Posted on December 31 2014
Bianca Miller is the founder of The Be Group, a personal styling/branding/development consultancy, and innovative hosiery company Bianca Miller London. Last week, Bianca was crowned a very worthy runner-up in the final episode of BBC1's The Apprentice.
Newnham: Bianca, can you tell us about your background?
Miller: I am a born and bred Londoner, I grew up as an only child to entrepreneurial parents. To me business was the norm, from selling paintings to my parents aged 7 (yes I used the instruments they provided to make the paintings and then charged them for the pleasure) to aged 14 starting my own dance company training primary school children in an after school club.
I always had a passion for business. My first job was at JD Sports servicing the women’s department, followed by various other roles in retail and my father’s company. My parents showed my firsthand how hard business can be but I wanted to pursue it anyway.
I finished high school education and, in my mind, the only option was to study Business at University. I completed my degree and was hit head-on by a recession; luckily I found my feet when I gained a position at management consultancy firm Accenture. Suddenly, aged 21, I was a graduate managing the HR and personal development needs of 350 consultancy graduates.
Newnham: What/when was the pivotal moment you decided to start your first business?
Miller: I spent 2 years in Accenture and had learnt so much about business on a corporate scale. I was then asked to create an initiative called ‘Preparing for Promotion’ to help graduates understand the importance of personal branding (communication, networking, image etc) and I realised I loved helping people and facilitating training on personal development topics.
At the same time, I felt I needed a change; I wanted a job for which I would be accurately compensated for my investment, so I went into recruitment. I quickly learnt it wasn’t for me but I absolutely loved speaking to candidates and assisting them with CV writing, interview skills and image. That was the light bulb moment for me... it wasn't just graduates that needed assistance with their personal brand and I could build a business doing something I loved and was passionate about.
The Be Group was born.
Newnham: And what are you up to now?
Miller: Having recently been a finalist on The Apprentice 2014, I am currently balancing my existing business with my plans for opening my hosiery brand (Bianca Miller London). As seen in the show, I will be starting a brand of hosiery which offers a comprehensive range of skin colours. I aim to positively redefine the industry perception of ‘nude’ by making tights that suit all women from Irish/English Rose to Sub-Saharan African skin tones.
Newnham: Congratulations! What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Miller: Starting my first business; it look so much courage and belief in myself and it was much harder than I had anticipated. When I began to collect clients, some of which were the most reputable and renowned companies (e.g. Olswang LLP, London School of Economics, Westfield London, a global bank etc), I felt so proud of my achievements. Also, being nominated for, and then winning, awards for my work is great validation but most important to me is the feedback from people who say I have helped them change their lives.
I am only 26 and the world excites me. I think I have so much more to do and achieve.
Newnham: Who/what is your inspiration?
Miller: I take inspiration from all around me. In life, I have met some amazing people – young and old – and I cherish the opportunities that I have had and those ahead.
Also, my parents always inspired me to be the very best that I can.
Newnham: What one piece of advice would you give young women looking to start their own business?
Miller: You will be surprised how willing people are to help someone who is well researched and prepared. The most important lesson in starting a business is research – understand:
1) What you have to offer – product or service?
2) What is your chosen market and what are their buying habits?
3) What is your USP? Why would they buy from you rather than your competitors?
4) How much can you charge for your product/service? What is your profit margin?
5) How much do you need to sell to survive and what is your survival budget?
Don’t be afraid - the world of business can be a scary place but, as long as you are prepared, there is little anyone can do to stop you making it.