So perhaps you’re a backpacker in your mid-20’s, on a soul-searching journey, preparing yourself to launch the business of your dreams. Is your vision so strong and your ambition so fierce that you’re ready for the challenge of finding investment? Do you have what it takes to go up against a pool of contestants on international television to seek funding from a billionaire businessman? Are you prepared to drop everything, have no Plan B, and dive head-first into entrepreneurship?
This week we we spoke to an individual with exactly that background. Meet the young Mark Wright, winner of 2014’s The Apprentice, and founder of Climb Online that launched this year and turned a profit in its second month. We wanted to speak to an individual who fits the profile of many a modern-day wouldbe startup founder to gain insight from a young entrepreneurial mind. Our greatest curiosity was in discovering whether old business principles were outdated for the “information age” entrepreneur. Mark’s story helped us find the answer.
Mark: I came over to the UK for pleasure, to go backpacking and to travel. I’d never heard of The Apprentice before and I didn’t know who Lord Sugar was. When I decided to try out for it [The Apprentice] I didn’t really tell anyone. Everyone who knows me is in Australia where they didn’t have the Apprentice so no-one would have known what I was talking about. For me it was just more of a personal journey.
Despite his seeming unpreparedness, the bottom line is that Mark Wright was chosen by Lord Alan Sugar as his next business partner. We asked Mark why he believed he was able to prevail over the other challengers.
Mark: I was pretty confident I was going to win. I was proposing a business I was already working in. When I went into the show and I started talking to the other candidates and listening to what their propositions were, everyone was proposing a new business, idea or invention. Nobody was actually proposing a business which they knew about or which they were already working in.
As an entrepreneur and also as a businessman you’re always going to make an investment that’s as safe as possible. For me, safety comes in the form of proof. If you’ve got someone out there that’s never worked in a business that they’re proposing and someone who’s been successful in a business, of course you go with the person that’s already been successful.
The fact of the matter is, I had a good business plan, I’d been successful in the industry before, and I was just going to go and do it anyways. I think Lord Sugar could see that in me.
When you watch a reality show like The Apprentice it is easy to get caught up in the drama and forget all about the reality. Mark Wright started out as an ordinary entrepreneur with a vision. There were things in his background that prepared him for business and there were elements in his character that Lord Sugar picked up on. Mark took us back to the beginning, before we knew his name, before he appeared on the show, and explained to us the entrepreneurial ingredients that were blended within him.
Mark: I think your upbringing shapes who you are as an adult. For me, I grew up working in my family business selling gym equipment in a sports store and I just got molded. My dad’s a really tough, hard guy — a real perfectionist who always said “I don’t care what you do in life as long as you’re number one.”
I think with those two elements of being tough in business and being a good salesman, the best show to go on is The Apprentice. I think The Apprentice is geared towards talented salesman; if you’re not good at sales you’re really going to struggle in that process. I applied my knowledge of small and medium size businesses combined with my sales skill-set and the ruthlessness which my dad taught me. It was a really successful mixture to go on and win the show.
Mark had a ready answer for our next question, an indicator that it’s probably something he’s considered well in his private time. Very aware that an entrepreneur needs to properly invest time in matching a business funding option to themselves and to their business, Mark explained why he got on a competitive TV show.
Mark: There are a lot of areas out there for financing. There’s crowdfunding, bank financing, private investor funding or, you could start small, scale your business doing things on your own, depending on what your business is.
When I looked into Lord Sugar, he was someone that I wanted to work with. I think we’re very similar in our ethos towards business and in our aggressive approach to scaling businesses. I sort of got hooked on the challenge of winning the show to working with Alan Sugar who’s a billionaire businessman – that was right up my street. If Lord Sugar wasn’t the investor I probably wouldn’t have gone on the show.
Like so many others, Mark Wright’s journey from Australia to The Apprentice involves learning, daring, learning some more, daring some more, and then success. Each phase of the entrepreneurial journey is important. Regardless of what you think, as an entrepreneur you’re in one of those phases right now.
If entrepreneurs can learn everything they can about the lifeblood of business — funding — we can see more success, more growth in the economy, and more dreams being realized. Join us at Business Funding Show ’16 as we bring together the greatest minds in UK business to learn about the full spectrum of making business work.