The Benefits of Failure

30/05/2014 17:11 BST | Updated 30/07/2014 10:59 BST

Question: What do Oprah Winfrey, Henry Ford and Walt Disney all have in common?

Answer: They have all failed at some point during their career. Before becoming one of the highest paid, most successful women in the world, Oprah was fired from a job as a television presenter because she was "unfit for TV". Henry Ford, had five failed businesses before eventually founding Ford Motor Company. And Walt Disney, whose empire now rakes in billions every year, was once sacked from a newspaper for "lack of imagination" as well as "having no good ideas". He also started several other businesses which failed and ended in bankruptcy before finally finding success. All these 'failures' are now internationally recognised household names, founding global empires employing millions of staff. They used their experience of failure to learn, adapt and help propel themselves onto massive success.

As adults we often go through life with a constant fear of failure, when in fact failure is often what leads to the greatest success. Failing can be demoralising and disheartening; it would be amazing if everyone succeeded first time, but it's just not realistic. Failure can be a really useful tool, teaching us how to do better next time. Arianna Huffington, the founder of this website recently said, 'My mother taught me to try, whatever it is; failure is not the opposite of success but a stepping stone to success. So if you stand up at the Cambridge union and they ridicule you, it doesn't matter; you'll stand up again and you'll learn and get better at it.'

The government launched Start Up Loans in September 2012, knowing one in every three start-up businesses fold. The scheme helps fund budding entrepreneurs who have a viable business idea but don't have access to finance. So far we have funded over 17,000 new ventures. We attempted to put in place all the necessary support mechanisms to ensure our loan recipients businesses have the best chance of succeeding. We provide pre-loan and post loan support, a key offering of the scheme is that we provide mentoring to all loan recipients. Despite this unfortunately still not all businesses will go the distance.

Start Up Loans was launched with the belief that even if loan recipient's ventures does fail, the benefits to the individual and the economy still outweigh the negatives. Starting a business will up-skill an individual, making them more employable or in a better position to succeed next time. When starting a business, you need to learn everything from cashflow to marketing and everything in-between. These are great skills to add to any CV, in what other role would you get such a vast job description and hold so much responsibility? Starting you own business, even if you fail, shows potential employers that you have drive, are tenacious and ambitious. Characteristics any potential employer will want. In fact, according to a recent article in BusinessWeek, many companies are deliberately seeking out those with track record of both success and failure, believing that those who have survived knocks, picked themselves up and come out on the other side have invaluable experience and perseverance.

I experienced my own, very public, failure on national television while taking part in The Apprentice. During my first task as Project Manager, making, marketing and selling soaps, we lost miserably. I was hauled into the boardroom and had to fight to keep my place in the contest. Luckily I survived, the experience made me even more determined to succeed and give it my all. I learnt from my mistakes and went on to win the show and a role working for Lord Sugar. Perhaps it's time we started to look at failure in a new light. We need to see it as an opportunity to grow, learn and evolve. None of us will make it through life with failing at least a few of times. As long as we learn from our mistakes and continue to take risks, it will help us reach our full potential. Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, made 1,000 prototypes before finally coming up with a concept that worked, as he famously said; "Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up."