I thought I'd got the shouting at the telly under control, but Be Your Own Boss set me off again last night. "For Richard," said an urgent voiceover, "whose reputation and fortune is at stake, this is one hell of a gamble." To be absolutely honest, I didn't shout. It makes the dog jump. But I typed my notes in capitals: "NO IT BLOODY ISN'T!" Presumably, some idiot had decided that the show needed more "jeopardy", television's performance-enhancing drug of choice right now.
So although there was no prospect whatever of Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Smoothies, losing either his fortune or his reputation, they had to pretend it was the case. The show itself is a kind of X Factor for entrepreneurs, with Reed – an exemplary figure for the do-it-yourself tycoons among us – sifting through 500 hopefuls to find business ideas that he can invest in. What he gets is a venture capitalist's beauty parade and some excellent publicity. What they get is seed funding and business advice.
While Reed's fortune and reputation were safe, however, there looked to be a good chance that he might lose his temper before the end of the show. The early rounds were no hazard to his amiability, delivering a string of enjoyably daffy no-hopers. One woman appeared to be pitching a chain of restaurants where "dogs and humans can dine together". A young man tried to persuade Reed of the commercial prospects of a wordsearch square that contained only one real word. And two chancers in suits attracted Reed's attention by branding their company "Innocent Chicken". They proposed to lever a gap in an over-crowded market by adding novel flavours: "Bubblegum-flavoured chicken, mango-flavoured chicken... it's just something that's not out there," said one of them, apparently startled that nobody had got there before them. Reed asked to try a sample. "Urr... it's at the conception stage," they replied.
Frankly, I could have taken quite a bit more of this, but the programme had to move on. Reed selected two friends hoping to market the Lazy Camper, an all-in-one-box camping kit for festival-goers; Mango Bikes, which offers colour-customised bicycles; and Poietic Studio, a dippy pair of designer/artists who were the kind of outfit you would only back if you fancied an adrenalin rush. They got some seed money and then all three of them went away and underperformed. Poietic Studio pledged to "revolutionise the way we make tea" but returned with the prototype for a dancing fireplace, and Lazy Camper failed to secure any retail outlets. Only Mango Bikes showed signs of pushing their business forward. Reed took a deep breath, gamely pretended that the decision was a "really difficult" one, and invested £50,000 in their dream of a fashion accessory on two wheels. On what terms, we weren't told, but I'm guessing it doesn't involve a huge risk to Reed's fortune.
Dead Good Job looked at those whose business is seeing us out of this world and – according to your beliefs – into another one or into the ground. It included a single mother terminally ill with cancer who was arranging her own funeral, a Muslim burial in London and a biker's funeral, with the coffin carried in a motorbike sidecar. "That person was unique, so the funeral should be unique," said the motorcycling vicar who supplies this niche market. You might have thought this sentiment would meet with no contradiction, but the interesting thing was that Muslim burial makes something of a virtue of human identity in death, with pretty much every detail specified by religious law and every grave in the cemetery exactly the same. Still, as the single mother recalled with a jolt after she'd quibbled about where she might be placed in the chapel of rest, there's always one participant who won't mind either way.Reuse content