An Interview with Alana Spencer

In our December 2016 edition we featured Alana Spencer on the front cover and during that month she was crowned the winner of BBC1’s The Apprentice, by Lord Sugar.

Almost two years later, Huw caught up with her to find out how life has changed since that moment and why she’s chosen to make Aberystwyth her permanent home.

So Alana, for those who didn’t catch our December 2016 edition, tell me a bit about yourself. Well essentially I am an Aberystwyth baker and market trader, that decided to apply for the Apprentice back in 2016. I didn’t expect to win and was the complete underdog throughout the whole competition, but I went on to win and now I run a luxury cake business in Aberystwyth with Lord Sugar as my business partner.

When we did that last interview, did you already know you’d won and how tricky was it to keep that a secret? I am contractually still not really able to say too much. What I can say is I didn’t know if I had won until four days before it aired. That is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! I can’t reveal how we got to that point or what TV secrets are behind it all, but I believe Google is overrun with all the necessary information!

So how has the business been doing since you won the show? Just incredible. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been a lot of stress and life was a lot simpler before. I would bake cakes in my parents’ country kitchen, stick them in the back of my car and tootle off to food festivals across the country to sell them. Now my role is incredibly different. I am 50% office based and 50% kitchen/bakery based but business is really good and we hit all of our targets for year one, which I was really pleased about as I put a lot of pressure on myself. It’s been a really exciting 18 months with a lot happening including franchising, moving bakery, creating a ‘grab and go’ bar, adding a subscription service and much, much more.

How often to you speak to Lord Sugar himself and how do you and him get on?I would say we talk once a week on average and all of the winners also have a big catch up once a month. Board meetings are a big part of the prize and are a time to all come together and discuss how the previous month has gone and how it is all going moving forward. We get on well. I see him as a sounding board for ideas. He is always honest and annoyingly, pretty often right! For me it’s been about utilising that knowledge and experience to the max.

Tell me a bit about the new Grab and Go Bars. So we have taken two of our most popular flavours and turned them into packed individual portion cakes, perfect for snacking on the go. The two flavours are my peanut butter fudge slice and my Millionaires brownie. They have been a long time in the making but I am so proud they are finally here and now, the challenge is selling them. So, alongside the launch of the bars we also have our ‘Cakepreneur’ incentive. We have basically created hundreds of business opportunities for people to come and start a business with us. As a Cakepreneur, you will be able to sell in a whole host of different ways in particular, selling our Grab and Go bars to cafes, delis and farmshops etc. You go out there and take the orders, we’ll do all the baking and delivering. You then earn commission on everything you sell. We started social selling with our ambassadors last year and its gone incredibly well so to now have even more opportunities available for people to come and join the family and start a business is really exciting.

And how do our readers go about becoming one of your ‘Cakepreneurs’? There are actually loads more ways to make money as a Cakepreneur that would probably take up too much space so if your readers go to there is loads of information on there, along with a video that gives you all the details. Ceredigion is full of amazing coffee shops and delis and so we would love some people to join from this area.

What’s the most showbiz story you can tell us and please feel free to namedrop... Oh I have to be honest it’s not been all that showbiz as I went out of my way to get back to my Aberystwyth bubble and crack on with business and stay out of all that. I have been at a couple of events and been in the company of some pretty amazing people though - the most incredible being Steven Hawking. I guess the most show biz story I have is from the NTAs. Myself and Bart went along as the Apprentice was up for an award and at the after party we saw a real life ‘TOWIE’ argument between Megan and Pirate Pete. There was a lot of screaming and “hold me back” type antics. I felt as if we had been transported into an actual episode of The Only Way Is Essex.

Rumour has it you’ve just purchased a house in Aberystwyth. With the business doing so well across the UK, why have you decided to commit your future to your home town at such an early stage? I have indeed bought my first home here. I had toyed with the idea of London but in the end my heart was with my little seaside hometown. I love everything about it here. In terms of business it made sense to stay here too with the bakery being in North Wales and me being needed here most weeks. I feel really happy to have finally set down some roots and have a place I can call home.

Have you got a nice EGO Token offer for our readers to temp them to try out your new products? Yes yes yes! I have made a little 10% off token which is EGO10 and can be used on the shop page of our website

Finally, you are very active on social media these days. Is that something you have always done and do you find it important for your business? Well this is something that is relatively new to me. Pre-Apprentice I barely did any social media, but after winning the show I knew it would be a big part of the business so I did what most companies do and paid someone to run it for me. As time went on I felt less and less attached to my business, customers and brand and so this year I decided to take it all back on myself; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. It’s a lot of work but I think it’s really important. Not only for my customers to see behind the scenes but also for me to feel connected with them. I don’t hold back and show both highs and lows. Sometimes it can be a challenge to be constantly sharing but it’s a decision I’m really happy with. I also throw in the odd dad joke on twitter if that’s your cup of tea.

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