Cake, cash and life after The Apprentice
What does it take to be an entrepreneur? When Alana Spencer was crowned Lord Sugar’s apprentice, it was just a twist in a bigger tale. She tells The Day about how it all began and life since.
“When I was in primary school I was absolutely adamant that I was going to start a car washing business,” Alana Spencer reminisces, “but my mum wouldn’t let me do it… I was about eight.”
That entrepreneurial streak only grew. As a teenager, she traded at car boot sales before setting up a chocolate business at 17.
“That feeling of excitement when I would actually sell something is what I did it for,” she says. “I’m not the most academic, so that was the satisfaction I’d get.”
She soon changed focus to cakes and, after a few years of baking and selling, found herself competing for Lord Sugar’s investment on The Apprentice.
“It was really tough,” she says. “You make silly mistakes, because everyone’s tired. We were all genuinely up at 5, out the door by 5:20, and not back by midnight.”
Being surrounded by “big characters” added to the pressure: “every stage I expected to go home, but then I won.”
The fame was “exciting”, but reality soon dawned: “it does die down very quickly… then its knuckle down time — crack on with the business.”
Spencer’s cake company now goes by the name Ridiculously Rich, with Lord Sugar a 50-50 partner.
Having hit her year one target, her next plan is to recruit a wave of cake-selling ambassadors — or “cakepreneurs” as she calls them.
What does it take to be an entrepreneur?
“Don’t lose focus.” Spencer says: “there have been so many times when I have wanted to give up… That happens, it’s just business, and it sucks. But actually, the good times and the wins and the big deals make it all worthwhile. So don’t lose focus.”
“It’s really important to reinvest,” she continues: “before I did everything on a budget because I was chasing that weekend cash win rather than looking at the bigger picture… it is so important to invest in branding and marketing,”
- Would you like to be an entrepreneur?
- Imagine you have been asked to set up a food-based company. What sort of business would you set up? What products would you make and how would you market them? How would you keep running costs down, and increase profits?
Some People Say...
“Know your product and your industry. You can only get so far on the blag.”Alana Spencer
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- According to the Federation of Bakers, the UK bakery market is worth £3.6 billion. However, craft bakery brands like Alana’s Ridiculously Rich make up just 5% of the industry’s total value.
- What do we not know?
- How the market for ready-made baked goods will change. One factor to consider is that home baking has rocketed in popularity — partly thanks to The Great British Bake Off.
- Refusing to be persuaded or change your mind.
- Lord Sugar
- Sir Alan Sugar is a British business magnate and media personality worth over £1 billion. He grew up in East London and left school at 16, spending time working at a greengrocer and selling electrical equipment out of a van. He made the bulk of his fortune with the computer company Amstrad.
- The Apprentice
- The British TV show first aired in 2005. Entrepreneurs compete in a series of challenges to win investment in their business.