Memoirs of an Apprentice: The first taste of Sugar
It’s now been four years since I first appeared on series six of The Apprentice (you might remember my exclaiming that the Thames is the second largest river in London – classic!). Following the announcement for the start of series 10, made by Lord Sugar last week, I started thinking about my own time on the show, including my moment of pride when I broke the board room record – ah, memories!
In 2009, I was at a crossroads in my career. I was 28 years old and having been beaten (quite hard!) by the global credit crunch, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I had worked since the age of 15 and set up my own business at the age of 24, selling property overseas. The company was profitable from day one and turning over figures that most business owners would envy. However, for as quick as we grew, we couldn’t escape the credit crunch, which quickly unravelled all the hard work we had put into the business. In early 2009, we decided to shut shop and dissolved the company.
That’s when I heard the sweet sound of Lord Sugar’s voice, appealing for people to apply for The Apprentice. I still remember the appeal: ‘Have you been affected by the credit crunch? Have you lost your job, or company? These are the people I’m looking to meet’. In my mind, I was 100% satisfied with the direction my career had taken, and had accepted that things beyond my control had affected my business. So I applied, with one sole principal in mind – to be myself. I would begin the process and conduct myself how I would in the real world. After a very, VERY long interview process (I was told they whittled candidates down from 50,000 to just 16), I was offered a place to face Lord Sugar on The Apprentice, with five weeks to prepare.
I remember the first time I met him very well. A person from the production team asked me if I was ready and if I had any tactics. My heart sank. In the five weeks I’d had to prepare, the word tactic hadn’t even come into my mind. I felt as if I had missed a massive opportunity to prepare, but as it turns out, tactics are not what you want or need in this process. Anyone who has this in their agenda will quickly be fired. I kept it real, I kept it simple and this seems to be the best way. It certainly did me no harm during, or after the process (but we’ll get to that later).
I walked into the boardroom waiting area, where Frances (the receptionist) was going about her day - or night, as it happened to be 11pm. You are not warned or told what is ahead of you, you are just politely asked to wait until your name is called. It was nerve-racking. We all shuffled into the room and faced Lord Sugar, who was flanked by Nick Hewer and Karen Brady. He got straight to the point, telling us about our first task. We were going to buy ingredients to make sausages, go into the factory to produce the sausages and then, once the product was finished, sell our sausages to the public and trade. There it was, our first task. We would have to show our buying, organisational, selling, logistic and managerial skills all through the night. The games had begun and we’d had our first taste of Sugar.