Telling the truth about SME life today

Older women, The Apprentice and evasive tactics

This is an unconventional way to begin a column but I was checking out the Real Business hottest entrepreneurs list the other day. Tamara Mellon and Sarah McVittie, I’ll give you, but why was there no space for the delightful Jacqueline Gold Ok, she may be 20 years my senior but Jacqueline, you’d be on my list!

The Apprentice reaches its conclusion shortly and my tip from week one, Alex, is still looking good for the job. I was glad to see the back of the incredibly annoying Lucinda, but I would have preferred a straight fight in the final between Claire and Alex. Still, a four way battle will certainly make for good viewing.

I had an interesting experience last month. I gave a motivational talk for the first time. The audience – a finance division in a large bank – was not my usual crowd and after about 30 minutes of off-the-cuff "how we started/what we did differently/how we motivate our staff" type talk, I opened for questions.

Just one hand went up.

I had spoken earlier of how I’d got a loan to live off in 2002 when the business couldn’t afford to pay me a salary. This lady quizzed me on how it was possible to get a loan with no income. Realising I was speaking to a division of the very bank I’d borrowed that money from, I decided it best not to explain in intimate detail how I’d blagged it.

Instead, I drew on my recent experience learning about improvisation. My public speaking mentor, the Beermat Entrepreneur Mike Southon, introduced me to the excellent improvisational comedian Neil Mullarkey. He taught me a few tricks of the trade to deal with difficult questions and situations. His wise words came in handy as I successfully swerved the interrogation and left to a healthy round of applause. Thanks Mike and Neil!

Finding myself in more familiar surroundings, I presented the Broadbean story to a judging panel at the National Business Awards. We’ve made the final four in the London & SE Business of the Year category, something I’m very proud of – particularly given that we’re the smallest company to have reached the final.

Moving from scrutinisee to scrutiniser I judged the East London final of the Young Enterprise company scheme. This campaign sees 16-18 year olds set up and run a business for a year. I’ve judged this award before, but the standard this year was the best I’ve seen. The winning team (all female, incidentally) have a great chance in the All London final.

As you probably noticed from my last column, I’m hugely passionate about promoting business to the younger generation. Working closely with YE has given me an insight into the incredible work they do in schools and colleges across the country, with limited resources.

They need thousands more volunteers to deliver their programmes. This year in London alone, they will reach almost 90,000 kids. I’ve been working on a new venture to support this need and will reveal much more in the coming weeks. If you’re someone who enjoys inspiring and motivating then watch this space. I have something for you.


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