The latest batch of Sir Alan Sugar’s disciples have now finished battling it out on our TV screens in the name of entertainment – sorry, business insight. But what of The Apprentice’s first winner?
Tim Campbell, hired by Sugar in 2005, has recently left Amstrad and plans start his own male grooming business, a project that he’s working on alongside the much-publicised Bright Ideas Trust (BIT).
The idea was inspired by his two years with Sir Alan, heading up Amstrad’s first health and beauty division, Integra. The company produced an electronic anti-wrinkle device stocked in Argos and Harrods.
“I was the director of Integra and took it from start-up stage to selling and distributing through two heavy retail arms.
“Yes it was within the safety net of a plc but it was still a limited company that I had sole responsibility for.”
The grooming company is being kept firmly under wraps until it launches later this year, but Campbell’s Bright Ideas Trust has received plenty of attention. The trust aims to help young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profitable businesses, and was launched earlier this month with the backing of the leader of the opposition, David Cameron.
Investment from the trust will take the form of an equity share allowing the project to be self-sustaining through the profits of the companies it helped to start. “I wanted to set something up that was in between banks and business angel finance but that also offered advice from established businesses and entrepreneurs,” says Campbell.
“There’s a lot of effort going into developing our young budding Olympians for 2012 but I want to focus on preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
The launch received considerable press coverage and Campbell clearly appreciates the PR value of his connections with Sir Alan, and now, Cameron. What’s more, a newly formed friendship with Tony Blair’s former press secretary Alistair Campbell suggests this isn’t the last we’ll see of him, or BIT, in the papers.
Campbell is quick to emphasise that he’s own man, though. Indeed one of the key lessons he learnt from Sir Alan was the need for an individual managerial style. “I think the problem with a lot of the new contestants on The Apprentice is they try to be too much like him. That’s never going to work because there’s only one boss and he’s it.
“I’ve never wanted to be a Sir Alan clone. I’m happy with my management style and I know he’s happy with his – but there’s room for more than one way of doing things and I think I proved that by having my Amstrad contract extended.”
The formidable Sir Alan is supportive of Campbell’s decision to pursue his own ventures, but Amstrad’s money won’t be involved.
“I’m a proud young individual and I want to be able to put something in place on my own. I don’t want people saying ‘well you had £800m behind you’. I know I’ll always be inextricably linked to Sir Alan but I want to be able to stand on my own two feet.”