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Who needs Alan Sugar?

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Saira Khan, Ruth Badger, Debra Barr, Claire Young and Kate Walsh have all enjoyed successful careers since appearing on Alan Sugar's hit show. Below, these business savvy women give us their best tips for making it big

Saira Khan

Saira, 40, was the runner-up in Series One, in 2005. She’s since appeared on a number of television shows, published a book and written columns for national newspapers. Her business venture, Miamoo, is a range of natural skincare products available in John Lewis, Boots and Waitrose.

1. Get off your bum, find the opportunities and make them happen. If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that nobody is going to come knocking on your door. Sell yourself on your CV and at job interviews. Be confident and definitely don’t be shy about telling people what you’re good at.

2. It’s important to understand who you are and what other people want from you. Build relationships with people and be honest with yourself. If you are not a sales person, for instance, think about where your strengths do lie. Then try to work on those things.

3. Don't be afraid to try different things to figure out where your skills lie. For a long time I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved talking. Somebody said to me one day, ‘You’re a natural sales woman’, and they were right. I tried it and it turned out I was great at it.

Ruth Badger

Ruth, 32, was runner-up in Series Two, in 2006. After the show, she presented Badger or Bust on Sky1. She now runs her own consultancy business, Ruth Badger Consultancy Ltd, in Manchester and Ruth Badger Academy, which gives hands on training to business people. Her latest venture is HR organisation Horton and Hall.

1. Work hard, it’s the only way to become successful. I am definitely a workaholic - I love working.

2. Always charge more than it costs. Simple but true.

3: When things go wrong, don’t sulk. Pick yourself up and start over. Two years ago one of my businesses went bust due to the crisis and I lost about a million pounds in total. But I earned it all back by starting a new business.

Debra Barr

Debra, 25, came third in the all-female final of Series Five. She’s now Commercial Manager of E-Trader Group, working on Stockshifters.com, an online business-to-business market place for retailers and manufacturers looking to sell excess stock.

1. Build your relationships carefully. Ultimately, people buy from people they like and respect. It’s all about developing that personal aspect and the way you conduct yourself in business deals. You don’t want people to just call your business; you want them to call you personally. People like to feel that you take care of them.

2. Do not sleep with anyone in your office, or get romantically involved. Just don’t go there. It’s a bad way to go and it’s not worth it.

3. Tenacity is the key to life – so many people say no to things because they are averse to change, short on time etc. It’s a safety mechanism to just say no rather than explore the possibilities. People who don’t take no for an answer get things done.

Claire Young

Claire, 31, was runner-up in Series Four, in 2008 and has since launched three business ventures: Elegant Venues, a wedding venue business, Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise for girls aged 13-18, and School Speakers, arranging vocational talks at schools.

1. Develop a good business plan and do your research. Your business is your baby and you don’t want people to call your baby ugly! You might think you have an amazing idea, but when you talk to people about it in focus groups, they might offer you great insights to whether it will actually work.

2. Understand your numbers. If you are not good at it, then learn. A lot of people have amazing business ideas, but they have no idea how to get started, how to make money or what a PNL is.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I constantly ask people for help, I have no shame. What the worst thing they can do - say no?

4. Promote yourself and network. Business is all about relationships. The best £50 you can send is to get a business card printed. Use anything from Twitter to Facebook to get your name out there. Even if you hate networking, you’ll have to get on with it. The backbone of any business is sales – if you’re not selling, you don’t have a business - and people only buy from people.

Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh, 27, was runner-up in Series Five, in 2009. She now works as a TV presenter co-hosting Five’s daily magazine show, Live from Studio Five.

1. Composure is a great asset. While everyone else is getting stressed and flapping try to keep a level head. You will think much more clearly and hopefully avoid too much conflict.

2. Keep your integrity intact. Even in a competitive situation try not to bad mouth those around you because it’ll only reflect badly on you. Keep any criticism constructive and base it on someone’s actions or observable behaviour, not their personality

3. Before a big meeting or presentation or performance review make sure you have prepared adequately and write out clear bullets points to help you cover all relevant points in a logical manner. I've come a cropper before when I’ve gone into presentations without prep - It’s easy to get cocky when you know the subject matter well but there have been a few times when I’ve gone up on stage and completely lost it! Very embarrassing.

Picture credit: Rex Features

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