With The Apprentice returning to BBC David Hennessy spoke to last year’s Irish winner and heard from Lord Sugar and Karren Brady at the recent launch in London.
Trust her, she’s a doctor
Since winning last year’s Apprentice, doctor Leah Totton from Northern Ireland has set up a cosmetic clinic in the heart of London. She says she has seen the business go from strength to strength in challenging economic times and describes the cosmetic industry as “recession proof”.
Leah told The Irish World that that the hard work began after winning the BBC reality show last July: “I think it was the easy part to be honest. Obviously you do the show and it’s the longest interview process ever but once I started actually setting up the clinic, setting the business, it’s a massive operation. Not having come from a business background, I was a full time medic before, it really has been a crazy 15 months and a steep learning curve.”
Asked what it is like to work with Lord Sugar as a business partner, Leah says: “He does actually leave you to your own devices. He very much lets you do your own thing and there is any difficulty I give him a ring.
“He came into the industry and it was one that he didn’t have any expertise or background in at all so it required him to place an enormous amount of trust in me. He really had no other reference point in that sector.
“I felt very happy that he had shown that trust in me. I’m sure now he’s absolutely delighted. We’ve had a great year. I think if you are to go into the cosmetic sector or any business that is medical based, you really have to partnered with someone who does have the sector expertise and that skill set. I think we’re a very happy partnership in that it is my skill set, he obviously has a fantastic business mind and that combination works really well.
“It was fantastic to get the cash and backing especially as we were going through recession, trying to secure that sort of investment as a new company would have been really difficult but I don’t think it would have been impossible. I think I was a pretty sound business investment.
“I think what was invaluable about The Apprentice for me and the real value that I have seen has been in having a business partner and a business mentor who has the experience that Lord Sugar has. That was my real motivation for doing the show.
“I’ll give you an example. As a new company, we’ve opened in the heart of the city of London and even securing commercial premises as a new company and with no trading history would have been impossible really. I would have had to open up elsewhere before London had I not have had his backing. On a practical level, it has been extremely helpful.”
For more information, go to www.drleah.co.uk.
Back to the boardroom
Celebrating their tenth year, Lord Sugar has made this a very special series of The Apprentice with the number of candidates increased to 20. Over 12 weeks, candidates will compete to stay out of the firing line and earn a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar to launch their business plan.
This year’s budding business partners come from a diverse range of careers and backgrounds, including law, social care, accountancy and technology. There are two Irish contestants, Roisin Hogan and Pamela Uddin.
On previous candidates who have featured on further reality television like Luisa Zissman, last year’s runner-up who was in the last Celebrity Big Brother, Lord Sugar said: “Well, while the production people do a very good job in trying to pick candidates who are there for the right reason, you always get a couple who believe this is their Andy Warhol moment so to speak. I can look at some of them who had their five minutes of fame. In most cases now, it will be: ‘Fred who?’
“When they’re gone off the television screen, it suddenly gets them. It’s like a withdrawal symptom of not being in the boardroom, not being under scrutiny, not being out on a task and it’s like an anti-climax and they would go to the opening of an envelope if someone asked them to.
“I remember in the first series, the desire of some of the people that wanted to be on television put themselves forward for stupid game shows and things like that, they really demeaned themselves to get themselves in front of the camera again. But it happens and I guess that out of this lot, there will be approaches from other parts of the media offering them these things and it’s very difficult for them to turn it down because we have changed their lives one way or another.”
Cringeworthy in the opening episode was the suggestion of Sarah Dales who, as project manager, told her team of females that they would sell more than the boys if they simply made themselves up nicely and wore short skirts.
Business woman Karren Brady, who acts as Lord Sugar’s eyes and ears when the candidates are out on tasks, said: “I think Sarah is rather lucky I wasn’t following her that day, she might not have lasted very long.
“I think it’s a very old fashioned attitude: That you have to wear short skirts and a lot of make up to get on in life. I heard a lot of women in this room gasping or laughing (when she said it). I think those are antiquated views for a bygone age that thankfully is no longer around anymore.”
Lord Sugar adds: “The other girls, you saw their expression. They said, ‘that’s ridiculous’. The other girls said: ‘Not really, we’re here to do a job. We’re here to do some business’.”
Occupation: Assistant Brand Manager
Pamela graduated from university with first class honours, and received a scholarship to complete her masters in International Business. Since leaving university, she has worked in brand marketing and is inspired by brands such as Nike, for their inspirational and motivational advertising, and Paddy Power, for their tongue in cheek communication. She would describe herself as logical, charismatic and a good decision maker, but says she can talk too much.
Pamela says: “I am street and people savvy as well as being business savvy.”
Roisin is a qualified Chartered Accountant who is now starting her own business. She lists businesswoman Bethenny Frankel as one of her business inspirations, as she saw a gap in the market to start Skinny Girl Cocktails and sold it for a huge profit. Roisin says she is confident, driven and creative, and being a risk taker has also made her a keen poker player in her spare time.
Roisin says: “Manipulate, persuade and conquer. I would identify my opponent’s weaknesses and pick them off one by one.”
You can meet the candidates here:
For the full feature, pick up the October 18 Irish World.
The Apprentice begins at 9pm on Tuesday October 14 with the second episodes following on Wednesday October 15, it continues on BBC1 on Wednesdays at 9pm.