Lord Sugar picks the Apprentice finalists after a gruelling day of interviews

Grainne, Jess and Frances were given the boot, sending Courtney and Alana into the final

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Interview week on The Apprentice: the one where candidates submit their well-worked business plans and CVs to be ripped apart by Lord Sugar’s top business advisors. And, as usual, it was TV gold.

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Each of the final five candidates were treated to a verbal happy-slapping from the four horsemen and women of the Apprentice apocalypse – Mike Soutar, Claudine Collins, Linda Plant and regular pitbull Claude Littner – and none of the budding business partners came out unscathed.

Novelty gift company owner Courtney was tested on his monotone enthusiasm, Frances on her incomplete children’s clothes business plan, Grainne on her overly-expansive make-up business plan, Alana on her shaky market research for her cake company, and Jess on her emotional temperament.

But in the end, “product man” Lord Sugar opted to send Alana and Courtney into the final, pointing his firing finger at Jess, Frances and Grainne.

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Speaking about her overly ambitious make-up brand – which would include stores, products and make-up training sessions – Sugar said to Grainne: “I’m going to be bluntly honest with you – I just can’t see this. It’s been nice to be associated with you but it is with regret you’re fired.”

However, despite her rough ride through the interviews, Grainne told RadioTimes.com she was happy to get to the semi-final and actually enjoyed this week’s gruelling task. “I was very pleased to get to the final five,” Grainne said. “Obviously if I was going to go back I’d be more structured in one thing and not ten.”

“[The interviews] are harder than they look – you only see 30 seconds from a half hour interview. They rip to shreds every good idea that you think you have.”

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Next in the firing line were Jessica and her clothing manufacturing business – in particular the plan to spend thousands on social media endorsements from reality stars. Lord Sugar told her: “Jessica, I think you’ve got great sales ability but it’s a very, very risky idea. Jessica, it is with regret that you’re fired.” 

But it’s not a decision Jess thinks he got wrong: “Lord Sugar has been in business since he was a whippersnapper and he knows what he’s looking for. If I’m not the perfect fit for him then it wouldn’t work,” she told us.

However, the mum of three has some regrets about her Apprentice experience: “I think working and having the kids meant I just didn’t have the time to fully plan it all. Looking back I should have just put them in nursery for a week and focussed only on the business plan. It really let me down.”

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And finally Frances was the last candidate to fall short of a finalist spot. Speaking about her budget children’s clothing business, Sugar told her: “Frances, this idea is not scalable. I want a big business so I wish you the best of luck but I am not going to be investing in you. So, Frances, you’re fired.”

“I think [Lord Sugar] didn’t really understand my business model,” she told us. “He didn’t understand the childrenswear market enough to know whether the stock was readily available to scale up, to make it a big business.”

Despite being given a thumbs down/firing finger, Frances is still continuing with her childrenswear company and says she’s currently talking to other investors – “I think that now is my time to shine and say actually I can do it and it is scalable.” 

Frances may have just missed out on it, but Courtney and Alana are now only one (very very difficult) task away from Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment.

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The Apprentice final is on 9pm this Sunday, BBC1