Saira Khan was runner-up on the first series of The Apprentice. Now mum to Zac, four, and adopted daughter Amara, one, we caught up with the busy business mum to talk working life with two small children and why the new candidates aren't a patch on her boardroom days...
How's life with your two children?
Full on and they are into everything and anything! They are the best of friends though which helps. Zac is unbelievably confident and loves chatting on the phone. He's a mini salesman already!
You adopted Amara from Pakistan. Tell us about your experience.
My husband Steve and I struggled to conceive as I have endometriosis, and conceived our son with IVF. We were very lucky and I fell pregnant after our first attempt, and we thought we would try again one more time. When it failed I knew instantly we would adopt. It was something we had been thinking about for a while, and when the IVF failed it was almost like it was meant to be. We started the process within a week.
What was it like when you met her for the first time?
Amara was abandoned at four days old, so young she still had the umbilical cord attached. We were called to say there was a baby for us, and we went and collected her from the orphanage.
We had no idea what we were getting. You go through a lot of emotion and fear when you're adopting as it's such an unknown experience. We turned up and were presented with this little girl.
The minute I held her and she was in my arms it felt right. She was our daughter.
Would you like another baby?
Well, never say never, but at the moment I certainly have my hands full. I would never go through IVF again, but perhaps another adoption. We're very open about the adoption, and Amara will always know where she came from and her story.
Having my two children has changed my life, and seeing them together gives me the most amazing feeling inside.
What are your thoughts on the adoption process in the UK?
I think the process and the assessment potential parents go through is spot on, but the process for children in care needs to change. It must get quicker. They need stability and a home as soon as possible, and many are too old when they finally get it. It can be incredibly frustrating, and I know parents going through it at the moment, but the ending can be amazing.
You're about to present the second series of Trade Your Way to the USA, what's the show about?
In each show we have two teams of kids between the ages of 9-13 years, and they are given a task to buy, sell and make money. The teams are whittled down to just two, and they compete in a final in America. They are given £75 for each task, and they have to do their market research, produce and buy the product and then sell it and turn a profit.
It's a fantastic concept as children today are so hot on business, even if they don't realise it. You see children in the playground playing marbles and swapping things with friends. All such valuable skills.
How do you find working with kids for children's TV?
I love it. Young people today are given a bad rep, but they do such amazing things, and have to deal with pressures we would never have even imagined when we were young. I find children really easy to work with, as long as you give them respect you get it back. Sometimes I want to dash over to the teams on the show and try and help but I have to make sure I stay back and let them learn for themselves. That's probably the hardest part. But I haven't worked with children and animals yet!
Have you met some truly inspiring young people?
Absolutely, their work ethic is incredible. We have met children from all different backgrounds, cultures and socioeconomic groups, which is one of the best bits of the show. They have such amazing ideas and aren't as self-critical as adults, they just go for it.
When I was younger it was all about adults passing on values to children, but I think now it really can work both ways. We can learn a massive amount from young people.
What tips have you got for parents of children with budding business minds?
Embrace and nurture every hobby and idea your child has. Observe your child's strengths and passions and take every opportunity to encourage them. This doesn't have to be on a massive, unrealistic scale. If your child likes swapping and the idea of selling, next time you have a clear out, take part in a car boot with your children rather than take everything to the charity shop. There's too much pressure that every young person has to have a degree, but there are so many different entry points into a career. And it's never too young to start!
What do you make of The Apprentice this year?
I have to be honest and say I haven't had the time to watch! But everyone I talk to says the candidates aren't up to much. The show has changed a lot since I was on it in the very first series.
It was all about the job and the opportunity when I was on the show. It was a proper business experience, and wasn't about the entertainment.
It's a shame as it can give business a bad name, but it's still an excellent show.
Are you still in touch with Lord Sugar?
Yes, but it was Sir Alan in my day! We speak a lot, and I am still close to Nick and Margaret, his aides in my series. They are all amazing people, with amazing talents and skills. For me Margaret is the ultimate role model. A real woman's woman and someone to look up to.
Trade Your Way to the USA is on every weekday at 4.30pm from Monday 23rd April on CBBC. The Trade Your Way: Schools Challenge roadshow will launch on Monday visiting schools across the UK, and a teacher's pack will be available to every primary school in the country through the BBC Learning website.
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