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The Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom - Alana Spencer

The Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom - Alana Spencer

Alana Spencer Writes

This year has indeed been one incredible journey! It has been a manic year and one that has taught me so much. Never have I have made many mistakes and had so much luck all at the same time. I often wonder how I ended up in this lucky yet incredibly fast paced whirl wind of a life, with my time on the Apprentice feeling like a mere distant memory now, although some of the wonderful people I met along the way, I know are going to be life-long friends.

After the initial few crazy months, things are now starting to turn a corner for the better, with a lot of my business and personal challenges feeling like they are finally making sense. I often get asked how I feel this journey has been, so I thought I would take this time to put my experience and feelings about the last year on paper. I think it is so important to open up about your experiences, share them with others, and get people excited about the plans to come! So grab a cuppa (and some cake!) and join me through this little journey together that I will share over the next few days.

 First things first, let’s head back to the moment it all changed, the day I heard those words “You’re hired!” I was in a studio that resembles a crystal maze, with a foggy, over-tired and nervous head, following production staff here, there and everywhere until my fate was finally revealed to me. I was the winner. I had done it! In all honesty, the news gave me mixed emotions, and I would be lying if I said it was all positive. My goal had always been to prove myself and win. To get an incredible business partnership opportunity and a substantial investment into my business, but there was still that niggling fear; I was going to have to give away half of my business. Yes to some, it was only a small business, a microscopic teeny tiny one to some! But it was still my business and still the one thing in my life that I had constantly worked towards, nurtured and cared for, and that made me so proud of myself. For want of a better term, my business was my baby. Not only would I be giving half a way but I would also have to see it be re-branded and all of a sudden watched with a very close eye, with what felt like thousands willing me to fail, just for their juicy headlines. All of a sudden I had gone from feeling like the world wanted me to win, to feeling like people would love nothing more than seeing me fail.

 

Unfortunately we do live in a world that love bad news, so sad but true. So there I was, sitting behind the set with all these feelings running through my head, about to go on stage to talk to Rhod Gilbert who is expecting me to be bounding with happiness, when all I felt was dizzy. I held it together through the filming, until the long awaited reunion was about to happen; all the candidates who are forbidden from seeing each other could be reunited. This is what I had been so eagerly awaiting. I could celebrate with the few I had become so close to, and show the rest who doubted me how wrong they were. Suddenly, my dizziness turned to nausea, I grabbed my mum and dodged the people wanting to congratulate me on the way out and dove in the lift. I finally managed to escape to a quiet corner with my mum and sister, before I was (sorry for being graphic!) violently ill!

I took a few moments to calm myself, and as I headed back to the dressing room I had the most unfortunate moment of my career so far. The lovely Myleene Klass, who had been on my panel, spotted me from a far and was headed towards me. In typical timing, I instantly felt another paralysing wave of nausea and had to swerve passed her, shouting “lovely to have met you” whilst I dashed to the toilet. I sat in the dressing room, being visited by friends, family and production staff one by one, asking how I was and all suggesting I over stressed and it was definitely just anxiety. For someone who has experienced anxiety for several years I knew, this wasn’t it. Long story short, it turned out that I had contracted norovirus on the biggest night of my life. Eventually I made it back to the hotel where I slept in till 2pm the next day, completely devastated that I had missed the night. Unfortunately, I think this damaged my relationship with a lot of the candidates, some thinking I was too anxious or simply un-interested in celebrating with them. I WISH I was that cool that I could snub a party but alas, it was definitely not the reason.

The hard part wasn’t even over. I still had to keep this news silent for three long days until it was aired. However, the glamorous part had ended (if you can call the disastrous night glamorous!) and it was down to business. My website went crazy on the day the last episode aired and I was having to bake mountain of cake in my kitchen and pack boxes upon boxes until the early hours, every single day up until the Christmas delivery cut off. It was like a sweat shop in my house! Monotonous, stressful and exhausting. Takeaways were the only option for dinner, neither of us had time to stop and cook, and Bart and I had our fair share of rows in those days. I was like a woman obsessed, we would get through a days’ worth orders with minutes to spare and I couldn’t help but tweet about it which in turn would bring in more orders.

 Alongside all this I had to agree the shareholders agreement, book my years events and put the new business model into action. I didn’t come up for air in those months and in hindsight perhaps pushed myself a little hard. I kept my website open and the orders kept flooding in, it was like printing money. I couldn’t see past this; I was thinking about the now and not the future. We were still only a small team of three and we were doing everything ourselves. I had no time to plan the new Ambassador model we were planning and before I knew it, it was February, around my birthday when the shareholders agreement was signed. This again made me re-discover the same mixed emotions as before, complete excitement but also complete fear of the unknown. Was everything going to change? Would I have any control over my business? What would Lord Sugar actually be like to work with? Could I make a big business work? Most importantly, would I fail? I often wonder if the other Apprentice winners of the show had the same thoughts, or if I was the only one feeling this way.

Once the agreement was signed, Bart, my mum, sister, Gran and I all raised a toast to the future. Pushing my emotions aside, I now knew I had to step it up and prepare for frequent board meetings, constant planning and becoming the face of my business.

 

To guarantee the success of our business, we had come up with the great idea of a brand Ambassador model. Giving others the chance to do what I had been doing for years, selling delicious cake at events across the country. This began with three fundamental steps:
1. Find a bakery that can help with production so I wouldn’t have to bake it all in my kitchen!
2. Recruit a team of excited Ambassadors to start selling nationwide
3. Recruit someone with more brain power than myself to come and help with the bringing the model to life.

My hope was that all of this would help establish a brand that went beyond that of “that cake girl from the Apprentice” and show people how determined I really was.

This moment was where the journey truly began! In the next blogs I will walk you through my struggles of finding a bakery and how little I realised I knew about interviews!


Alana x 

Read more at  Ridiculously Rich by Alana

 Catch up with Alana in The Cookery Tent at the Following Times:

SATURDAY 26th MAY :  10.00am -- The Ultimate Tray Bake 
SUNDAY 27th MAY        10.00am -- Pistachio Brownies   (seriously - we can't wait!) 

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