Interviews

The Apprentice 2018, Episode 12 review - What “real” entrepreneurs think of the candidates this week

11 min read

17 December 2018

What do the entrepreneurs operating outside of the show think of Sugar's latest and greatest?

The Apprentice has come to a close. It took us on quite the ride, offering puns, one-liners and out of touch, cringe-worthy comments from the candidates throughout.

There was plenty of the routine explosive arguments and shameless backstabbing in the boardroom too.

We saw candidates create branding materials for a brand new budget airline, build an urban garden and have a go at flogging paintings.

These activities were meant to showcase skill, leadership and teamwork – and two candidates had these in abundance according to Lord Sugar’s choices at the end of each episode.

Nut milk queen Camilla Ainsworth made it to the final with swimwear designer Sian Gabbidon.

Perhaps due to failing to grasp the inappropriateness of some of her branding, Ainsworth was knocked out of the running.

But does Gabbidon deserve to be crowned the latest Apprentice in the eyes of entrepreneurs? We found out.

Paul Rowlett, CEO/Founder – EverythingBranded.co.uk

At last, the FINAL. Or possibly, Kurran TV! The grand knockout tournament between the ladies from the North was for me, eclipsed by Kurran’s chance to shine at last.

Like a cat with the cream, Kurran was chosen by Sian – long before the teams were fully picked as well. Responding to her invitation “C’mon Kurran”, our Bollywood Diva flicked his fringe and grasped the nettle.

He grew a good 4 inches in height throughout the process, directing Sian’s swimwear ad like the pro he was, with instructions to the cameraman along the lines of “Don’t listen to them, just me”. 

The result was a nice looking 30 seconds featuring Kurran’s dream yacht, sadly with very little in the way of product information. But it was a good go. Bless him.

“Sian believed in me” he said, beaming, even though her initial suggestion that he was sub-team leader was met with howls of objection and Sian was forced to choose grim Jasmine instead, who to be fair, did not deliver.

Sian’s instructions were very clear. Her swimwear model should have wet hair and the background must be plain to showcase the product. Jasmine ignored these instructions when supervising the Gif and the result was, as Sian commented, “absolutely sh•te”.

Lesson: sometimes all it takes for an employee to shine is for them to feel supported. Jasmine was second choice as sub-leader and must have felt a little sidelined. Kurran as the first choice produced by far the best ad on his tsunami of rapture.

Predictably, Sian won. Her presentation was professional, prepared and polished. She had rehearsed her pitch meticulously and demonstrated that she was a talented designer who knew her market. Her people management style was calm and measured throughout and the industry big guns were clearly impressed.

Camilla, our sex-daft nut milk queen, operated rather differently. She immediately picked Daniel for her team, probably more for the craic than any useful input.

The branding brainstorm produced some understandable locker-room banter around the connotations of a ‘nut’ product, with Camilla dismissing suggestions with the phrase “No, I’ve been told not to do that”, even vetoing the strapline ‘Wipe your nuts’ as a step too far.

It would have been heartwarming to see Camilla grasp the point – so often made – that the tendency towards desperate sleaze was inappropriate, rather than verboten. 

Her consumer focus sample decried the packaging theme as being ‘too cow-inspired’ for a vegan product and when this was reported Camilla failed to see this as relevant to her pitch. Kayode (hands-down star of the Gif) even saw this as a positive, repeatedly exclaiming that the design was ‘sort of like a cow, innit’ which triggered smugness all around.

No-one made the connection between this and the typical evangelism of the vegan consumer.

In fact, it turned out to be absolutely crucial to the pitch, and the big retailers picked up on it at once. Lesson – listen carefully to your focus group feedback, it reflects a vital first impression. 

Both Camilla’s branding team and her production team seemed deeply disappointed in each other’s efforts, with jaws dropping all around, which was a shame. Camilla’s major mistake was not fully researching her costings.

Offering a premium product, albeit one with 100% endorsement for taste, needs a thorough understanding of what the profit margin will be, and Camilla’s declaration that she would sell a product retailing at £3.00 to national supermarkets for £1.85 per unit cost price was woeful.

In my opinion, it was this glaring omission which lost her the final. Prepare, research, prepare!

Stacey MacNaught, Content Marketing Consultant

Stacey MacNaught - Content Marketing Consultant

My opinion before the final was that Camilla had the better product and Sian is the stronger candidate.

The final didn’t change that. I still feel as though Camilla’s product is excellent. And yes, there might be some work to do on the branding, but a high nut content vegan-friendly milk alternative certainly, in my view, has a place in a growing market.

I do feel as though, regardless of not winning, her product will make it to market one way or another – albeit with different packaging, I’d expect.

But Sian, the ultimate winner, has a decent product too, some incredible talent for design and a real passion and zest for what she does.

She has been so focussed throughout the whole series, consistently exhibiting her ability to diplomatically raise and address concerns and to retain a professional level head throughout.

She demonstrated in the final that she has a real flair for design and is strong in marketing the product too.

Where she falls down is in, perhaps, her naivety towards the whole process of manufacturing the product at any sort of real scale.

But that’s where Lord Sugar comes in and I think the fact that her gaps are ones he has real experience in probably played a part in the final decision.

Both contestants were strong in the final and Lord Sugar’s comment that he felt he had “the best two” in the final is warranted.

The only unfortunate element of the performance of both of them was the bickering at the end.

Why not just focus on the strengths of your own brand and proposition instead of turning it into a juvenile debate over someone else’s weaknesses? I think that let them both down a touch.

But did the right candidate win? I think so. What a close call though. And what a great series.

Martin Talbot, Group Director – Total Jobs

What did the winner do well?

Sian was the obvious and deserved winner of last night’s final, despite her spending the first 15 minutes of the episode struggling to choose a name for her brand.

However, in the remaining 45 minutes of the episode, she delivered a masterclass in leadership, creativity and self-belief.

Sian’s enthusiasm for her brand shone through throughout the episode, be it in her pitch to industry professionals or organising her sub-team.

Importantly, however, she had the business and creative smarts to deliver on her passion, ultimately leading to victory in the boardroom.

What did the loser do badly?

Nevertheless, both candidates clearly listened to the feedback they had previously received and made effort to adapt accordingly; something which is imperative in the workplace.

Camilla’s nut-milk brand, while slightly incohesive, was intelligently designed with industry trends in mind.

She did seem to falter slightly when it came down to the ‘nutty’ gritty in her pitch. She seemed too tied up in her ideas about the aesthetics of her brand, rather than being fully prepared for the speech.

What are the key takeaways from the episode?

  • If your skills and knowledge are up to scratch, your passion can do most of the talking.
  • A great brand identity is one of the most important aspects of running a business, but it becomes irrelevant if you can’t deliver on the more technical side of business. Make sure to be fully prepared for each aspect of your work, not just the ones that seem to be the most important!