BLM caught up with previous winner of ‘The Apprentice’ Michelle Dewberry to talk about her life as an entrepreneur and how winning the show changed her life.
Since landing a top job with Lord Alan Sugar, Dewberry has built a career in business, is a regular TV commentator and also ran as a candidate at the 2017 General Elections.
Like most entrepreneurs, I didn’t like school
My upbringing was quite challenging – I was bought up in a household where there was a lot of domestic abuse.
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I really didn’t like school at all, it was also disturbed by some of my challenges in my home life.
When I was young my favourite game was ‘leaflets’. My mum used to go to travel agents and shops and I would fill out and check the forms from the brochures.
The more complex the forms the better. I was quite bossy when I was young and I loved quality checking the forms of my brothers and sisters. I used to love it! This gave me great attention to detail and I learnt to sign things off essentially at an early age!
From an early age, I wanted to make money
From an early age, I became aware of the importance of being independent and making your own money. I felt it was important not to rely on a man.
My father used to own a business and I used to work there after school as a 13-year-old. My responsibility was to manage the faxing, which felt very important at the time.
As I was shy at the time I used to hate answering the phone or talking to customers though.
Winning The Apprentice boosted my confidence
Taking part in The Apprentice was an extraordinary experience from everyday life. It was a very intense show to be a part of but it was good fun. It opened my eyes to what can be achieved if you can be 100% focused on your goals with no distractions.
Winning The Apprentice was great and it boosted my confidence too!
I had the confidence to challenge the big boys
My biggest challenge in business has been that I used to own a ‘consumer deal’ site and we did a deal with one of the biggest online newspaper groups. We strategised and worked hard on the content and platform we created. At the last minute, they decided to create their own content and launch it in-house.
We were a start-up business and this felt devastating at the time. I didn’t take this lying down and had the confidence to challenge the big boys. We fought the battle so to speak and all our costs were repaid.
If I were Prime Minister for one day
I would launch a root and branch investigation into public spending – to see how this money is being spent. I strongly believe there is so much inefficiency and if we structure things better we would have much better public services.
For instance, where the NHS is concerned, perhaps no more funding is required, but a thorough review of how things are structured, to make more effective.
Action is better than planning
My advice to young entrepreneurs is to remember that action is better than all the planning in the land. People can plan all they like but the longer they take, the more opportunities they will miss.
There is also no shame in admitting when things don’t work out or if a business fails. It is okay to cut your losses. You also need to understand your market and ensure you are fixing a problem. Make sure people will want your product or service.
It is also key, very early on in business, to get a support network of people around you who understand. This makes both the ups and downs better.
It doesn’t matter what background you come from
Just by talking about business will help to get more young people involved in business. Programmes, such as Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice, can engage and make young people aware of business and help them see what it looks like.
It does not matter what background you are from, if you have the aspiration, we are in the times to achieve success.