Devey grew up in Bolton, Lancashire and, as a seven-year-old child, witnessed the results of the bankruptcy of her father, who had owned a central heating company, when bailiffs removed furniture and household goods from the family home. Her father then earned a living managing pubs and hotels. She attended Bolton School and after leaving, at the age of sixteen, served for a short while in the Women's Royal Air Force, in air traffic control and the supply accounts department, stationed at RAF Brize Norton. Devey later moved to London.
Devey made her fortune launching Pall-Ex, a palletised freight network. Launched in 1996, Pall-Ex was the third palletised goods distribution network to be launched in the UK. It was based on the well-established hub and spoke express parcels distribution model - this form of pallet network was pioneered by Palletline in 1992. Pall-Ex handles around 8,000 palletised consignments through its Leicestershire hub each day and has annual revenues of approximately £75 million.
Devey has featured in several television programmes including Secret Millionaire in 2008, where she donated more than £70,000 to the Back Door Music Project and the Syke Community Centre in Rochdale. In March 2010, she was the presenter of The Business Inspector for Channel 5, a four-part documentary series which saw her use her business acumen and expertise to help transform struggling small businesses into successful profitable companies.
In February 2011, Devey joined the panel of the BBC Two programme Dragons' Den following the departure of James Caan. Appearing on the programme, she popularised her expression "You would make my foot itch." to indicate dissatisfaction or lack of interest in a venture. Devey later announced that she would be leaving the series in June 2012 as she had signed an exclusive two-year agreement with Channel 4.
In September 2012, Devey presented her final programme for BBC Two, a mini-series called Hilary Devey's Women at the Top, a joint Open University and BBC Two production.
In April 2013, after moving to Channel 4, Devey began hosting a new series called The Intern, a business documentary in which Devey gave three young interns a week's trial in the job of their dreams. The first three episodes were aired in the Thursday 21:00 time-slot, but the final three episodes were broadcast on Wednesday nights at the later time of 23:00 due to a significant drop in ratings.
On 3 April 2014, Devey announced that she would host a new Channel 4 programme, which began filming in June 2014. The show, named Running the Shop began airing on Channel 4 on 9 June 2015.
On 18 June 2015, Devey made her debut as a guest panellist on the ITV lunchtime chat show Loose Women, and became an occasional panelist on 4 September 2015. However, she departed the show on the 9 November 2015.
Devey was awarded the Vitalise Woman of the Year Award in 2008, and an Honorary Doctorate of Law by the University of Leicester in 2010 for her services to industry. Other UK domestic awards have included the Sir Robert Lawrence Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in 2009 and the Personality of the Year in the International Freight Weekly Awards for 2010.
In July 2012, Devey was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration by the University of Bolton for services to business.
Devey was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), in the 2013 Birthday Honours, for services to the transport industry and charity.
On 16 April 2014, Devey was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration from the University of Wolverhampton.
Devey is an ambassador of the British Citizen Awards, a ceremony held bi-annually to reward everyday individuals and their contribution to society.
Devey previously resided near Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England, but has now relocated to Boylestone in Derbyshire. She also has a house in London and villas in Morocco, Spain and Boca Raton. For a time she owned a mansion in Florida, which she sold in 2014 for £5.42m. She has been divorced twice. Devey owns four dogs, including Mixie and Dixie, her teacup yorkies who have appeared with her in the press and on TV.
Devey suffered a stroke in 2009 after having an abdominoplasty operation.
Devey is a Bolton Wanderers supporter.
In 2011, Devey was involved in a struggle to help her 24-year-old son, Mevlit Brewster-Ahmet overcome a seven-year drug addiction. She commented: "The hardest work I've ever done is pulling my son back from the grip of heroin."
On 28 October 2012, Devey spoke on BBC Radio 4 about her family sorrow. Her mother found out, only years after getting together with her father, that he already had a wife and four children. Years later, history repeated itself when Devey herself, discovered that her ex-partner was also already married with five children.
Devey campaigns for various charities including Carers Trust, of which she became vice-president in 2012. She donates to charity one penny for each pallet distributed by the Pall-Ex network through her 'Penny a Pallet' scheme. She also supports the Stroke Association, for which she became a patron in 2010.Television
The Million Pound Drop (2013)
Fifteen to One (20 June 2014)
Through the Keyhole (4 October 2014)
Safeword (3 September 2015)
Bold As Brass: My Story, (2012), London, Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-230-76593-1