Alana Spencer: ‘The most important thing you can do is adapt – if something doesn’t work, try something else’
A successful entrepreneur from Aberystwyth, Alana Spencer became a self-taught chocolatier at the age of 16, renting her first kitchen and selling luxury chocolates to friends and family in her hometown. Leaving school in 2010, Alana was soon travelling nationwide to sell her much-loved cakes at food events and shows and, after winning a £250,000 investment in the 12th series of The Apprentice in 2016, she went on to open her luxury cake business, Ridiculously Rich by Alana. Three years later, Ridiculously Rich officially moved into its first purpose built bakery and only continues to expand with new team members, more delicious treats and a recent shop opening in Llandudno.
Here, we catch up with Alana to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey and her plans for the future…
How did you originally get your idea for the business and what inspired you to start Ridiculously Rich?
I think I have always been quite entrepreneurial – at 14 in school I started making and selling cards to friends and teachers, and I always had little ways to make my own money. Ridiculously Rich, as it’s known today, technically started at 16 while I was still in school. My mum bought me a book on how to make your own chocolates and that inspired me to start something of my own, so I began by selling chocolates to teachers, attending local farmers markets and finding a commercial kitchen that would let me work at night to make my chocolates. From then on, it’s grown and adapted into my business today.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has been over 10 years now, so we’ve had a lot of challenges and lessons learned! There have been times when products have been a disaster; we have grown so quickly that we have struggled to keep up; and sometimes, no matter how hard you plan, everything can go wrong. But you keep going, try again and it’s always worth it.
Would you have changed anything about the process, or do you feel like things happened for a reason?
I honestly don’t think I would change anything. There are definitely times and decisions we made that weren’t the right things to do and some that hurt the business more than they should have. There has been plenty of stress and tears to go alongside the successes. But if you don’t try new ideas and if we hadn’t made these mistakes, there’s a chance that we wouldn’t be where we are now and we wouldn’t have learned all the valuable lessons we have.
So true. What personal attributes do you think it takes to build a business?
I think the mistake people make is thinking they have to know everything or be a master in business to make it a success, but you really don’t. You need passion and you need to be driven and willing to work really hard, but as long as you have an idea you love, just go for it. You learn along the way so don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep going.
So, what drives you to keep going when it’s really tough?
As cheesy as it sounds, failure just isn’t really an option. I love this business, it has been my life for so long, and as soon as I accepted that things would go wrong occasionally and sometimes it might be completely out of my control, the easier it gets to cope with tough times. The most important thing you can do is adapt – if something doesn’t work, try something else. Having a team around me with the same outlook and spirit really helps.
To what do you attribute your success?
My team. I have been so lucky to have found such a hardworking and dedicated team. We all work so well together, bounce ideas off one another and keep each other going. Ridiculously Rich is definitely a testament to them all.
We love that! What was the most important part of your whole business journey?
Learning to adapt when something isn’t working. Initially, I was selling chocolates. They were delicious and very popular, but using ingredients like fresh cream and battling with the summer heat meant that so many would go to waste. So, I started making cakes and selling these on the side until these slowly took over and I stopped selling the chocolates. Over the years, there have been so many times we’ve had to adapt and it’s kept the business going. Recently, with the effects of COVID for example, our usual business activities stopped overnight so we very quickly had to re-focus and work differently. But that’s just meant we’ve been able to continue to grow.
The last year must have been so difficult, but would you say you are happy?
I am very happy! Especially working towards opening our new café sites, it is a side of the business I had always imagined but never really thought would happen. The reaction from everyone has been amazing and I am so excited to see what 2021 brings.
What do you enjoy the most – and the least – about being a business owner?
I love the people I have been able to meet through running my business; developing new, tasty products; seeing my team realise skills and strengths they didn’t even know they had; watching people across the whole of the UK trying and enjoying our cakes – there are just so many amazing benefits. My least favourite part is the stress! Running your own business is not easy, most days there is something that happens that can throw a spanner in the works or make you worry you are doing the right thing. You don’t see many people talk openly about this – it is my goal to share the lows as well as the highs, so people can see how normal it is.
And that leads us nicely onto our next question – what would YOU ask your favourite entrepreneur/business owner?
I would ask them to tell me every mistake they have ever made so that I could learn from them.
Finally, if you were a superhero, what power would you have?
This is tricky, but I think I would choose to be able to read people’s minds. Dangerous I know, but I think I could put it to good use.
For more information on Alana’s amazing business, head to https://www.ridiculouslyrichbyalana.co.uk/ and order some treats today. Alternatively, if it’s a boost in marketing you need, get in touch with Nutcracker Agency on email@example.com.