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Joseph Mimran, seen in September, 2012, believes in buying stocks that you understand. His portfolio includes long REITS, big-cap dividend paying stocks and certain major tech plays.

Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Joe Fresh

Joseph Mimran was a late bloomer to the investment world. As a young man growing up in Toronto, much of his focus was on helping run and build family businesses. His mother was a seamstress, his father worked at a food wholesaler before opening his own food store. Mr. Mimran remembers stocking shelves and delivering groceries. It was the formative years behind his subsequent rise in the retail and fashion world.

Today, Mr. Mimran is best known for launching the Club Monaco and Joe Fresh brands and is a chairman and co-CEO of Gibraltar Growth Corp. which invests in technology-driven retail brands through its Gibraltar Ventures division. His more recent role is as a "dragon" on the TV series Dragons' Den. The Globe recently spoke with Mr. Mimran about his investment style and why he owns just one retail stock:

When did you start investing?

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My parents weren't investors. They just didn't have the money. I didn't have that background. For me, it was about investing in my own business and creating something, as opposed to passive investments. I didn't invest in the stock market until the Monaco Group went public in 1986. It was after that, in 1987 or 1988, when I started to put some money in the market. I learned very quickly how treacherous the stock market can be.

What's in your stock portfolio today?

Right now, I'm long REITS, big-cap dividend paying stocks and certain major tech plays such as Facebook, Apple and Amazon that I believe are the engines of the new economy. I do believe in buying things you understand and believe in. If you can identify the right trends, that's what you should be investing in. I like individual stocks. It's much riskier, but I prefer knowing what I'm buying. About half of my portfolio is cash and stocks, 15 per cent in physical real estate and 35 per cent in other businesses.

What about retail stocks, since that's your business?

I'm a little bit nervous about retail. I'm nervous about bricks and mortar, although 90 per cent of sales are still coming from bricks and mortar. There has been a dislocation of the market. It's hard to figure out who is going to be the winner and who will be the loser at this stage. Pricing is so competitive. You really have to have a point of differentiation. I'm long Loblaw, which I see as more secure retail, but when it comes to fashion retail I'm much more cautious. Loblaw is the only retail stock I own.

Do you short stocks?

I never short. I'm too optimistic of an individual.

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Do you use an adviser?

I invest on my own and I do have some wealth management advice as well. About 20 per cent I do myself and the balance is managed. To invest on your own, you really have to stay on top of the market and be able to react if you need to. I don't really want to be watching the ticker tape that closely.

How many investments have you made in your role on Dragons' Den?So far I have only invested in three. It's not simple. For the most part, it's picking the right entrepreneur and their ability to move their business forward. You're not always doing it because of the investment potential. Of course you're not throwing your money away, I'm not on the show for charity, but by the same token it's also an experiment to a great extent with many of these smaller investments. That's how I view them, and to support Canadian entrepreneurship more than anything else.

What has been your best investment to date?

My best investment has been in my own fashion businesses. Stick to your knitting.

What about your worst?

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My worst investment was during the tech bubble of 2000. I had a few holdings that I didn't sell fast enough. Broadcom comes to mind – and it left a lasting impression on me.

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