One-on-One With UK Apprentice Runner-up Nick Holzherr
Nick Holzherr got a lot of attention because of his looks and signature ‘just got out of bed’ hair. He promises us he doesn’t use any hair products to achieve this look
Nick Holzherr is the 26-year-old runner-up from this year’s hit UK TV series The Apprentice. Nick describes himself as a business founder, product manager and technology expert. Despite Lord Sugar rejecting his idea in the show’s finals, Nick went on to launch his business Whisk.
The Apprentice sees candidates compete to go into business with multi-millionaire Lord Sugar, with the winner receiving a £250,000 investment in their business idea. In our conversation with Nick, he speaks about opportunities for small businesses to grow even in an economic downturn and without the backing of a business bigwig.
Nick grew up in Switzerland and then in Sussex, in the south of England before heading to study for a Bachelors in International Business and German at Aston University, UK. He isn’t new to entrepreneurship, having co-founded his first business Co-Go Coffee straight out of university. In 2011, he was awarded the Birmingham Young Professional of the Year award in the entrepreneurial category. He also shares some tips for young entrepreneurs.
At what point did you get into entrepreneurship. What was your first ever business idea?
I was involved with a student association called SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), running projects in the local community while I was at Aston. I spent my placement year at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and begain working on a plan there. I entered the American-German Business Club business plan competition and won and it gave me the idea to start a business, rather than get a job when I graduated.
Have you ever considered an MBA?
Yes, I have considered it. It would be cool to do one at a reputed university but I have no time at moment! If I were to do one I would want to do it full-time but I can’t leave Whisk at the moment. The dream would be to grow it, sell it for lots of money and travel the world and do all the other things I want to do that require time and money.
Why did you decide to go on The Apprentice?
A friend suggested it to me and I applied. At the time, it was more of a ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I got in?’ thought, and then I got the chance!
What’s the biggest lesson you took from the experience?
Listening to my own instincts more is the biggest take-out for me. I also saw that there are so many business opportunities out there. Before going on the show I was so focused on technology but there are chances in many other areas.
Do you still get a lot of attention? You received a lot of media attention and were even called a sex symbol at one point?
I still get stopped by people saying hello. Sometimes when I'm out, I get offered a lot of free drinks. Sometimes I get offered to be paid to go to a bar but I would rather not do that because I just want to hang out with friends. If I was getting paid then I would have to spend a lot of time schmoozing the crowd.
What hair gel do you use, your hair looks awesome?
I don’t use anything in my hair at all. I just wake up in the morning and that’s the way its looks. During The Apprentice, I was asked a few times to put some gel in my hair, for consistency, because it looks different every day and they wanted the uniform look but I generally don’t use anything.
Tell us a little bit about Whisk and how you plan to grow the business
At Whisk, we love home cooking and want to take the hassle out of it so we developed a tool that creates ingredients lists from recipes instantly, and works out what to cook with leftover ingredients. The idea is to make shopping for ingredients easier and Whisk allows you to buy the ingredients for any recipe you find on the internet easily.
At the time being, our plans for growth are for integrating recipes and recipe owners. The main challenges are technology-based such as building the functionality and getting users to buy groceries through it. My other area of focus is getting the right people in the business and the right talent in place.
Do you think its more competitive to run a start-up in an economic downturn?
Overall, I wouldn’t say the economy plays a huge impact on people starting their own businesses because there are pros and cons and certain industries are more affected than others. There are also government initiatives and grants to help new businesses so its hard to say because the present economy can present opportunities depending on the business. The important thing for new starters is choosing the right business for the current economy.
Can you give some tips for budding entrepreneurs?
I worked at Deutsche Bank so I can compare working in the corporate world to running your own business. Running your own business is less repetitive. You can prioritize, rather than executing task XYZ according to manual ABC. Running a business is hard work and very tasking but you get to choose with your initiative.
If you’re thinking about starting up choose a business with demand. Do not create a business where there is no need. I hear a lot of business ideas and these people forgot to question whether there was a need for it.
Things like a finding fashion clothing using social media. When have I ever woken up in the morning and decided to shop more socially? Businesses with higher success rates are things that people need and are willing to pay for.
Another thing is to focus on executing your plans rather than speaking about them.
You should also be willing to learn. I found this out later but running your own biz is an experience in itself. Not having commercial experience should not be something that stops you because you can learn on the job. My first company wasn't as successful as this one will be and I know I will keep learning as the business grows.
More stories about students, alumni and programmes at Aston Business School here
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