I caught the first episode of “Be Your Own Boss” on BBC3 last night and I’m already hooked. It’s a new show, fronted by Richard Reed, one of the co-founders of Innocent, the smoothie makers, which aims to discover the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The show is a mixture of Dragon’s Den and the X Factor, with a dash of The Apprentice thrown in for good measure. In the first episode a trendy London warehouse is transformed into a cross between a manic trade fair and Moroccan souk in which 500 hopefuls try to grab Reed’s attention with their business pitches. Some of the ideas are terrible (the sick cup), others are bizarre (bubble-gum flavour chicken marinade) but Reed uncovers a few gems.
In each show he gives seed capital of up to £5000 to his three favourite ideas, sees how well they use it and then chooses the best one, injecting £50,000 into their business.
It’s a great concept for a show and it’s great to see the world of business portrayed in a positive light on TV. They’re young people with nothing but an idea and bundles of enthusiasm.
Like every good TV show, what really makes it are the personalities of the contestants and Reed himself. Jacob, a 19-year old business student from Huddersfield has a great idea to offer festival goers a complete camping kit for £60. “I’ve always had this weird passion for business. In 80 years’ time do you want to be someone who got a really high score on a Call Of Duty or someone who’s hopefully made a difference?”
Jacob sympathizes with the pressure Reed (who’s 39) is under to invest in the right businesses. “He’s got a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. If it all goes wrong we’ve got a lifetime to improve our credit ratings.”
Jezz, who, with his friend Ben, is the brains behind the custom bike company Mango, admits his Mum would love him to go out and get a job, but says: “I don’t want to work for someone else and they get all the rewards. I want to work for myself.”
Reed shatters any stereotype that TV businessmen are like TV chefs: bad tempered and foul mouthed. He’s polite, relaxed and quick to offer helpful, practical advice. He sounds genuinely apologetic when he tells the camera he gave Jacob and his partner a hard time and looks genuinely pained when he breaks the bad news that he won’t invest in an idea.
Reed returns the contestants’passion in spades and his commitment to giving entrepreneurs a leg up radiates through. This isn’t just format TV; he genuinely believes in what it’s trying to achieve. That’s why I’ll be watching next week.
Tell us what you thought of the first episode here.