Claire’s face is almost as familiar to viewers of The Apprentice as a member of one’s own family.
We are delighted that, over the next two months, share will share her story with the3rdi.
From her time on The Apprentice, her business and social enterprises through to her stunning new look, Claire tells her story.
“I come from a non business background and never in a million years thought I would be an entrepreneur running my own business. I do a lot of work with young people and always say ‘if only there was a guidebook’; in your teens it’s a minefield deciding what to do and finding your life path – mine was a little zig zagged!.”
“I’ve always been very driven, performing academically well at school and thrive on challenge. I have a curiosity to learn and am drawn to new experiences.”
So, where does all that drive come from?
“People often comment that I’m highly motivated and ask how do you become like that? I still don’t know. I think I was born this way, however, I was brought up in a very supportive home and surrounded by strong role models which without a doubt helped to ‘form‘ me. My headmistress, Pat Langham at Wakefield Girls’ High School, was a very strong woman who had a huge influence on us all.”
“I initially studied medicine at Manchester University before changing my degree to Equine Science at Bristol University. I thoroughly enjoyed studying but I was sick of being broke and desperate to get on the career ladder. I had a wake up call that working in the equine industry was never going to deliver the lifestyle I wanted so I started exploring other options. I applied for countless graduate schemes and secured places at top companies, accepting a role at L’Oreal.”
“Over the next 8 years I fast tracked my way up the blue chip ladder working in marketing for L’Oreal, in sales for Colgate Palmolive and a retail buying controller for AS Watson. I was doing very well for myself. I loved working in retail so why walk away to do The Apprentice? For me it was the challenge, to compete and to experience something unique which money can’t buy. ”
And what was the experience really like?
“My expectations of The Apprentice experience and the actual reality could not be further apart! I’m not in a position to go into details about the actual Apprentice experience, all I can say is it’s a hundred times harder than what it looks like from the comfort of your sofa on a Wednesday night!”
“Over 30.000 applied for my series so even to reach the final 16 was a huge achievement. The production team take great care to choose the 16 strongest candidates but some people just crack under the pressure and fail to do themselves justice. It really is business bootcamp and survival of the fitness. I was nicknamed The Rottweiler for tenacious approach and I’m proud of that – business, life, success is always about setting goals and going for it.”
“After reaching the final, which was watched by 11 million people, and losing out to Lee McQueen I had to make decisions about my next steps. I listened to Sir Alan’s advice about taking my time and not making a knee jerk reaction – easily done when the media is all over you. I was offered TV work and quick money, 500 job offers (including a prestigious position from Karren Brady of Birmingham City) but I decided to turn down all of these very tempting offers and step out by myself. I was 29 years old, had no family and so only myself at risk – time to start a business! I’d also reached the stage where I felt I’d learnt my ‘tool box‘ from the big companies and The Apprentice experience gave me a real lack of fear – I think if most people are honest it is fear of failure that stops them trying new things.”
Why the hospitality industry? There was no hint of that in your C.V.
” Working with my business partner, who I met after The Apprentice, I spotted a gap in the hospitality market and started www.elegantvenues.co.uk. We work with a range of private homes and turn them into wedding venues. There are many agencies out there who advertise these properties to prospective clients but no one actually works with the venue owners, training them to run a business or working together. This is what we do at Elegant Venues.”
” We’re passionate about working with beautiful properties, giving our clients the best service possible and hope to provide more flexibility than a standard venue offering. Running a service based business is incredibly hard work but worthwhile and very satisfying. Starting a business in a recession has been tough but it means you focus and conduct yourself properly and accordingly – cost control and having a robust business plan. If you’re proud and believe in your business you cannot fail, you just have to keep going and be driven to deliver.”
And have people always been supportive?
I wondered whether people had always been supportive or whether there were people who, because of her celebrity status, were just waiting for her to fail. “I have only encountered positivity but I think that the key is ‘authenticity‘. I am not super-perfect and I don’t portray myself as such. When people see that I am happy to be myself there is never a problem. Some people may be prepared to pre-judge but I am fully focussed on deliverables not personalities. There was a big element of game-playing from some participants in The Apprentice but I was determined to just be myself on the show and that is how I am in my business life.”
“Outside of Elegant Venues I’m very lucky to be involved in many exciting projects – media related and also working with young people and enterprise.”
“I saw myself on TV and realised I needed to lose weight so through running and eating less I am now 3.5 stone lighter! The Apprentice experience has been life changing for me, it’s provided a platform which has opened doors, however, it’s my drive and hard work ethic which has converted that into making things happen.”