Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau dishes on his new invention and pitching to Lord Sugar

The 2011 champion is tackling bacteria and gives us an insight into life in the lab

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Five years on from scooping The Apprentice’s first £250,000 business investment, inventor Tom Pellereau and Lord Sugar’s partnership is going really rather well. Sugar likes things to be simple and Pellereau has a knack for solving every day problems. A match made in consumer product heaven.

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Pellereau’s got Stylfile products coming out of his ears, his original S-shaped nail file now available in various forms with all manner of extras, including a cuticle trimmer and nail buffer. In November last year he sold a whopping 36,000 diamante-encrusted VIP versions on QVC in just twenty-four minutes. It was such a successful sale he was left with no stock and had to cancel other shows where he intended to sell ahead of Christmas.

Now, he’s got another invention up his sleeve: he’s turning his attention to make-up brushes. Specifically cleaning them. Painting a rather grim image, Pellereau quotes various stats that compare beauty brushes unfavourably to toilet brushes. In fact, when testing brushes he found one from a beauty counter had more than 400,000 bacteria on it, despite having been cleaned the night before.

Sticking to his and Lord Sugar’s joint aim of producing products that do things better and faster, the inventor’s come up with a fancy new gadget that’ll clean and dry dirty brushes in just thirty seconds.

I’m under strict instruction not to reveal too much about the product, but I must have looked pretty impressed by the results given Pellereau laughed and said he wished he’d filmed my reaction.

Twitter, he said, has proved a great source of inspiration for inventions, with complaints helping spark exciting new concepts. That’s exactly Pellereau’s bag: tell him what you want made easier and he’ll darn well think of a way to do it.

Indeed, alongside the make-up brush cleaner he’s also just launched his Stylfile Gel Remover Kit. It comes after Jenny Longworth, nail technician to the stars, noted incorrect removal was damaging nails. His set contains neat little clips to hold remover-soaked pads on each fingertip, replacing hours spent getting tangled up in tin foil or tromping back to a nail bar. Doing nothing by halves, Pellereau called on the University of Manchester to use their ultra sonic device (one of the only machines in the world) to check his product caused no damage to nail thickness. As for feedback, he confessed he’s given up trying to get the samples back.  

The entrepreneur paints an amusing image of life in his lab. It’s small, but “If I had any more room I’d simply fill it with mess.” Clear plastic boxes are his saviour, marked out to ensure he keeps track of all the bits and bobs that’ll help him create the next must-have item. This latest make-up brush invention called on 3D printers and, as he talks, he lists off the things he wants to do next to make the product even better, even easier for the every day user. Nothing is ever quite finished it seems; Tom’s mind is constantly working.

As for pitching the products to Lord Sugar, he admits he’s had his knockbacks. Frustratingly, one imagines, he’s suggested ideas that have later gone to market by other companies. He shrugs it off good-naturedly, as though it’s simply one of many ideas in the pipeline. But much like on The Apprentice, it sounds like if you get to a valid point in quick time, you’re onto something with the boss: it’ll soon be stacked on those shelves. And as Pellereau packs up his briefcase of goodies, you can quite imagine the excitement around HQ when word comes from the inventor that he’s had a new idea…

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To be first to find out more about the make-up brush cleaner and when it goes on sale, subscribe on the Stylfile website.You can pick up a Gel Remover Kit from Tesco.