Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 2pm

The Apprentice Winners Ranked: Who Had the Best Business Idea?

Lord Sugar and Dr Leah Tatton: Wikimedia Commons, Joeeddy8

On Sunday night, Sian Gabbidon became the latest entrepreneur to be crowned champion of The Apprentice by Lord Sugar.

Sian’s Sian Marie Fashion brand is just the latest in a string of business ideas to receive investment from the show. Since a major overhaul of the show’s format in 2011, the winner has been awarded with a £250,000 business investment, meaning nine start-ups have now received some of Lord Sugar’s cash (last year he chose two winners, a decision which still doesn’t make any sense if we’re being honest).

However, it’s fair to say not every winner has had a great business idea. Would you have invested your time and money into some of these ideas?

9. Joseph Valente (2015)

Why, WHY Joseph Valente did you think the nation needs more boilers and heaters? We’ll give him some credit, his plumbing company ImpraGas does cover quite a few areas (mainly in the east – sorry northerners!), but how did he think this would be the big business deal of the century?

All the oldies already have their boilers, and I’m telling you no one under the age of 30 has ever bought one.

He’s at the bottom of our investment list for two reasons:

1)      His self-assurance. After reading Lord Sugar’s autobiography at 22, Joseph said he “always knew I was going to work with Lord Sugar”. I mean, come on.

2)      It’s only been three years and Lord Sugar has already parted ways with Joseph and his plumbers. Although it was an amicable split, we’re guessing the business can’t have been that great if Lord Sugar has cut his losses already.

Valente has since said he feels he can take the company further under his own instruction now he’s learned what he can from Lord Sugar. Can someone say cocky?

8. James White (2017)

Why have one winner when you can have two? Said no major competition ever. However, the ‘hiring’ of both Sarah Lynn and James White in 2017 was a major plot twist – the first (and hopefully the last) time it’s ever happened on the show.

White added his investment share to his recruitment agency Right Time Recruitment. This investment frustrates me as there are SO many recruitment agencies out there. We don’t need any more!

Under a year after winning a spot as Lord Sugar’s business partner, James has already got himself into hot water with the main man himself. Earlier this year, video emerged of a female stripper in the Right Time Office – not a smart move on company property.

The company has also reportedly showed a £30,000 loss in the first six months after James joined forces with Lord Sugar. For these reasons, we think the dream could soon be over for James.

7. Sarah Lynn (2017)

The second winner of the double hiring is Sarah Lynn, whose winning business plan was to develop her company, ‘Sweets in the City.’

I love sweets as much as the next person; there’s something really fun and delicious about having sweets as an adult – but is anyone else getting a sense of déjà vu? I feel as though the idea of sweets in a jar or a box has been done many times before.

But Lord Sugar described her as a ‘fantastic expert in her field,’ so perhaps he knows something we don’t.

6. Alana Spencer (2016)

Cake, cake, cake, and more cake is the aim of the game at “Ridiculously Rich by Alana”. Which we need to speak about – would you know right away the business was all about baked goods? At first glance it feels a little pretentious, but what would I know.

She may have won over the boardroom with her sweet plan for her business, but even a spoonful of sugar can’t fix everything (Mary Poppins Returns is out soon, if you’ll pardon the reference). In 2017 some of her cakes we recalled due to a labelling mishap – which Alana said left her mortified.

However, things seem to be on the up now as she recently launched new venture “Cakepreneurs” with Lord Sugar. Bakers pay a £150 membership fee and get to sell baked goods to wholesalers across the country.

5. Mark Wright (2014)

No, the TOWIE reality TV star hasn’t decided to pursue a career in digital marketing (although we’re sure Australian-born Mark Wright wouldn’t be disappointed with the comparison), so we should probably give him more credit than that.

Wright used his winning investment money to start his own digital marketing agency, Climb Online. In all honesty, maybe this is a personal gripe, but I think we’ve probably already got enough digital marketing agencies too. Between this and recruitment agencies, Apprentice winners don’t seem to be full of unique ideas.

However – despite my own aggro – Mark is said to be the most successful of all Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice business partners. But I do find this hard to believe when we have an inventor and doctor on the list. The plot thickens…

4. Sian Gabbidon (2018)

This year’s champ earned her spot as Lord Sugar’s new apprentice for her fashion line ‘Sian Marie Fashion,’ despite experts in the field saying the swimwear market was ‘saturated’. But anyway, Lord Sugar MUST know what he’s doing.

Sian is a young, fashionable businesswoman who before entering The Apprentice already had a successful business model which included Instagram influencers promoting her range. She also promotes her range on her personal Instagram.

But in all honesty, can you picture Lord Sugar parading around in a skimpy bikini showing off the reversible designs? That’s definitely NSFW.

3. Ricky Martin (2012)

We know what you’re thinking – no, the singer isn’t ‘livin’ la vida loca’ at Lord Sugar’s side. The Apprentice’s Ricky Martin apparently chose the ‘stage name’ to emulate the singer.

Since being crowned the winner of The Apprentice in June 2012, it’s safe to say the now multi-millionaire put his £250,000 prize money to good use, successfully setting up his own global science and technology recruitment agency: Hyper Recruitment Solutions (HRS).

The fact the former pro-wrestler referred to himself as the ‘reflection of perfection’ proves he’s definitely enough of an egotistical character to make his business go all the way. No matter what.

But, in September this year, HRS announced it’s looking at an expansion into Europe as the group reached £1m in profits. I can feel the bitter energy coursing through my veins.

2. Leah Totton (2013)

She’s blonde, she takes pride in her appearance, and she’s raking in the big bucks through aesthetically enhancing others with low self-confidence. Doctor Barbie has arrived.

Five years on from winning The Apprentice, Irish doctor Leah Totton has enjoyed quite a bit of success with Dr Leah Cosmetic Skin Clinics, but with the market and the clients she caters for I’m not surprised.

Leah is said to be the celebrity cosmetic doctor of choice to the UK’s elite. Because why should ordinary people with low self-esteem be your clients when you can hang out with the rich and famous instead?

She’s also the anti-ageing skin columnist for the London Evening Standard and a leading spokesperson for safety in the non-surgical cosmetic industry. Looks like Dr Totton had a game plan, and she’s executed it perfectly.

1. Tom Pellereau 2011

Former engineering student Tom was the first ever winner of the £250,000 investment prize – quite the accolade in itself.

But how, tell me HOW, did self-confessed ‘geek’ Tom win with a curved nail file called the Stylfile? Lord Sugar must have spotted something in him though, as ‘Inventor Tom’ now runs a successful beauty accessories company, AVENTom, with Lord Sugar.

Tom has since offered the beauty world several other inventions, including a make-up brush cleaner, a collapsible baby bottle, and more.

Although a savvy businessman, Tom also knows what the people want, saying: “I love inventing products to make people’s lives better”. A nice guy AND someone who knows his way around the boardroom – I wonder if he needs a new assistant?!

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Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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