Businessman Jamie Waller, author of ‘Unsexy Business’ gives his views on this year’s crop of Apprentice hopefuls
It wasn’t Camilla Ainsworth, the nut milk owner, who pushed me over the edge. It wasn’t Sabrina Stocker, who runs a tennis events company, or even Sian Gabbidon, who specialises in swimwear design, who broke my spirit.
No, the last straw for me as I read through the professions of the latest list of desperados set to appear on The Apprentice was Daniel Elahi, owner of a ‘lifestyle brand’.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not in great need of a new lifestyle brand myself. I’m all good for lifestyle branding.
I’m also ok for nut milk, tennis events and swimming trunks. And I definitely don’t need a professional speaker to enhance my day to day existence, thanks all the same Kayode Damali.
I could, however, use a plumber from time to time. Or a painter and decorator. Or a bit of extra space to store stuff.
But I don’t blame these ambitious young candidates for launching themselves into such exotic industries.
The world has gone mad for sexy business.
The new batch of Apprentices will be battling it out on the hit BBC, trying not to get fired and win £250,000 of Sir Alan’s cold hard cash to invest in their business
Inspired by the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla’s Elon Musk or Tinder-then-Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe, young entrepreneurs think fame and fortune is but an app or invention away.
For the vast majority of successful business people who have actually made it, the reality is starkly different.
That realisation inspired me to research and write my book, Unsexy Business.
I was brought up in a working class family in Bethnal Green, East London, and left school at 16 without a single qualification.
Waller’s book explains how entrepreneurs can run money-making ‘unfashionable’ businesses without ‘sexy’ apps
I cleaned windows, sold cars and then worked as a debt collector, the least sexy business imaginable.
But it became more appealing when I’d made my first million aged 22.
I’m now 39 and I’ve started, built and sold businesses that have made me more than £40million by offering services that provided real value.
None of my businesses were what you would describe as ‘sexy’ – but they all made money.
The young entrepreneurs I meet now who want me to invest in their start-ups are all obsessed with tech and lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Luddite. Tech powers the economy.
But everyone wants to make their fortune in 10 minutes.
Look at our friend Daniel, the lifestyle brand guru. He set up his business in 2017 and likens himself to Jordan Belfort, the main character in The Wolf of Wall Street film, because of his entrepreneurial skills and lavish party lifestyle.
How has he got the time to be partying at such an early stage of his enterprise?
If he has got a business worth the name, now is his time to be getting his head down, building up his client base and focusing on the bottom line.
And please, look beyond lifestyles and apps.
What’s wrong with warehousing, dry cleaning or selling cars? Find a business that works, that there is demand for – then do it better than your rivals.
In some research I did for the book, I discovered that cleaning was considered to be the most unsexy business of all.
Yet, according to the British Cleaning Council, the sector is worth £24billion to the British economy.
So perhaps the one beacon of hope in this year’s show is Khadija Kalifa, who has run her own eco-friendly cleaning business for the past three years.
She’s flying the flag for unsexy businesses – and if he’s got any sense, Lord Sugar will hire her.