Bianca Miller: TV star. Personal brand champion. Hosiery magnate. Business mentor. Winner of numerous awards, recognising her unique blend of skills, ideas, business smarts and entrepreneurialism. I first met Bianca at the 2015 Precious Awards, where she delivered the keynote address with what I now know to be her trademark wit, business savvy and charm. When the idea first came to me of getting successful women to share their stories on the blog as The #PowerofThree, Bianca was, unsurprisingly, one of the first people who came to mind.
Here’s what we discussed.
The three things for which I’d like to be known are my work in personal branding, my entrepreneurship and as an advocate for women.
My personal branding work entails me working with a series of clients, helping people understand how to market themselves to enhance their future. I love the fact that I can deliver a workshop and really help someone’s career trajectory.
As an entrepreneur, my new venture is called Bianca Miller London, which is so different to my first business and in a very new business sector to me – it’s a retail and hosiery business, providing different shades of “nude for you” tights and hold ups. At heart, I’m an entrepreneur. I enjoy identifying a problem (in this instance, why were there only two shades of nude tights available on the High Street?) and then creating a solution. The right shade of nude hosiery is about empowerment, about illustrating the beauty in diversity and about helping women to feel good about themselves and their outfits. I want to #redefinenude.
As a women’s advocate, I’ve seen a pattern across my corporate and university clients of women who say and feel they can’t do something due to their gender. That really irritates me; we can all make a dream or an idea a reality. I like to help and support young women and I tell them how important self-marketing is. I advise my personal branding clients to be prepared to articulate who you are and what you do well. What does your CV say about you, are you talking to the right people? Think about how you want to be known and perceived.
When I first started out, I did sometimes see a flicker of surprise when I turned up for meetings and the client saw that I was young, female and black. I was advised by my Dad to acknowledge that it was my reality and that I had to find a way to overcome it by asserting my credibility and knowledge. If it was a problem, it was then ‘their problem’, not mine. I was an only child who went to an all-girls school and I felt that I could do anything. I didn’t see gender issues until I went into the world of work.
I don’t have formal mentors, but I have a roster of people I can call if I need to. My fiancé is a great mentor, as he’s in business as well so we are always chewing over new business ideas together. Looking back, I should have looked to find someone in my target industry at an earlier stage. Having a mentor is so important.
The professional achievement of which I’m most proud is starting my first business. I was brave but naïve. I was only 23 and I had bills to pay. It was tough for the first two years, sorting out cash flow. Looking back, I wish I’d known not to spend lots of time and money on advertising, but instead to focus on building relationships. Money spent on coffee or lunch was a better spend in terms of referrals and business development. Again, it all goes back to building a strong network.
Appearing on the 2014 series of The Apprentice gave me a great platform, even though I didn’t win. I’d been running my personal branding business for just over two years and had already had the idea for the hosiery business a few years earlier. It was suggested that I apply for the show – so I did. It gave me massive marketing exposure, a profile and a database of contacts so that people knew who I was. I ended the show even more convinced that I had a great idea for the product but I still needed investment. Department stores and fashion buyers were puzzled by the idea and some even told me that women of colour don’t actually buy tights. But I knew there was a market for it and I’d done my research. Then I got a meeting with Selfridges and they got it – they have a diverse customer base and could see how their customers would love to have a range of hosiery that worked for them and their clothes.
Social media has been fabulous for us. The hosiery range has been available at Selfridges in London for a few weeks and it’s now in the Birmingham store, too. We need people to get behind us and prove that there’s a market for the product. Our website sales are going really well and people can also go to Selfridges and get that in-store experience.
2016 is turning out to be a great year for me so far! I’m getting married in April, in January I was acclaimed as a top 10 leader on LinkedIn and I’m also on TV again, this time as a coach on the BBC Children’s show “Pocket Money Pitch”. It’s a business show for children aged 7-14 – they pitch an idea with the intention of winning a year’s pocket money (about £250 is the current going rate!) and I’m one of the coaches who help them polish their pitch to the judging panel. And I am brand ambassador for the ‘.uk’ domain name, encouraging individuals and entrepreneurs alike to consider their digital footprint, online brand and the value of promoting ‘brand you’ in the UK.
I’m writing a book on the A-Z of starting a business, with practical hints and tips about doing it yourself. I’ve written eight chapters so far, so if anyone’s involved in publishing – call me.
Sponsors: would you like me to interview and profile some of the key women in your organisation? If so, let’s talk – please contact me for an exploratory chat.