Elizabeth McKenna is Managing Director of Flowers by Susan and Lizzie’s Bundles.
She also starred in the latest series of the BBC’s The Apprentice, coming fourth and narrowly missing out on a place in the final.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am the Managing Director of Flowers by Susan and Lizzie’s Bundles. These are floristry and gift related businesses. We serve both the general public and corporate clients with gifting solutions.
You starred in the latest series of the BBC’s The Apprentice – how did you get involved in this?
I have always loved the Apprentice and wanted to have a go. One night I was on the sofa watching the end credits and the URL link to apply flashed up. I thought OK, fill in the form. The rest is history.
What is it really like to be on The Apprentice?
The Apprentice is a pressure cooker environment, not only because of the production schedule but also because real world, there is a life changing oportunity on the line. If you say it or do it, Lord Sugar knows about it.
On the show, you were portrayed as ‘controlling’ and ‘bossy’ – do you think this was a fair representation?
I am not a controlling person by nature far from it. But what I am is an experienced business owner.
Anyone who runs a business well knows that you have to be someone who is prepared to make recommendations and decisions and stand by them, and also have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and get the job done, working through issues if things don’t run smoothly. This is how I run my business and how I approached my time on The Apprentice.
Other candidates saw me as someone whose opinion was sound and who was willing to take responsibility and get any job done.
I think the point of difference with me was the only candidate who applied this ethos. That’s what you saw.
I am a leader and proud of it.
Has appearing on The Apprentice helped you in anyway?
I am massively more confident in my ability than 12 months ago.
I have tested my skills and knowledge against others, and you know what…the way I go about my career is relevant.
My business has always been a solid well respected regional business. But I have always been one of many people trying to crack open those doors and get my calls to be taken.
Now with the exposure of The Apprentice, when I call, my call gets taken a lot more and I am being invited into doors I used to be knocking on. The Apprentice has broken my glass ceiling and placed my business in a national context.
Also, my take on the world, the bonkers that is me, people relate and its heartening.
Tell us more about your business plan/ idea? What is the goal behind it?
My brand Lizzie’s Bundles is the post TV Incarnation of my business plan. My business plan is to corporate gifting of flowers. We take care of the needs of business from SME to Large Corporate Clients.
The goal is to be the UK’s premier corporate flower gifting supplier.
We are the only national provider operated by a florist. Because of this Lizzie’s Bundles is driven by the skill and understanding to provide the best possible flowers and therefore best possible response from the recipient of the gift.
We are the only national provider with end to end service who employs skilled florists in-house to create an artisan handmade product.
We are the only national brand who provides an end to end service, from order to makeup to billing.
Each of our florists cares for the product they produce and more importantly for reasons the flowers are sent. Because of this our clients trust us to give their business our personal touch. We operate in such a way with a primarily female team to accommodate family life and allow skilled florists who often are challenged by the needs of the workplace to a way to facilitate a career and family balance.
Most importantly – my name is Elizabeth McKenna. I have given Lizzie’s Bundles my name. In doing so, I place my reputation alongside my client’s reputation when I send a gift on their behalf.
Because of this, they can trust that I and my team will do our best for their business.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you deal with them?
One of the key challenges was to come up with a USP and branding which positions my business in its own place in both the flower marketplace and the gifting market place.
I feel Lizzie’s Bundles achieves this through several ways, including the use of my name and changing the language around flower bouquets, the manner in which the purchasing and concept of the flower gift is posed by the brand, but also by the superior product and premier service we provide within the flower gifting marketplace.
I feel I have worked through these challenges and found a distinct voice in my branding / product and service.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start out in the business world?
Find your USP. Trust your instincts and if you believe in it keep chipping away.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?
In my own way I mentor my team and people within it in different ways. Being a mentor is not about being older or in a position of authority.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
Recognition of skills and trades of female dominated industry as being as relevant as male trades.
There is still a gender pay gap between vocational trades.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Learning to ride a horse as an adult to the point I could take on six-feet hedges from a starting point of abject terror of even sitting on a horse.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Naomi Strachen. She taught me floristry at Brooksby College and sadly passed away four years ago. She was in her 50s and taken too young.
If anyone has been a mentor to me, it is she.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I am hoping to continue to grow my brand across sectors.
Onwards and Upwards!