What makes a great entrepreneur and business owner? We speak to former Apprentice contestant, Alana Spencer, to find out
How did your business begin?
When I was 14 years old my mum bought me a book on how to make your own chocolates and I was hooked!
I started making and selling chocolates to my friends and teachers while I was in school, then when I left school I took these chocolates to local events and farmers markets.
As time went on I moved from chocolates to fudge to cakes and ended up travelling all across the UK to sell at food events throughout the year.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
I have definitely always been interested in finding ways to make money. At a very young age in school I began making and selling gift cards—not a business idea that lasted!
I didn’t quite get the results I hoped in my A levels and I knew that the only thing I really wanted to do was grow my cake business. My uncle is an incredible entrepreneur, always working on some project and has become a big success in his fields, he is a real inspiration to me and definitely boosted my entrepreneurial spirit.
How does your work compliment your personality?
I have always had a sweet tooth! So baking cakes is the perfect business for me.
I’m also very driven and love meeting people, so driving around the UK going to different meetings and working as hard as I can to get my products out there gives me a real buzz.
What does an average working day for you look like?
Having just opened my very own bakery, no two days look the same at the moment as there is so much to do.
I’m back in the kitchen on a daily basis, training my new bakery team and working on orders, which I love. But the next minute it could be off with the hair net, chained to my desk to catch up on emails or travelling to London for meetings with potential stockists. It’s certainly busy, but very exciting!
What lasting lesson did appearing on The Apprentice teach you?
And what advice would you give to any likely applicants? I think the lesson I learned and the advice I would give are the same—know your brand, your products and your goals, inside out.
The more confident and passionate you are about what you have to offer and why your business idea will be a success the better. You don’t necessarily have to have all the small details ironed out, but a clear vision and strong knowledge of your business will make all the difference.
How did winning change your business model?
When I applied to The Apprentice, my business idea was to get my products into supermarkets, however it was actually Claude that suggested we take the current model (baking my cakes and selling them at food events) and franchise that, giving others who have always wanted their own business but no idea where to start a chance to come on board and sell my cakes at events near them.
We now have over 50 franchises and it has been amazing to watch their businesses grow too.
You've recently been able to buy out Sir Alan Sugar's portion of the business—how did this feel?
I am incredibly lucky and grateful to have had this opportunity so soon.
I have learned so much from working with Lord Sugar and his amazing team, it’s very exciting and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Have you ever encountered extra challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
To be honest I have been very fortunate and I haven’t experienced any challenges particularly.
Any challenges I have met have been the amount of other companies trying to expand in the cake industry, but fortunately the quality of my products and the drive I have for this business has helped push forwards.
If you weren't in the career you're in now, what do you think you'd be doing?
If I had never gone into the cake industry, I would have just started a business doing something else.
I’ve always known I wanted to work for myself, and with a sweet tooth, cakes were just the perfect fit.
What's left on the career bucket list?
My current goal is to get into all the motorway services stations and be the brand customers think of when they are craving an indulgent on-the-go treat!
What do you do to switch off from work?
This is something I have never been great at—as my friends and family will testify! But I do try and make a conscious effort to switch off when I can, usually by walking my dog, cooking or just spending time with friends and family.
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