Nick Hewer
Nick Hewer is one of Sir Alan Sugar's advisers on The Apprentice (Reuters)

Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar's right-hand man on The Apprentice, said that a desire to make himself "unsackable" pushed him to start his own business.

"That was my mission in life, maybe because I was insecure in my own abilities and thought unless I'm master of my own destiny and become unsackable then I'm almost sure to be sacked," Hewer told IBTimes UK, as he embarked on a campaign with business cards specialist Vistaprint to encourage Britons to start their own businesses.

Hewer, whose PR firm was hired by Sugar to promote his Amstrad business in the 80s, insisted that now was the right time to set up a company, despite the recession.

"In these hard times people say 'oh no, dangerous times' - now is exactly the time to do it. When there are no jobs around, what are you going to do? Sit around waiting for the other shoe to fall off? Or do you think it's worth having a crack at doing your own thing?" he said.

"If you're working for a big outfit and you're laid off, with all that experience why don't you have a crack at it yourself if you have a passion for what you're doing. You might well team up with some other people who have been laid off at the same time."

The Apprentice guru added: "There is no happier thing to do than be master of your own destiny. Some people would disagree. They would think I don't like all that risk. I want to work for a big company, feel that I've got the security of the big company. In the old days that might have been true. It's not true any more. No job is a job for life these days, so that security has evaporated."

There are 4.18 million self-employed people in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a number that has risen substantially since the start of the financial crisis.

Unemployed should start firms

Hewer said the unemployed were in a good position to become self-employed because start-up costs were low. The financial bar to entry has been lowered significantly by the internet: a website can be set up and marketing and communication tools can be accessed for free.

"You get people who are on benefits who don't realise that it's not so difficult to start your own thing," he said.

"We need to educate people that now is the time. It's okay. If the government cannot drive an economic policy that creates jobs then what are we going to do?

"We've got to fall back on our own resources, haven't we? Or be unhappy and just be awarded benefits which will become tighter and tighter."

He touted the idea of job centres giving the unemployed £100 for marketing and start-up costs if the unemployed come forward with decent business ideas.

"Obviously it's got to be the right sort of business and a legitimate request. What would be wrong with that?" said Hewer.

"You get £70 a week for job seeker's allowance. £100 would actually go quite a long way. I think it's a brilliant idea."

Teach primary children business

Hewer, who is also a television presenter and host of Channel 4's Countdown, thinks the government should start teaching children about business at primary schools.

"Even if it's just to explain to a seven-year-old, or six-year-old, or five-year-old what it means to live in a family," he said.

"That the family needs money. Daddy's not working at the moment, Jennifer, and therefore you can't have your My Little Pony this week. That wouldn't be a bad place to start, would it? Just to understand that money coming into the family also goes out from the family.

"To teach kids responsibility, in the face of course of the advertising industry trying to persuade little Jennifer that My Little Pony - you've got to have one."

On The Apprentice, Hewer said the popular show, which already has nine series under its belt in the UK, has business at its heart and is not just about entertaining people in their living rooms.

"We know it's entertainment. If it wasn't entertainment, nobody would watch it. If nobody watched it then nobody would learn what we believe is buried in The Apprentice which is the basics of business," he said.

"We're determined that The Apprentice succeeds in teaching young people about business, which is why Sugar did it."

Hewer will host a Q&A on the Vistaprint Facebook page on 2 August at 11am where he will answer questions on starting up your own business.