How The Apprentice kick-started my start-up
Winner of The Apprentice in 2015, Joseph Valente has gone on to build a £2m+ turnover boiler installation business. He shares his story with Startups…
by Joseph Valente
From school drop-out to multi-million pound company founder
I had a troubled start in life; I was a dominant child unable to accept the word ‘no’, was expelled from school at 15 and lacked direction.
At 25, I was finally starting to fine-tune my focus, working towards creating a life with productive potential.
That’s when my mother gave me a Christmas gift that would ultimately change my life: Alan Sugar’s What You See is What You Get.
The autobiography inspired me. I read it cover-to-cover and back-to-back for two solid weeks. And, as I slipped into Lord Sugar’s world, captivated by his journey, his struggles, his experiences and his ultimate triumph, something inside me was changing. A switch had been flicked. I was a different man, with new and exciting ambition, motivation and confidence.
I was so ready, in fact, that I went directly online and took out a £15,000 personal loan to start a business.
I knew nothing about how to start and run a business. I didn’t have a clue about how to build a brand, incorporate the name, close a sale or turn a profit.
I did, however, know how to use that money to buy a van and serve customers in a way that made my name memorable. And so, I started from there and followed my instincts…which told me to deliver unrivalled service with an intense focus on my customers’ needs.
And so it grew…
How appearing on The Apprentice gave my start-up the kick-start it needed
Three years into the business, I was stressed. I needed exposure, mentoring and cash to take my business to the next level. Where would I get all that?
I got a direct answer to that question in the form of an opportunity to apply for The Apprentice – and so submitted my application that evening.
The audition was hard-core. There were a variety of tasks designed to test and try each of us, and they covered the full spectrum: mental, physical, social, emotional. My competitive spirit endured and I made it onto the show.
It was an electrifying, mad time, in which I had to abandon my business for nine weeks, turning it over to a part-time (turned full-time) employee. I couldn’t tell anyone where I had gone.
All they knew was that I was “with an ill family member on a chicken farm in Italy, without access to Wi-Fi”!
The other Apprentice contestants and I had little in common. We were all in it for different reasons, but there was one thing we all knew: I had what it would take to win.
The Apprentice tasks taught me how to adapt to any situation, how to hold and carry myself in a billionaire boardroom, justify my arguments, promote what I’ve done well and hold my hands up for what I had done wrong.
One of the most valuable things I took away from appearing on the show was that if I could do all of that in front of Lord Sugar then no one else, in any situation, could intimidate me. I learnt to sell, pitch, invent, create, test and market.
I also learnt that no business person is brilliant in all sectors, but that the best leaders know a bit of everything.
Winning The Apprentice was one of the proudest moments of my life, and I will forever be grateful to Lord Sugar for choosing me.
We worked together on my business, ImpraGas, for about 17 months. He helped me to expand my organisation and invest heavily in its infrastructure.
His team worked with me to create a financial strategy that hadn’t existed prior to the show. In short, I gained the experience and knowledge I had been lacking.
Life after The Apprentice
Now, I’m focused on building the Joseph Valente brand. I want to direct the business my own way and create a name for myself, instead of being known only as ‘Lord Sugar’s business partner’.
When I parted ways with him there was no bad blood, and the benefits of our business relationship endure: I am profiting from his expertise, whilst he can refer to my business as one he helped to build.
ImpraGas, a multi-million pound company, is continuing to grow, operating across ten counties with 28 staff, and will be expanding nationally in the next three years.
My book, Expelled from the Classroom to Billionaire Boardroom, is set to launch in November 2017 and the Joseph Valente Mentoring Academy will open in early 2018 – milestones that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve had I not appeared on The Apprentice.