Peterborough's Khadija Kalifa hopes to clean up on The Apprentice
Mum-of-two, Khadija, who tonight begins her TV battle to win Lord Sugar as a business partner, said “I just Googled ‘cheapest business to set up’ and it suggested cleaning.
“So I spent £20 buying cleaning products and £20 on marketing materials and my eco-cleaning business Opal and Pearl was created.”
The business was created from necessity after the difficult birth of her first daughter now aged four.
“My partner Simon and I decided we had to move from London back to the Peterborough area.
She said: “For the first eight months I did all the cleaning myself taking my daughter in her car chair to work.”
“But I knew that was ne ver always going to be the way.”
She soon took on her first employee - her sister - and from there the business snowballed.
Three-and-a-half years later Opal and Pearl, which operates out of the Allia Future Business Centre, in London Road, Peterborough, has 23 staff and a turnover of £72,000 with a £7,000 profit.
It has a fleet of five vehicles, two of which are electric, and is about to move into a new offices at the Allia.
The workload involves cleaning homes and offices and Khadija also has a contract with Bourne-based Larkfleet Homes.
She is hoping her creativity, enterprise and willing ness to do the hard work are a winning combination for Lord Sugar.
Over the next few weeks, Khadija will pit her wits against 15 other contenders in the weekly boardroom battle that is expected to command viewing figures of about five million people each week.
The first episode dropped the candidates in the Mediterranean island of Malta.
Khadija said: “It was the first time I had visited Malta. I wish I had visted before.”
Opal and Pearl - named after Khadija’s birthstone (opal) and that of her first daughter - is not her first business venture.
“There are others. One I sold and another, Beaux Bebes, is just an idea. It’s ready to go if I want to take it further.”
She said: “I’m driven by a desire to give my children the best life I can.
“I’m from a single parent household and feel I missed out on things. I want more from life and to teach my children being successful is okay.”
This is not the first year Khadija Kalifa has applied to take part in The Apprentice.
She said: “I did apply last year but I missed the email inviting me to take part in the auditions.
I found it a day or two too late.”
She says that this year her partner Simon made sure her application was submitted.
She said: “I was delighted when I was again invited to take part in the auditions.
“There were so many people there and I could not believe it when I got the call telling me that I had been chosen to take part in the show.”
She said: “Why not take part?
“It is a huge platform and a huge challenge for me.
She added: “I have always watched The Apprentice.
“Simon and I used to have curry and Apprentice nights on Wednesdays and we’d sit there shouting at the telly.”
Khadija, who was born at the former Peterborough District Hospital, still has family and friends in Peterborough.
She has two sisters and a brother and her mother, Debbie, lives in Peterborough.
She is also not short of top entrepreneurial advice.
She counts among her friends the retail expert and TV’s Secret Millionaire Mike Greene, plus a founder of Peterborough-based Kiddicare Neville Wright, and successful Peterborough entrepreneur Rob Moore.
She has also been in touch with Yaxley-baseed ImpraGas founder Joseph Valente, who famously won The Apprentice in 2015. She said: “We have agreed to have a coffee and a chat.”
It could all have been so different.
As a sixth form pupil at the Bushfield Community College, in Peterborough, 18-year-old Khadija Kalifa showed plenty of promise on the stage.
In our photograph, left, which was published in the Evening Telegraph in November 2007, Khadija is seen taking part in a final dress rehearsal for a drama called French bread and English cheese, which was staged in Peterborough Museum.
She said: “I would have liked to have pursued a career in acting but my dad wouldn’t allow it.
“I was quite intelligent - I was in the top set for everything at school - and I went on to study law at Middlesex University.
“I might have trained to be a solicitor and study for a Legal Practice Course (LPC) but I didn’t want to be a student - I wanted to go and earn some money.”
However, Khadija still has strong ties with Bushfield and regularly hosts Young Enterprise classes for pupils.