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Apprentice runner-up Bianca Miller 'forced' to take business out of Croydon

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THE runner-up of this year's Apprentice has been forced to leave Croydon with her business because her offices are to be converted into flats.

Bianca Miller, 25, came second in the 2014 series, just missing out to Australian Mark Wright in December's final of the BBC One show.

She is now set to launch the innovative hosiery venture she put forward on the programme – tights designed to suit women with different skin tones.

However, her original personal development business, The Be Group, which used to be based in Sydenham Road, left in September and is now based in Penge.

Bianca said she was given just two weeks to leave those offices.

The owner of Cygnet House, AA Homes and Housing, is to convert to flats through permitted development rights, which allow offices to be converted into flats without planning permission.

Bianca, who went to Beulah Junior School in Upper Norwood and spent the first 11 years of her life in Thornton Heath, said: "We wanted to stay in the area but we were given two weeks' notice, which we weren't very happy about. I think Croydon had a great opportunity to network and do something in the area.

"Unfortunately, people need places to live as well and this has resulted in new businesses having to leave Croydon.

"I would have liked more support from Croydon Council. We need to push things like employability in Croydon."

The Be Group offers employability and personal development services to young people in education.

Bianca is concerned the conversion of so many offices into flats will prevent businesses like hers helping Croydon's young people reach their potential.

She said: "We have a lot of talented people in Croydon who need more guidance and people like me to train them and help them so that when Westfield is built, those people will be getting those jobs."

A spokesman for AA Homes and Housing said all tenants in the building had been notified by letter when they bought the building last February and were asked to vacate within the terms of their contract.

A Croydon Council spokesman said: "The council is passionate about supporting small businesses, which are vital if Croydon is to have a vibrant local economy. This is why we have measures in place to help them succeed and remain in the borough for the long term.

"In addition, we have already announced our intention to remove the permitted development right in areas such as this to give greater protection to office space and prevent any conversions to housing that don't have planning permission."

Despite a couple of hiccups, Bianca impressed Lord Sugar enough to seriously consider investing in her tights business.

She also became known for her ultra-professionalism but this was used against her in the penultimate interview stage and she broke down in tears when interviewed by former winner Ricky Martin.

Bianca said: "The interviews were an hour long each of interrogation so by the time I got to the last interview with Ricky I was drained.

"It was hard for me, I was prepared for questions about my business plan but not my personality. In a business show, I thought you should always act professionally."

Bianca said Lord Sugar was "astute and direct", while his advisors Nick Hewer and Karren Brady were "experienced".

She said of the competition: "It was a very tough process and much harder than you would think.

"Of course I was disappointed [to lose].

"I went in with the hope I could win but I was really pleased with the feedback."

Apprentice runner-up Bianca Miller 'forced' to take business out of Croydon


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