British Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott says she would never have been able to afford to compete in the Sochi Winter Olympics if she had not taken part in Dancing on Ice.
The show transformed her finances and allowed her to represent Britain at the 2014 Olympics in Russia, just three years after injuring her leg so badly she was left unable to walk.
Now 36, she lives with husband Dougie Crawford, who is British ski champion, and their two sons, two-year-old Loki and four-month-old Cooper.
She is a founding member of Sistr, an online platform that enables professional businesswomen to network, offer advice and mentor each other.
Comeback: Chemmy Alcott skied for Britain in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not to equate it with happiness. They taught me money is not the be all and end all in life. My father was a surveyor who built snow domes. My mother wrote academic books about politics and women’s liberation. She also owned properties.
Money was never tight although my father’s income fluctuated – he would only get paid when he sold a snow dome – usually every seven years.
What was the first paid work you ever did?
WHEN I was ten my parents took me to a business sports forum in London to find a sponsor. I walked around this room full of men in suits feeling petrified, saying my name is Chemmy Alcott and I am going to be the best skier in the world. I walked away having signed two sponsors: Crystal Holidays and Army Careers.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, after injuring myself in 2010. I had a fracture that was so bad, the bones broke through my ski boots. I could not walk for 13 months. I did not know how I was going to start earning again. I was ranked eighth in the world at the time but all the brands I was working with dropped me.
I cried live on TV when I learnt during an interview with the BBC that UK Sports had withdrawn its funding. I was mortified. Ski racers are trained not to show pain and weakness.
Help: Dancing On Ice judges Christopher Dean and Jane Torvill
Luckily, the owner of Third Space, a gym in London with an amazing rehabilitation centre, offered to support my comeback by providing physiotherapy. I went there every day and managed to get to the stage where I could walk again.
How did you make enough money to return to skiing?
I went on a night out with Torvill and Dean that changed everything. After that, I got invited to go on Dancing On Ice.
You do not make much money from going on the show, but you do make a lot from the subsequent tour. I was determined to come in the top six, go on tour and be able to fund my ski racing and get back to the Olympics.
As a result, I found the show stressful. I knew at the back of my mind I had to do well. I could not relax and enjoy my 15 minutes in the limelight.
Thankfully, I came fifth, went on tour and increased my profile. Monarch Airlines came onboard and that, combined with my tour money, meant I could afford to ski the following year.
I paid the Norwegian team a huge sum to ski with them for a year but it secured my comeback.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes. Occasionally, I get a corporate job where I am paid a few thousand pounds to give an hour-long inspirational speech. I find it all empowering.
What was the best year of your financial life?
It was 2002. Witan Investment Trust sponsored me. I was only 20 but I earned more that year than any other year of my life.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
Clear braces when I was 26. They were an indulgence because I felt my teeth were not perfect. They cost a few thousand pounds.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Spending too much on holidays when I was in my early 20s. I could do with that money now.
And the best money decision you have ever made?
Setting up ski coaching company CDC Performance with my husband. It is not a huge moneymaker, but it is rewarding. We use the skills you learn in skiing – for example, the need to pick yourself up when you fall over – to teach life skills to young people.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
Yes, I do both. I started saving into a pension ten years ago. I take a low-risk approach to my stock market investments. I would describe myself as an amateur player.
Do you own any property?
Yes, I own my four-bedroom home with a mortgage in South-West London. I definitely think it has gone up in value since I bought it in 2008, at the bottom of the market. I also own an apartment in Flaine, France, with my brothers.
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?
I pay for a creche for my baby occasionally so I can go to the gym. I worry that this is really naughty and that I should be spending all my time bonding with him right now, but I cannot help also feeling the need for a little bit of ‘me’ time.
If you were Chancellor of the Exchequer, what is the first thing you would do?
I would provide funding for mentorship schemes and business courses for women. That is why I have joined women’s networking platform Sistr. I think there is not enough support out there for women who want to start their own businesses.
In my experience, men are innately more confident than women in business. If they have an idea, they pursue it. Many women do not believe in themselves as much.
What is your number one financial priority?
To have security for my children. My mother passed away when I was young and knowing my kids will be financially secure if things go wrong is important.