HR & Management

The Apprentice: The most successful recruits to have worked with Alan Sugar

12 min read

13 October 2015

Former deputy editor

The Apprentice returns to TV screens on the evening of the 14 October, and you can bet that Alan Sugar will be equipped with a series of insults to hurl at candidates desperate to win his approval – and money. As such, we've tracked down the most successful winners and runners-up to see where they are now.

The format of The Apprentice has changed somewhat over the years. Originally, the programme aired on BBC Two but its popularity saw the show promoted to BBC One for the third series onwards.

Additionally, contestants on seasons one to six were battling to win the £100,000 a year role of Sugar’s “apprentice” at Amstrad or one of his other companies, though series seven changed the prize to that of a £250,000 investment in a business idea – granting Sugar a 50 per cent stake.

2005: Tim Campbell

Tim Campbell was the winner of the Beeb’s first series of The Apprentice back in 2005, which cemented his position with Sugar. Prior to applying he worked for the London Underground as a senior planner in the strategy department.

Given his background, Campbell was named a project director to market an anti-wrinkle cream for Amstrad’s health and beauty division and, while his one-year contract was extended, he quit a year later in 2007 to spread his wings on his own.

He went on to create the Bright Ideas Trust, a social enterprise that nurtures young aspiring entrepreneurs by providing access to finance, mentors and professional services. Interestingly, the primary focus of Bright Ideas, which bills itself as a charity, is to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Campbell also received the MBE for Enterprise Culture in 2012 and was named London’s ambassador for training and enterprise by Boris Johnson, and the UK government secretary of state’s enterprise advisor by Vince Cable MP.

2006: Michelle Dewberry

The show’s second winner Michelle Dewberry had an appetite for enterprise from a young age, claiming to have worked three jobs and read business books while her friends were chasing boys. Seemingly, it’s that attitude that lea to her success on The Apprentice.

Before winning the approval of Sugar, Dewberry specialised in technical management and was headhunted telecoms firm Tiscali during a time of operational change that she oversaw, which prompted her to develop her own business transformation consultancy.

Having completed a year with Sugar, even less time than Campbell’s stint, Dewberry has consulted for the likes of Royal Mail and also young entrepreneurs in government support. She currently has a weekly slot on Sky News and ITV’s Good Morning Britain, where she can be found discussing business and politics.

Read more on The Apprentice:

2008: Lee McQueen

Having won series four, Lee McQueen was a recruitment consultant veteran with ten years of industry experience. He infamously called in sick on his first day to work for Sugar but went on to become the development director of then-new Amscreen division with Sugar’s son Simon, the CEO.

When leaving the business after a two-year stint to launch his own venture, Lord Sugar commended McQueen for his “important contribution” to the business. McQueen decided to harness his strengths and experience in recruitment, now charged up with experience of The Apprentice, to open the Raw Talent Academy.

The company has won awards for Young Business Person and Small Business, and prides itself on “unearthing hidden sales talent, showcasing their ability and nurturing success”.

Raw Talent works partners and helps them to look beyond degrees and qualifications to see if candidates have what it takes to thrive in real sales environments.

Continue reading on the next page to discover the most successful candidates from the new format of the show.

2011: Tom Pellereau

Tom Pellereau, otherwise known as Inventor Tom on Twitter, was the first of the winners to benefit from the new revamp, which saw The Apprentice receive a £250,000 venture investment from Sugar in exchange for a 50 per cent stake in the business.

His company Stylfile launched in 2012 and it specialises in curved nail clippers and files, which are designed to follow the natural curve of finger nails.

The grooming venture was created by Pellereau with the help of his Masters in Mechanical Engineering with Innovation and Design – his sister is really responsible for his success, however, as he got the idea from watching her file her nails the traditional way.

The Styfile products can now be found in Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Asda, Tesco and Boots, while Pellereau has a number of other ventures tied to his name including Ethical Goods, Mode Diagnostics and more.

2012: Ricky Martin

Essex-based Ricky Martin was the chosen one in series eight of The Apprentice – though it’s unclear whether Sugar was simply terrified of Martin. After all, the 2012 winner’s alter ego is Ricky Hype, a result of his status as a professional wrestler prior to starting on the BBC show.

Keeping the name alive to an extent after winning, Martin, who is a qualified biochemist, put his scientific recruitment experience to use with the launch of Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS).

The specialist firm targets mid to senior-level hires for the science and technology sector globally and, while The Apprentice and backing of Sugar help, Martin’s mixed experience and knowledge are driving the company forward.

And instead of jumping off of top ropes, he can be found flexing his vocal muscles as a speaker at educational institutions, where he promotes employment in science.

2013: Leah Totton 

Former NHS doctor Leah Totton didn’t come equipped with a business background but that didn’t stop her from being named the third person to receive £250,000 from Sugar to launch a cosmetic clinic.

The Dr. Leah Skin Clinic venture, which has Moorgate as its debut location, offers everything from anti-ageing treatments to laser hair removal to lip enhancements to fat reductions. 

Speaking to Real Business earlier in 2015, Totton said Sugar was very hands-on and useful when it came to tracking down a property, and also assists with media management.

“Accessibility is a key aspect of what I wanted to do. Harley Street clinics are archaic in a sense, and for us we are a young and fresh brand. I want to bring the cosmetic sector into modern times – that is one way we will beat our competitors and help customers,” she said.

2013: Luisa Zissman

It’s fair to say that The Apprentice candidates become reality TV celebrities and nobody has capitalised on this quite as much as 2013 runner-up Luisa Zissman – essentially showcasing her business acumen to make the transition.

While her online baking venture didn’t secure investment from Sugar, Zissman has harnessed her status from the show to launch the Bakers Toolkit, which is now branded The Baker Shop, at the Cake International Show in Birmingham in late 2013 anyway.

She also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother 2014 and boasts 569,000 followers on Twitter. 

2014: Mark Wright

The most recent winner of The Apprentice, Mark Wright took home £250,000 from Sugar in 2014 for digital marketing agency Climb Online, which specialises in paid search and SEO.

Aged just 24 when he won, Wright comes from a sales management background and claims to have “no bad business skills” – good news for business partner Sugar then.

The duo have built a team of marketing strategists, SEO experts and data analysts to generate significant returns for clients. Climb Online claims that it’s easy to forget the human touch as businesses rely on tech in today’s market, which is why it provides clients with access to staff when they want it.

“When Lord Sugar pointed at me and said ‘Mark you’re going to be my business partner’ my life changed forever. Lord Sugar is a business inspiration and a role model to me personally. My dream has always been to become a successful business person. Who better to learn from than the best?,” Wright said.

“Climb Online is a vision I have had for many years. The Apprentice has given me a chance to show what I can do and build a company from nothing. I have no doubt in my mind, that we will be the go-to business for Online Marketing success. Climb Online’s great culture combined with great products is an unstoppable force in our industry. Here we go!”