32-year-old Caroline Marsh grew up in Zambia in Southern Africa and moved to England just five years ago. In the last year she has discovered a talent for property investment and has just made her first million.
Why did you choose to take part in The Secret Millionaire?
'I have been so blessed in my own life and feel so fortunate to have found people who have helped me achieve and exceed my expectations and goals, that I wanted to do the same for someone else and be able to make a difference in their life. And growing up in Zambia, where everyone has this image of England as offering a perfect, rose-tinted life, I felt it was really important for me to see the kind of hardship that I never knew still exists in this country.'
Which of your qualities do you think led to you being picked for the programme?
'Most successful entrepreneurs who are featured on television - Sir Alan Sugar, Peter Jones, Duncan Bannatyne, for example - seem to be male, white and aged 40 or over, so I think the fact that I am young, female and African probably made me stand out for the producers. Also I'm not yet a multi-millionaire, but regardless of how much money I've had, I've always given back and tried to make a difference, both here and at home in Africa, and I think I probably came across as very passionate, because I love children and genuinely want to help young mothers who might not have had the same opportunities as me.'
What made the two projects you chose to support particularly stand out for you as worthy of your investment of time and money?
'Each was at a level where I felt I could make a real difference by supporting them with business skills, helping them to be more self-sufficient. They had so much potential, and were so committed and giving of their time, they just needed that extra help and guidance. Both projects were focused on helping young people in the community, giving them some direction and purpose - I saw them doing so much good in trying to help people better themselves, and that's exactly what I want to do.'
What effect has the Secret Millionaire experience had on you?
'It has completely changed the perception I had of England, 'the land of opportunity'. In Toxteth, I experienced a level of poverty that is unheard of in my hometown in Africa. Although there is a lot of tragedy in Africa, the desperation I saw in some parts of Toxteth really shocked me. And it made me realise that although I have always given back, I haven't really been doing enough to help those actually living around me, so since I've been back home, I've got stuck right into helping women in the local community, through my church.'
How do you plan to help the Toxteth projects on an ongoing basis?
'I will continue to support them financially, as will the Platinum Partners Foundation, but probably more importantly I'm going to be there physically for the long term, helping them with personal development, being involved in strategic future planning meetings and attending events. It's a wonderful feeling to see them succeed and consistently get better at what they're doing with the small businesses they're running for the community.'
You have achieved a tremendous amount over the past 18 months - how do you feel you have changed as a person?
'I'm so excited about the success I've achieved - my property investing journey as a franchise partner has enabled me to do so much more than I ever thought I would - and as a result of speaking at PPP events and at other property shows and exhibitions, my confidence has really grown. The Secret Millionaire has highlighted to me the difference I can make, and I think I've realised that I have untapped potential to encourage others to be more in their lives, and can really motivate people to achieve great results.'
What are your plans and goals for the immediate and long-term future?
'As well as continuing to be a part of the two Liverpool projects, I'm planning to make a real difference in Swindon. I have already registered with The Red Cross to help in the local community, and we're also planning on opening a young people's centre in Swindon, which will provide a safe environment for young women to live, eat, train and come for inspiration and support, to help them make changes in their lives. And together with my church I'm going to do 'extreme makeovers' for underprivileged families, using the skills I've acquired while renovating my own investment properties - now that's going to be fun! And as if all that wasn't enough, I'm going to be buying more investment properties and expanding my buy-to-let portfolio by five in the next 12 months. It might be a lot to do, but honestly, I know I can do anything now if I put my mind to it.'