The Apprentice: Yorkshire winner Harpreet Kaur on desserts business Oh So Yum and how she's spending Lord Sugar's investment

Harpreet Kaur’s time on The Apprentice came to an end with the best possible outcome – £250,000 worth of investment in her dessert parlour business and a partnership with Lord Alan Sugar.

It cemented what she already knew herself; the risk that she and sister Gurvinder had taken seven years earlier, leaving behind their jobs as a bank manager and teacher to set up what has recently been rebranded as Oh So Yum, was one that had paid off.

Now, nearing six months on from the show, Harpreet has launched a third store and is busy working on a new range of mini canape-style desserts as she looks to tap into the corporate hospitality and events market. And as for that money from Lord Sugar? It has been put towards a nationwide delivery service, launched this year to ship out desserts across the UK. “We get orders every single day all day long,” Harpreet enthuses. “And the products we do are really good for gifting. We’re launching a subscription service soon too.”

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Already the 31-year-old is learning a lot from Lord Sugar. “He’s straight to the point just like you see on television. He’s shown me that if you want something, you’ve got to say it and go for it...It’s a dream come true, he’s one of the world’s leading businessmen. We’ve all seen him on TV, we’ve seen the businesses he’s set up and invested in. For him to believe in my business and idea means a lot.”

Harpreet Kaur winner of this year's The Apprentice.Harpreet Kaur winner of this year's The Apprentice.
Harpreet Kaur winner of this year's The Apprentice.

Harpreet and Gurvinder launched what was then Barni’s World back in 2015, but they were no strangers to the world of running a business. Twenty years ago, parents Pete and Jas moved the family from Birmingham to Brighouse, taking on a convenience store in the town, which they still have today.

“My childhood from 11 years onwards was going to school, getting my head down and getting good grades and then as soon as I got in from school, I’d get changed and get in the shop,” Harpreet recalls. “I’d stock the shelves - the chocolate bars actually was my section. I’d rotate the stock, get new products out, as well as serving customers and cashing up on a night so I think that really built my confidence from a young age.”

Still, it was a big decision for Harpreet and her sister to launch a business of their own. "I was a bank manager before,” says Harpreet. She’d undertaken a degree in leadership and management with the Open University, whilst working in banking. “I wasn’t 100 per cent passionate about it,” she admits. “I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and have a different stream of income.

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"As for cakes and desserts, one, I’m greedy and I love them and two, I saw a gap in the market at the time. One or two dessert parlours had started popping up and we realised that if you wanted to go out, you could either go to a restaurant or a bar, or a coffee joint in the daytime, but there wasn’t really anything else. Once you’ve had a meal or if you just wanted to go out for dessert, there was a gap there.

Harpreet Kaur at the recent opening of Oh So Yum's Bradford store.Harpreet Kaur at the recent opening of Oh So Yum's Bradford store.
Harpreet Kaur at the recent opening of Oh So Yum's Bradford store.

“My sister was actually a teacher so we both took a risk giving up our jobs. But we thought come on let’s try something different because at the end of the day you have to take risks.”

Applying for The Apprentice was another bold move. At the time, the sisters had two stores – one in Huddersfield and another inside White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds. Harpreet saw an advertisement for contestants and set her sights on investment from Lord Sugar to help ‘scale up’ the firm and reach a nationwide audience. “It was in the middle of the pandemic [when I applied] so things were really bleak all round. There wasn’t much to look forward to, no one knew what was going on, it was really uncertain...This was a light bulb moment of ‘yes, this is the direction I want to go in’.”

“Coming out of the show, I never realised people would be messaging me everyday saying you’re like a role model, you’re inspiring me, other entrepreneurs saying you’ve given me a boost,” she adds. “That’s something I never considered before and it’s amazing. I’d love to keep inspiring others to achieve their goals, dreams and ambitions.”

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Harpreet has victory on her side when she reflects back on the show. “But even if I hadn’t won, the experience itself was amazing,” she insists. “You’re put into a high pressured environment, you meet people you would never have met before from all walks of life and it really helps you build your confidence.”

She’s emerged from the show at a “really difficult time for businesses and entrepreneurs”, who are feeling the cost of living crisis with their own rising bills and through customers being forced to tighten their spends.

“You have to build a community between business owners,” Harpreet muses. “You can feel very alone in business and it is so difficult as you’re responsible not just for yourself and your own livelihood, but when you employ staff, you’re responsible for theirs as well. If your business goes down, it’s not just affecting your own life, it’s affecting everybody.

"You invest your time, your passion and your energy and I think it’s important we speak more as business owners, especially in Yorkshire. I think it’s important to come together, share advice and talk about the issues we’re facing because guess what, we’re all facing the same ones.”

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Harpreet wants to do more work around business support networks. But for now, much of her focus is on the new Bradford store and creating a private events space on its first floor for occasions such as hen dos and baby showers. Then, of course, there’s those canape desserts. “And I might have another big announcement soon – we may be partnering up with a major household name to sell our products,” she teases. “So watch this space.”