Speaking at The Young Enterprise Fair at London Spitalfields Market
Young Enterprise is a charity that I discovered during my MBA in 2014, when my friend Katie asked me to be an advisor on its flagship company programme at a local all-girls school. This was at the beginning of my MBA and I was eager to make friends, so I took Katie's invitation as an opportunity to make my first friend. The experience started in October of that year and I absolutely loved helping the students develop their business idea, which they ran for an academic year. After lots of brainstorming and pondering, they all decided on a bomber jacket company focused on utilising pre-worn materials from charity shops.
A couple of months later, in early 2015, feeling equally unaware of what I was getting into, I applied to be on The Apprentice in the UK. Similar to my experience with Young Enterprise, I had never seen The Apprentice and it was not really on my radar. Unlike my experience with Katie inviting me to be an advisor, I had nobody encouraging me to go on the business reality television show. I wanted a challenge and I knew that I would be able to showcase my business skills and get exposure for my startups.
During my first interview for The Apprentice, without prior preparation, I was asked to present my business plan idea on camera. This was a daunting task, considering that I didn't even know that I would have to present a business plan. But I followed the advice I had provided to the Young Enterprise students about the jackets: keep it simple. So that's exactly what I did and it worked. My idea was to create a dating app with a gaming element. When I was pressed further, I just stuck to my same answer. I didn't waver.
After the grueling interview process, I was accepted to participate in the show. The next couple of months would prove to be even more excruciating than the interview process. Not only were we living with our competitors, we were cut off from the outside world. We had no access to the internet and no personal time for ourselves. During The Apprentice process, we were constantly filming, often waking up at the crack of dawn, and going to bed late at night.
All of the participants were constantly on edge. Overtired. Stressed. And often kept in isolation from the outside world with no access to books or newspapers in order to exacerbate our feelings of anxiety. During the tasks, we were given very limited time to complete the business elements of the show because we had an added element: filming. The camera men, sound guys, directors, assistant producers and researchers were all a huge part of our experience. This meant that we had to be focused and quick when we had a chance to work on the nitty gritty of the tasks.
This added element of filming on The Apprentice taught me the importance of 1) being decisive, 2) executing well, 3) planning and 4) standing your ground. If I could advise the Young Enterprise girls now, I would be even more to the point and focused. The Apprentice experience started off with 18 contestants so there was no time or space for people who weren't on top of things. You had to be ahead of the game in order to survive each task.
The important thing to highlight in guiding high school students is to focus them on the following key points:
• Make a one-page plan of what your company will do
• Figure out the minimum that you need to do to prove your concept
• Work out your profit margins and determine how much you plan to spend on the items and how much you plan to sell them for
• Stay focused on your plan; do not go off on tangents
• Stand your ground when you're questioned
The Apprentice put unbelievable pressure on me to create the best possible product under severe time and resource constraints, which I believe is important for young people to experience. Being on the intense business programme has inspired me to pursue my dream of building VinobyVana, my low-calorie aperitif, and DatePlay, the dating app I pitched on the show. Young Enterprise has a lot of the same features as The Apprentice and the lessons learned are the same. The only missing element is those two daunting words: "You're Fired!"