Button up your suits and pack your wheelie suitcases, because The Apprentice is back for another series of over-ambitious candidates, poorly executed tasks and boardroom showdowns.
Now in its 15th(!) series, the show has had more than its fair share of noteworthy candidates, from Sian Gabbidon to Ricky Martin to, um, Katie Hopkins.
Now all of them have done pretty well since leaving the popular BBC series, but which of these business brains has actually been the most successful? The answer might surprise you…
Series 1: Tim Campbell
Remember Tim? He won The Apprentice all the way back in 2005, back when Lord Sugar was only a Sir and the interview stage was much less glamorous.
Despite making the dangerous move of becoming project manager in the first task, Tim scooped the top prize in series one and had his first year working for Lord Sugar televised in The Apprentice: Tim in the Firing Line.
Since then he has worked for Boris Johnson, been awarded an MBE and founded enterprise charity Bright Ideas Trust.
Series 2: Michelle Dewberry
Michelle beat iconic candidate Ruth Badger to win the second series of The Apprentice back in 2006. However she never actually completed her year working for Lord Sugar, leaving nine months in to start a consultancy firm.
She has since got into politics – she came fourth when she ran as an independent MP candidate in the 2017 general election, and still makes frequent TV appearances debating current affairs and hosting Sky’s The Pledge.
Series 3: Simon Ambrose
Despite a VERY embarrassing trampoline gaffe on a live shopping channel, Cambridge graduate Simon Ambrose went on to become the surprise winner of series three when he beat favourite Kristina Grimes (as well as Katie Hopkins) to the £100,000 job.
He then went on to work with Lord Sugar’s property company Armsprop before going on to launch his very own property development firm in 2010. Though none of his achievements will surely top *that* moment of TV gold…
Series 4: Lee McQueen
Even after fibbing on his CV and showing off his reverse pterodactyl impression in the interview week, Lee McQueen was crowned winner of the fourth series of The Apprentice.
Lee then phoned in sick on his first day(!) working for Lord Sugar, and after two years at Amscreen he launched his own recruitment company Raw Talent Academy.
In the year that brought us Pants Man, James McQuillan and THAT sandalwood miscalculation, Yasmina Siadatan was crowned The Apprentice (despite already owning her own restaurant) and joined Lee at Amscreen Health Care.
She was then headhunted by Dragons Den’s James Caan to work at his recruitment company, and the two later created the Start Up Loans Company. She now works as marketing director at a financial tech company. So that’s two TV business moguls on her CV – not bad at all.
Series 6: Stella English
Although Stella managed to beat Stuart “The Brand” Baggs to The Apprentice title, her time working with Lord Sugar didn’t go smoothly. Although first working for his IT division Viglen, she soon moved to TV service YouView before resigning.
English then sued Sugar for constructive dismissal, but she lost this case and was counter-sued by Sugar. This too was unsuccessful.
She has since had a child with snooker star Ali Carter.
Series 7: Tom Pellereau
Inventor Tom has the worst track record of any Apprentice winner having lost eight tasks and only won three.
However, after his surprise win, Tom and Lord Sugar launched Stylideas, based on his curved nail file invention the Stylfile, and have been expanding the health and beauty range ever since. Other notable inventions include the baby nail clippers, ultra-safe nail polish remover and a speedy make-up brush remover.
Series 8: Ricky Martin
Former wrestler and Total Wipeout champion Ricky Martin (no, not that one) won The Apprentice in 2012, and soon set up specialist recruitment consultancy Hyper Recruitment Solutions.
Ricky is one of the more successful Apprentice winners – he was the first business partner to make £1 million in profits, and he employs 50 staff across three cities including fellow Apprentice candidate Trishna Thakrar until earlier this year.
He even returned to The Apprentice in 2014, but this time as one of the interviewers.
Series 9: Leah Totton
Northern Irish physician Leah won the show in 2013 despite having very little business experience, and after sensibly changing her firm’s name from ‘Niks’, she launched Dr Leah Clinics with Lord Sugar in 2014.
She hasn’t forgotten her NHS roots though: she chose to return to work part-time as an A&E doctor after setting up her business, and continues to split her time between the two.
Series 10: Mark Wright
Despite nearly being thrown off by a severe coughing fit in week 10, entrepreneur Mark Wright (no, not the Essex one) partnered with Lord Sugar to launch digital marketing agency Climb Online. The business has, um, climbed ever since, making a £4 million turnover in 2017 and is looking to expand into South Africa.
Mark hasn’t done too bad personally either – he secured a spot on Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2017, and has received several awards including Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2018 UK business awards.
School expellee and plumber Joseph Valente won the 2015 series after Lord Sugar seemed to see a bit of himself in the young plumber, and the two set up boiler installation company ImpraGas.
However Joseph became the first business partner to split from Lord Sugar, buying out his shares in 2017 and taking full control of the firm. Not that this impacted Valence too badly, though: he has since published a book and ImpraGas has achieved a turnover of £3million, according to Joseph’s LinkedIn.
Series 12: Alana Spencer
Alana launched one of the greatest comebacks in Apprentice history after being in the bottom three the first two weeks and then eventually going on to win the show.
However, Alana became the second business partner to split from Lord Sugar, buying him out of Ridiculously Rich by Alana and flying solo with Sugar’s blessing.
She’s been left with quite the company to run – Ridiculously Rich now supports almost 50 franchisees. The luxury cake business did, however, have to launch a recall in 2017 after incorrect ingredient labelling.
Series 13: Sarah Lynn
After accidentally pitching a company name already exists, Sarah Lynn became one of 2017’s two business partners in a shock double hiring.
Her newly-named firm Sweets in the City produced the personalised gifts Letterbox Treats and now has a range of vegan sweets called Duals available in Waitrose, Holland & Barrett and certain WHSmith stores.
The other half of series 13’s historic £500,000 investment, James White won a share of the prize despite Lord Sugar’s concern about his IT recruitment firm Right Time Recruitment.
White has also become an ambassador for Acorn’s Children’s Hospice.
Series 14: Sian Gabbidon
While perhaps not Claude’s favourite, swimwear designer Sian Gabbidon eventually swiped the top prize in 2018 with her cool and calm demeanour. It’s barely been a year but Sian has since set up her business Sian Marie, and her Tropical Goddess range has been worn by celebrities such as Michelle Keegan and Love Island’s Hayley Hughes.
But the most successful candidate ever is… Susan Ma
Yes, the same Susan Ma who uttered the immortal phrase “Do the French like their children?” has since become a multi-million-pound businesswoman. Despite not actually winning the seventh series of The Apprentice (finishing in third place), Lord Sugar nevertheless invested in her new business Tropic, a vegan skincare company now with annual sales of £22.5million (according to The Times) and recipient of over 100 awards.
Susan was also named one of Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2018.