Passed/Failed: An education in the life of James Caan, businessman and Dragons' Den investor
'At 12 I knew I would be an entrepreneur'
Thursday 25 February 2010
James Caan, 49, bought 50 per cent of a dog treadmill business as his first investment for the BBC2 series Dragons' Den. He has recently become chairman of the board of The Big Issue magazine. The Real Deal: My Story from Brick Lane to Dragons' Den is out now in paperback.
I never got the hang of art; amazingly, I happen to have married an artist, a painter. I think I was quite numerate from an early age and I was pretty good at geography and history. We only went to the mosque for the major religious festivals, as my father wasn't a particularly religious man. I don't remember there being an issue when I started attending the local Church of England primary school in Brick Lane.
I was quite shy and I found the school, Christchurch, a bit daunting at first because I had only come over from Pakistan two years before. It was a very small, cute school and I found friends very quickly. I have very happy memories of the teachers.
Forest Gate High School was a co-ed (thank goodness!) comprehensive with 1,000 pupils and I remember feeling incredibly daunted by the giants in the school – the sixth formers. However, I quickly found a group of friends. Even though there were only a handful of other Asian kids at school, I never felt different and never knowingly experienced any prejudice. I have very good memories. I was in the top stream and did just enough to get by. I didn't have the drive for university and excelling in my grades; I found watching my father growing his leather garment business was more rewarding. From the age of 12 I felt my future was going to be entrepreneurship. I went to school in one of my father's jackets, a different one every week, and I would sell them. In one transaction I was doubling my pocket-money of £1.50 a week. I think Dad must have cottoned on to the fact that I was taking a cut because he asked me what I'd sold it for. I was a bit nervous that I'd done something wrong but he laughed. He was absolutely delighted that I was showing a bit of initiative.
I didn't stay long enough to take the O-levels; you could leave at Easter after the mocks. No one from the top stream had ever left early but I knew what I wanted to do; I was going to run my own business some day, so what good would a handful of O-levels do me anyway? I seem to have done OK, but I feel strongly that education is so important. It is better to have education than not to have it. Today I educate 486 children; I fund a school in Pakistan. The only thing I regretted was that in my CV where it said "education" there was something of a blank. In 2002 I did an advanced management program at Harvard Business School. It was incredibly intensive: 7.30 am to 10.30 at night, seven days a week. My fellow students were all graduates and PhDs and studying came naturally to them. I struggled. I would get up at 5.30 every morning to do the homework because I couldn't retain the information otherwise.
Both my daughters got 10 As each in their GCSEs and three As at A-level. In one week last September, both my daughters had just graduated, my wife had just completed her Masters at St Martin's College of Art and I got an honorary doctorate at Leeds. My daughters had to work for their degrees – and I got mine in the post.
- 1 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
- 2 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 3 Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
- 4 iPhone 6s camera: features to include 4K video camera and flash for selfies
- 5 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Moody neurotics are more likely to be creative geniuses, study says
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...
£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...
£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...
£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...