In Depth

The Apprentice: where are the past winners?

The Week looks back at the successes (and failures) of Lord Sugar’s previous candidates

The 14th series of The Apprentice ended last night, as swimwear designer Sian Gabbidon beat rival Camilla Ainsworth to become Lord Sugar’s new business partner.

In the final showdown, the 26-year-old from Leeds impressed the business mogul with her reversible swimwear company, winning the competition and £250,000 investment ahead of nut milk maker Ainsworth.

The BBC says it is Lord Sugar’s first investment in a fashion business in the show’s history - and his decision proved popular with the public.

“Those watching at home were particularly impressed with how Sian held her own in the boardroom after Camilla attacked her brand for ‘not being on anyone’s radar’ after three years of business,” says Radio Times.

The Metro reports that Sugar is signed up to appear on at least three more seasons of the show “following the success of the former candidates”.

So just what has happened to the show’s previous winners?

Sarah Lynn and James White (2017)

Almost eight million people tuned in to last year’s final of The Apprentice where Sugar pulled out the ultimate plot-twist by partnering up with both finalists, Sarah Lynn and James White.

The businessman said he “genuinely couldn't decide” between sweet firm owner Lynn, 35, and White, 26, who ran an IT recruitment company, the BBC reports. As a result, “both candidates receive a £250,000 business investment and 50/50 partnership with Lord Sugar, who called them ‘fantastically skilled people’”. 

Since their joint victory, James has “ploughed his money into his business Right Time Recruitment”, while Sarah’s Sweets in the City firm has “gone from strength to strength”, says The Sun

Alana Spencer (2016)

Alana Spencer baked her way into Sugar’s heart to win the 2016 series. The Welsh businesswoman is “building up a cake empire” with her company Ridiculously Rich by Alana, according to the Daily Mail

Spencer, from Aberystwyth, relaunched her cake business last year, with the help of Sugar’s investment. She still speaks to him regularly and has said that it’s “really helpful to have his vision as well and his guidance”. 

Alana also stays in touch with former Apprentice contestants including Grainne McCoy, Frances Bishop and Courtney Wood, who helped her launch a YouTube baking channel. She appeared briefly on the 2017 season of the show to offer advice to candidates.

Joseph Valente (2015)

Valente was always a man after Sugar’s heart – both are self-made. The series 11 contestant built up his own plumbing business after being expelled from school at 15. After narrowly edging out co-finalist Vana Koutsomitis, Valente used Sugar’s £250,000 investment to expand his gas and heating business, ImpraGas. He told This is Money that the funds had enabled him to take on more staff, update technology and open four more offices around the UK.

Valente split from Sugar to take full control of ImpraGas – but they parted on friendly terms, and Valente mentor would still be getting advice from this mentor, the BBC reported last year. 

Mark Wright (2014)

All is going well for 2014 winner and sales manager Mark Wright. He used his investment money to start Climb Online, which uses digital marketing to help small businesses grow. Climb Online was set to turn over an impressive £5m at the end of its second year, The Sun reported in 2016.

Leah Totton (2013)

Glamorous Irish doctor Leah Totten crushed the competition in 2013 and used Sugar’s investment to open a cosmetic clinic offering bespoke facials, Botox and wrinkle reduction. They remain on good terms and Sugar has visited the clinic several times – although, Totten told the Daily Express, never for a treatment. 

In 2016, The Sun said Totton was briefly dating another Apprentice winner, Mark Wright, but the two split over clashing schedules.

Ricky Martin (2012)

Wrestler-turned-recruitment-entrepreneur Ricky Martin won Sugar’s support with his idea for a specialist recruitment company for science and technology jobs. He runs Hyper Recruitment Solutions and speaks at schools and conferences about careers in science. In December 2016, Business Reporter said Martin’s business was “on track” to make £10m revenue within a year.

Tom Pellereau (2011)

The Apprentice changed its format slightly in series seven, with contestants competing for a £250,000 investment from Sugar. Inventor Tom Pellereau hit on a winner with his idea for a curved nail file, now stocked by major supermarkets, and continues to come up with new ideas. In 2015, he sold 36,000 diamante-encrusted VIP versions on QVC in 24 minutes, Radio Times said.

Stella English (2010)

Stella English beat the competition – including the highly quotable Stuart Baggs, who later died from an asthma attack – only to have it all go south in dramatic style. Investment banker English claimed the coveted Amstrad role was a “glorified PA” job and filed a claim for constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal. She lost, and Sugar sued her to recover his costs – but his case was not successful either. English joined crowdfunding TV channel Crowd Box.

Yasmina Siadatan (2009)

Yasmina Siadatan took first place in a tight final round, going on to work for Amstrad’s medical supply division. After her year-long contract ended, she gave birth to two children and was headhunted by Dragon’s Den judge James Caan to work for his private equity firm. She has run as a Tory candidate for council. In 2016, she spoke about her half-brother, who left Britain to join Islamic State in Syria, and said she had lost touch with him five years earlier. 

Lee McQueen (2008)

Lee McQueen, a milkman’s son, was caught fibbing on his CV about the time he’d spent at university, but still won. He had an inauspicious start at Amstrad, calling in sick on his first day, but ended up staying at the company until 2010, when he left to start his own sales training company, Raw Talent Academy.

Simon Ambrose (2007)

Former Westminster schoolboy Simon Ambrose romped home to victory and was assigned to Sugar’s property division, Amsprop, where he worked until 2010. More recently, he operated a string of bars and restaurants in London, as well as chairing the London Contemporary Orchestra.

Michelle Dewberry (2006)

Yorkshire’s Michelle Dewberry earned the nickname “Silent Assassin” for her understated but tough demeanour, which ultimately saw her triumph. After 11 months working for Sugar, she left Amstrad to work as a self-employed consultant and regular pundit on Sky News.

Tim Campbell (2005)

After becoming the first Apprentice winner, the Middlesex University graduate worked for Sugar for two years before leaving Amstrad to found a charity. The Bright Ideas Trust aims to help entrepreneurs aged 16 to 30 fulfil their dreams of starting a business. Campbell received an MBE in 2012. He also runs a company offering tips on how to market products online.

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