon.

‘I was con­scious that my fel­low Dragons wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be aware of my busi­ness ex­po­sure and I was go­ing on there won­der­ing how I would be re­ceived,’ she ad­mits. ‘I was con­fi­dent in my busi­ness back­ground, it’s my in­dus­try and I know it in­side out. But when you go into the Den you leave your com­fort zone be­hind.

‘I was wor­ried that I wouldn’t be as cred­i­ble or as good as the other Dragons. I was the only new Dragon go­ing in there and I wanted the oth­ers to re­spect me. I wanted to main­tain the cred­i­bil­ity of the show but there were a lot of things that I was ap­pre­hen­sive about.

‘I can imag­ine peo­ple say­ing; “She’s only AP’s wife, what does she know?” But I have worked in the com­pany that my fa­ther set up and we co­founded the med­i­cal busi­ness to­gether. I have now got our med­i­cal busi­ness in 69 coun­tries glob­ally so I have gone through tak­ing a busi­ness from zero to 69 mar­kets.

‘I have gone through pe­ri­ods where I was wor­ried about cash flow and all the is­sues that face start-ups. I know the fun­da­men­tals be­cause I have lived it. But of course the first day I sat in the chair, my stomach was so sick with nerves be­cause I just didn’t know what I was go­ing to be like. But as soon as the first per­son came in and they started talk­ing about their busi­nesses, I just felt that I hit the ground run­ning.

‘I for­got about the cam­eras, I for­got about the other Dragons, I just started won­der­ing if I was go­ing to spend my hard- earned cash on this per­son. And be­lieve me when it’s your money on the line you fo­cus quite quickly.

‘ The chal­lenge is that you have peo­ple com­ing in and they’re so in­vestable as peo­ple but the busi­ness pro­pos­als just aren’t good. There was one or two who were so bright but they didn’t have a cred­i­ble prod­uct.’

The new se­ries will see some unique in­ven­tions and a broad range of prod­ucts and ser­vices such as food, cos­met­ics, pets, well-be­ing, med­i­cal needs and fash­ion pitched to the five in­vestors.

‘Once you sit in the chair, you want the best in­vest­ment and you will fight for it and ar­gue for it – I never for a minute was not com­fort­able in fight­ing my cor­ner. We are all com­fort­able do­ing that be­cause that is what you do in busi­ness. That is the na­ture of the beast and in or­der to get the best deal that’s right for your com­pany you have to ne­go­ti­ate.

‘Once we were out of the chairs and back in the dress­ing rooms there was great fun, re­spect and ca­ma­raderie. There were a few con­ver­sa­tions go­ing on where maybe you felt you needed to jus­tify any argy bargy that went on. If you needed to take it off-line and dis­cuss it then it was parked there. There were no grudges held and ev­ery­one knows that we are all out for our­selves and no­body took it per­son­ally.’

DRAGONS’ DEN will be broad­cast from to­mor­row un­til Sun­day, May 8 on RTE1

Chanelle with AP and their chil­dren Eve and Archie

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