The Apprentice: Where are the old candidates now?

As Ten Years of The Apprentice looks back at the business reality series, we have a chat with some of the former boardroom stars

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Saira Khan – Series one (runner-up)

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Owns a skincare company, Miamoo, and co-presents ITV’s Martin Lewis Money Show

“Before The Apprentice I was an account manager for McVitie’s, taking cases of Hobnobs and Rich Tea biscuits around cash and carries in east London. The series changed my life and launched me into a media career.

“But people make assumptions — they think I’m loud, aggressive, a bit sweary. But you didn’t see my caring side on the show. In business, people want to meet you because you’ve been on TV. But also I know there are companies who’ll say: ‘Oh no, not that gobby one off the telly. Forget it.’ ” 

Michelle Dewberry – Series two (winner)

Has a shopping website, DailyChic.co.uk and is a business consultant

“Some people emerge from The Apprentice looking like absolute Muppets. Others leave with their business reputation intact. I think I did. But it matters what you do afterwards. I was offered an awful lot of money to appear in my knickers and bra in the lads’ mags. How much? I won’t say. But if I’d taken up those offers, I’d have an incredibly comfortable life.

“I was flattered but I’m in business, and if I’m sitting opposite a senior businessman in a meeting, I don’t want him to have seen my breasts.” 

Tre Azam – Series three (came third)

Runs a medical technology company. In 2008, he was sentenced to 80 hours’ community service for falsely claiming housing benefit

“Did I learn anything from Alan Sugar? No, I didn’t. When I drop my children at school, I drive past his house. I never say hello. Sugar and I never really got on.

“During filming, we were told we’d be taken for dinner and get to sit with him. I thought this would be a great opportunity to ask him questions and learn from him. But he spent the entire time telling us how much money he’d made and how many planes he’s got.

“The court case cost me everything I had: my livelihood, my savings. I didn’t earn anything for 23 months. But it turned out to be a blessing. I became depressed and qualified as a trauma therapist. It made me much less arrogant. And I got rid of my materialistic possessions — because I had to bloody sell everything to pay my bills.” 

Lee McQueen – Series four (winner)

Owns a recruitment firm. On his first day at Alan Sugar’s company, Lee had food poisoning and rang in sick

“What was Sir Alan’s reaction when I called? He was fine about it. He just said: ‘Make sure you come back virus-free, so you don’t pass it on to anyone else.’ I worked for him for two and a half years. We built a successful digital media business together. I take massive pride in that.

“There was a lot of talk in the media that the winner didn’t get a proper job with Sir Alan. That he sticks you in a broom cupboard. Absolute rubbish. I saw him every day for the first nine months when I was building that business.

Kate Walsh – Series five (runner-up)

Presented Channel 5’s Live from Studio Five (2009-11) and is now an executive for an international jewellery company

The Apprentice did change my life — I’m still with Philip [fellow contestant Philip Taylor]. We met on the show and have been together five years.

“I enjoyed the TV work but when it ended, I didn’t trawl around for anything else. Even when I was doing the Channel 5 show, I’d kept up my business consultancy on the side. Business is what I’m really interested in. I’ve just been appointed vice-president, retail, for the jewellery chain Pandora. It’s a Danish company and we’ve got 150 stores in the UK.” 

“Then I decided I wanted to do my own thing, so I set up Raw Talent Academy. I now employ 18 people and this year the company will generate just under £1.5 million.” 

Stella English – Series six (winner)

Works as a freelance management consultant. Last year, she sued Lord Sugar for constructive dismissal, claiming her job was a “sham”. She lost the case

“Because I went to court with Alan Sugar, people expect me to say that I hate The Apprentice. But I don’t. Winning it was an amazing experience I’d never want to undo. I learnt a lot of things, some good, some bad. I’ve not made any secret of the fact that I didn’t enjoy working at Viglen [Sugar’s company].

“Obviously, I wasn’t happy when I lost the court case. It cost me a lot of money. But I’m very glad I did it. I spoke my mind, and I stand by what I said. We had a subsequent court case where Alan Sugar tried to countersue me [to recover £35,000-worth of legal costs]. He lost because the tribunal ruled that I didn’t do anything in malice and I believed entirely in what I was saying.

“I’ve got no personal issues with Alan Sugar. I’ve never said I hate him. I’m disappointed about what happened, but I don’t bear any grudges. After the second case, I was flooded with job offers. I was stunned. Things have never been better.” 

Tom Pellereau – Series Seven (winner)

The inventor’s Stylfile nail care products are sold in Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Boots

“The show changed my life. What is it people say on the show? I’m 110 per cent certain it has. I look back and think of ‘life before The Apprentice’ and ‘life after The Apprentice’. I was at a very low point when I applied to be on the show. I’d spent ten years trying to make it as an inventor — and it had been a terrible week: I’d lost my job and split up with my girlfriend. It was one last roll of the dice.

“Three years later, I have my own company that has made a total turnover of £1.5 million, I’m married, I have a baby and my wife is pregnant with another on the way in January. It’s a fairy tale come true. Lord Sugar and I own 50 per cent each of the company. I see him regularly — just this morning in fact, because my team is based in his office. To me, he’s a bit of a genius.

“But he can still be pretty hard on me. The other day I presented what I thought was a brilliant idea to him in a board meeting — and he thought I was joking. He said: ’Are you mad? This is utter rubbish!’”

Tom Gearing – Series eight (runner-up)

CEO of Cult Wines, a company he set up while still at university

“What did I learn personally from Lord Sugar? The way The Apprentice is filmed, you don’t get a lot of exposure to him. You only see him when you’re in the boardroom. So it’s difficult to say. For me it was more about the experience of working under pressure, with different people.”

Adam Corbally – Series 8 candidate and voted RadioTimes.com’s readers’ favourite candidate of all time

Continues to invest in property, is a motivational speaker and has just launched his own concierge company.

“I learnt a lot, made a lot of friends, made some money can’t buy experiences. And I’m very, very grateful and thankful. I’ve got massive, massive respect for Nick, Karren and Lord Sugar and everybody should have, because they’re all very credible individuals. 

“It’s the only show even before I was on it I watched every week. I used to pause it, that’s how much of a fan I was, and sit and tell whoever I was sat with where they were going wrong and what they should be doing. It used to take me two hours to watch a one-hour show because I was so opinionated and I thought I could win it. Then it was like ‘Go on then, put your money where your mouth is’. I didn’t win it, but at least I had a go.” 

Leah Totton – Series nine (winner)

Set up a cosmetic clinic in the City of London

“Lord Sugar owns 50 per cent of the business but has no day-to-day role. As a mentor, he’s incredibly valuable. He’s always there if I pick up the phone and sometimes pops into the clinic to see how things are going. But he’s not always on your back – he leaves me to it. He’s more of a troubleshooter.

“Has he had any Botox treatments? I’ve repeatedly offered them, but he won’t. There’s still time…”

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Ten Years of The Apprentice is on BBC1 tonight at 10.35pm