Karen Bremner: beyond The Apprentice

It seems there’s nothing Apprentice star Karen Bremner won’t try. Having worked as a solicitor to the RAF, and trained as a stockbroker, she has now set up her own clothing boutique. One year on and her turnover has hit £250,000.

Tell us a bit about your business.
The idea was born out of necessity. I’d just moved to Broughty Ferry in Dundee and couldn’t find anywhere to go shopping for clothes. After The Apprentice I was looking for a business opportunity, so I started KarenB. There was definitely a gap in the market for a non-exclusive boutique aimed at people of all income brackets. I did a lot of research and planning for it. Because the market is so high risk, I knew it had to be something special to succeed.

How did you fund it?
Our starting costs were really low, I just used £14,000 from my savings. The fittings were from IKEA and I painted it myself. In terms of marketing I only spent a couple of hundred pounds; the fact a new shop was opening in the town and my being on The Apprentice were both good marketing opportunities in themselves. In the first month we were already making profit because the costs were so low.

What effect did getting fired from The Apprentice have on you?

It was the biggest kick in the teeth I’ve ever had. I just couldn’t understand why. However, it made me realise I’m better off being my own boss. Without The Apprentice I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start my own business. I realise now the best thing Alan Sugar could have done was to fire me in the third week. I left with professional credibility and was given a lot of positive publicity.

What is your view of Alan Sugar now?
He doesn’t inspire me. I look at him and see a successful person but not a happy man. I think there were many reasons he didn’t like me. He doesn’t like graduates and he assumed I had come from a privileged background – which isn’t true at all. He’s also made his views on working mums very clear. He believes he should be able to ask women direct questions about their childcare arrangements. I think that’s a disgrace. I share all the childcare with my husband, but he wouldn’t dream of asking him such questions.

What’s next?
Well, I’ve just been asked to be an agent for three of the brands I stock in my shop, which means I’ll get commission for the things I sell in the boutique. The company is also up for two more awards. So I just want to continue the success really. Beyond that I don’t know. To be honest I have a really short attention span, so the reality is I could be doing something completely different round the corner.

Related Topics

The Apprentice

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