My Week: Kimberly Davies of Sarsaparilla

The former Apprentice contestant on why Tom was the right winner, moving to the UK and why Lord Sugar doesn't like marketing people.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 15 Aug 2011
Obviously, I started my week watching the Apprentice final. Knowing Lord Sugar, I said from the very first episode that Tom would win. He has the right balance of the creative and the scientific. He sees gaps in the market, he sees the way things are done and then he sees ways to improve it. He’s also got a proven track record: he has his product in major retailers. So it was a bit of a no-brainer.

When it came down to it in the final, it really became clear that the entrepreneurs knew what the viable business opportunities were, while the people who had never been entrepreneurs didn’t. The line was so, so clear. Helen and Jim were so out of their depth. That’s not to say that they’re stupid people – they’ve proven that they’re very switched on – but if you haven’t gone through the process before, doing it on television isn’t the way forward, because most people make certain mistakes several times before they get it right.

Actually, it was The Apprentice that helped me to realise where I was going wrong with Sarsaparilla, the marketing consultancy I run. When I was on the Apprentice, Lord Sugar made it very clear he didn’t like marketing people. As a matter of fact, he took my CV, shoved it in my face and he told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t like marketing people, and that he only uses them when he has to. It was great, because I walked away from it and asked myself, why does he hate marketing people so much? And the answer was that he wasted a lot of money on them – they’ve become the modern equivalent of dodgy salesmen. So I decided to focus on helping people to understand where they’re going wrong.

Although I was born and raised in the US, I’ve been in the UK for seven years now – when I was a kid, it was my dream to come to the UK. I used to go though those big coffee table books and look at pictures of Tower Bridge and the Queen, and think, I want to be there. I finally got here when I was 25 – it was my first trip out of the country, and the company I was working for sent me over first class. When 9/11 hit, instead of being two blocks away from the World Trade Centre, I was over here and I thought, they’ve taken me in. I want to live here.

It wasn’t until I was 29 that I wondered out loud to my mum whether she thought my company would sponsor my visa. She turned to me, straight-faced, and said: ‘Honey, you don’t need a visa. I’m Irish. You’ve got dual citizenship.’ I couldn’t get out fast enough. The next day, I went down to the Irish embassy, put in my application for a passport, booked my one-way ticket and left within three months. I didn’t even finish packing up my flat – I left it to my dad and step-mum.

I spent part of the week thinking about hiring a new person. I’ve got a handful of people – it’s a small company, but I want to grow it. I’ve got an office in Hammersmith, which is a cool place. There’s a lot going on there. On the one hand, it’s a bit rough – on the other, you’ve got everything from good shopping, to lots of big corporate headquarters, to the Apollo. It’s a brilliant part of London.

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