My Week: Nick Holzherr of Whisk

In 2011 successful entrepreneur Nick Holzherr decided he was up for a new kind of challenge: to impress Alan Sugar on The Apprentice. After being pipped at the post by winner Ricky Martin, Holzherr struck out on his own with a unique meal recipes website...

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

It’s not long until the launch so there are a lot of meetings at the moment. This week I met one of the biggest recipe sites out there – we match supermarket products with recipe books so that people can order everything they need for a meal. I sat with the head of digital and the head of content, talking to them about how we could integrate our site with theirs. I also spoke to one of the big four supermarkets – they are interested in getting on board. I chatted to a large investment organisation about another round of funding today (we don’t need it yet but it’s good to know they’re interested). I'm also in talks with some food festival organisers about presenting our concept to thousands of foodies at an event. 

The best thing about the job at the moment is that everything’s going quite well so far! I enjoy the variety, the control, and the sense of achievement when things start happening the way I want them to. I’m very ambitious so the feeling that I’m getting towards what I want to achieve feels good. Another great thing about the job is that since coming out of The Apprentice, things have actually been easier. Large companies are more responsive; fans of the show are more likely to check out our recipe site are more interested. Our launch is in September so we need all the interest and enthusiasm we can get at this point. 

The most challenging thing about the job is keeping everybody focussed, including myself. There are so many different opportunities that come up, and any entrepreneur will tell you there are a million different paths you could go down. Large companies are always offering partnerships or joint projects to you, and you have to say ‘no’ to a lot of things. It leaves you thinking: ‘am I missing a big opportunity here?’

I didn’t really learn anything about management skills from doing The Apprentice. There’s a lot of ego, and everyone is very loud – it’s all about how much contribution you’ve offered. I did learn that I have to be more forceful in making sure my voice is heard. I also learnt that you can make money out of almost anything. An investor in my last business actually told me not to go on the show: I could come across badly in the edit and no one would want to do business with me again. In the end I did the show because I thought it would be a bit of fun, but I was aware that I really didn’t want to make a twat of myself. But the best thing is that now, most people will give you a meeting – you can get in front of people you wouldn’t normally be able to.

The most exciting thing that has happened in the business so far was about a month ago. One of the biggest recipe publishers approached us directly to ask to integrate with our site, and shortly before that one of the biggest supermarkets expressed an interest too. That was when it really felt like we were getting somewhere and it was very exciting. 

I wouldn’t do anything differently with Whisk. We’ve got our investment now – we recently secured a £170,000 round of funding which is enough to get started. We have a good team – six employees and two interns in the office, and we’re working with agencies and partners to help get the online app made, and to get the word out before the launch. And it’s all good fun, we’re all foodies in the office so we take it in turns to cook for the team. 

The concept was always ambitious – linking supermarkets and recipe publishers and food brands, but the key is focussing on our strategy and testing it fully. That’s what I should have done better on The Apprentice: Sugar didn’t really know who I was, and I explained the concept in too technical a way. And to reach all those foodies out there, a simple pitch is just what we need.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it.

Andrew Strauss: Leadership lessons from an international cricket captain

"It's more important to make the decision right than make the right decision."