If anyone saw Dragon's Den a few weeks ago I'm sure you won't have forgotten Ling Valentine pitching to the The Dragons and then unreservedly turning down their miserly offer. They were gobsmacked but she knows the value of her business and she also knows the value of good publicity. Like many people, I immediately tried to log on to her site but it had obviously been overwhelmed due to her terrific performance on the show - watch it here.
Reading her website today I discovered Ling won an award last year - The North East Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. As Ling was unable to attend she sent a colleague, Lina Liang, to accept on her behalf. But, in a stroke of genius, Lina spent the evening working underdcover as a waitress at the awards ceremony until Ling's victory was announced. At this point Lina ascended the stage to receive the award. This was meant to illustrate that not all Chinese people should automatically be assumed to be waitresses, cockle pickers or working in a take-away. Good point well made. Mischevious, humourous, perceptive, and not remotely offensive to the people who were running the award.
However, it seems the people running the award took a slighly different perspective and chose to airbrush Lina out of the award photos and remove links to Ling's website from their own webpage. This bizarre action was later corrected and the unedited photo was rightfully published. What could they possibly expect to achieve by doing that? Perhaps they'd only nominated Ling as some sort of misguided tokenism and didn't expect her to win, and when she did they were embarassed by the way in which the award was accepted. Hell, Ling winning WAS the best thing about their awards. To airbrush out the only ethnic winner of the award was a spectacular and depressing own goal by the organisers.
Ling is, without doubt, an exceptional person. Arriving in UK eight years ago, she's now running a successful business in the North East of England. I'm from there originally and know how difficult it is to start up a business and make money there. She has an uttely original approach to the business of selling cars. She's undercutting the opposition because of her shoestring operation which is run with a strong emphasis on customer service, humour and forthright honesty. She even suggests how you might avoid catching bird flu from imported Asian cars - "A damn car cannot sneeze on you. Unless you are pervert who performs sex act on exhaust pipe, or snogging aircon vents, I cannot figure out how customer would infect from the car. Of course, how do I know what my customer does in dark garage? Some customers really strange. But that would probably break terms of contract hire agreement anyway. Maybe I should introduce Police Check on my proposal form?"
I wish to send out a mighty WAH! to Ling and hope she turns the UK motor industry on its head with her hilairious and original website and eccentric ways of publicising it. My old Audi A4 just clocked up 200,000 miles last week and I'm going to have to replace it soon. Ling will be the first place I go. With any luck I might get an introduction to the beautiful Lina as well.