The Apprentice: Season 7 preview

It’s back! Less than five months after the last General Election-delayed run, season seven of The Apprentice is less than a week away. Which means we have 16 more of Britain’s brightest business brains – stop laughing at the back! – competing for the right to have their sordid past dragged through the tabloid press. Or something like that.

This year, however, there is one important change to the format. Instead of the winner being awarded a £100,000 job in one of Lord Alan Sugar‘s companies, they will instead receive a £250,000 cash investment to fund their own business. As Sugar himself says:

I’m going to inject £250,000 worth of cash and value into a business, your business, and you’re going to run it. And I say you’re going to run it because don’t expect me to be doing all the work because I’m not looking for a ‘sleeping’ partner. I’m not Saint Alan, the patron saint of bloody losers. You can look at it as a bit of an uncivil partnership, so to speak.

This difference has already manifested itself in the candidates’ published profiles, with more focus being placed on their entrepreneurial credentials – paper rounds, washing cars, that sort of thing – than their business achievements. More than ever, this is not a competition for competent corporate managers who are happy to plough the middle path and not stick their neck out.

In other respects, though, the show is unchanged. We will be treated to the usual array of business-on-a-shoestring tasks, focussing primarily on the candidates’ selling, buying, negotiating and leadership skills, with the occasional sprinkling of more creative tasks. Sugar, ‘Britain’s most belligerent boss’, is back as ever with his awkwardly delivered jokes and soundbites. Vice-chairman of West Ham, Karren Brady, will be one pair of eyes and ears following the teams around on their various misadventures. And the real star of the show, Nick Hewer, the man with more facial expressions than the Eskimos have words for snow, also returns with his withering put-downs.

So, the scene is set. Next week’s opening task sees the two teams tasked with investing £250 in fruit and vegetables and competing to see who can deliver the best return in one day. Who will be the next Saira Khan, Ruth Badger, Katie Hopkins or Stuart ‘The Brand’ Baggs? And who will we have already forgotten by this time next week? Here is a quick run-down of our 16 candidates.

Alex Britez Cabral

Who is he?: A 28-year old estate agent manager from London.

Background: Motorbike enthusiast Alex describes himself as “ambitious, driven, and extremely focussed”. His first job was making tea in a small estate agents before becoming a thriving agent himself. His greatest achievement is taking a business losing money and turning it around to a fast growing profitable business within twelve months. He also claims that “if you are successful, you are unpopular, so unpopularity is a good thing.”

Most likely to: Spend so much time closing the best possible deal that he loses sight of the big picture.

He says:

I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. I’m intelligent, driven, ambitious.

What he really means:

I may be an estate agent, but I’m nothing like Pants-Man Philip Taylor.

Lord Sugar will say:

You’re certainly not going to win any popularity contest, that’s for sure. But it don’t blahhdy matter if you win this competition, does it?

Edna Agbarha

Who is she?: A 36-year old business psychologist from London.

Background: One of ten siblings, Edna worked as a teenager on her uncle’s Covent Garden market stall before becoming a business psychologist and coach. She holds a degree in Psychology and two Master’s degrees – cue comments about the Three Degrees and her resemblance to Sheila Ferguson – and enjoys cycling in her free time.

Most likely to: Be the candidate who stops a task to have a heart-to-heart discussion about how everybody is feeling.

She says:

I’m the type of person who likes to get to the root cause of the problem.

What she really means:

Especially if that means I can pin the blame on someone else.

Lord Sugar will say:

I’m not interested in your psychology mumbo-jumbo. Thinking about feelings never made anyone a profit.

Edward Hunter

Who is he?: A 25-year old accountant from Reading.

Background: Half-British, half-Afghan, Edward worked as a gardener at the age of 12. After university he joined a global professional services firm as a senior associate in the audit team before becoming an accountant at a major energy company.

Most likely to: Be entrusted with the calculator, and then make a catastrophic costing error.

He says:

I’m the wheeler-dealer who accidentally became a finance professional.

What he really means:

I’m Del Boy in a suit and tie.

Lord Sugar will say:

You’re an accountant, right? Something about you doesn’t add up.

Ellie Reed

Who is she?: A 33-year old managing director from Yorkshire.

Background: The Bradford-born entrepreneur started with a paper round and eventually started a new business during a recession. The golf lover describes herself as “positive, fun and driven”.

Most likely to: Be the candidate with the shortest fuse, blowing her top at team members who aren’t pulling their weight and thereby alienating herself from the other candidates. Sugar will probably love her, though.

She says:

I’m just a nice person really, but I have got a dark side if somebody treats me badly.

What she really means: 

Don’t mess with me. Like the Incredible Hulk, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Lord Sugar will say: 

You’re so abrasive I could use you to sandpaper my blahhdy furniture.

Felicity Jackson

Who is she?: A 23-year old creative arts entrepreneur from London.

Background: Felicity worked at a hairdresser’s as a teenager before going into children’s entertainment – something involving a garish suit and size 19 shoes, perhaps? – and then setting up her own company specialising in career development for actors. A trained actress, Felicity compares herself to Kanya King (founder of the MOBO Awards) and is inspired by the T-Mobile brand (eh?)

Most likely to: Insist on a group hug before her losing team goes into the boardroom.

She says:

Lord Sugar will find it difficult to get a word in because I’m very chatty.

What she really means:

If I keep talking, maybe he won’t have time to say “You’re fired.”

Lord Sugar will say:

Do you ever shut up? You’ve got more rabbit than Watership Down.

Gavin Winstanley

Who is he?: A 27-year old optician’s managing director from Liverpool.

Background: Gavin worked as a salesman at a high street clothing store and was made a manager at the tender age of 16. A passionate football fan, he started up his own online optician’s business, which now has two high street stores.

Most likely to: Make sporting analogies about teamwork and focussing on their goals, and then punch the air shouting “Back of the net!” every time he registers a success.

He says:

I’ve done it all, I’ve been the best at everything I’ve ever done.

What he really means:

I’m already a successful entrepreneur, so I’m doing this for a laugh to show the world how great I am.

Lord Sugar will say:

For someone who works in the optician’s business, you’re awfully short-sighted.

Glenn Ward

Who is he?: A 28-year old senior design engineer from Hertfordshire.

Background: Glenn took apart and rebuilt a computer aged eight, and he began washing cars in his local area at 14. An amateur footballer, Glenn cites Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as his inspiration and describes himself as “an intelligent man with a dry sense of humour” who can “read between the lines”.

Most likely to: Bore the pants off everyone.

He says:

To be honest, I am pretty great.

What he really means:

I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about myself.

Lord Sugar will say:

I saw this film once about a computer geek called The Matrix. There was a character in it who was nicknamed ‘The One’. You’re not him.

Helen Louise Milligan

Who is she?: A 30-year old CEO’s executive assistant from Northumberland.

Background: Helen describes herself as “calm, loyal and tenacious”. She enjoys reading and swimming, studied law at university and rose from being a part-time waitress to managing a restaurant, before landing her role as Executive Assistant to the CEO of Greggs bakery. Which is kind of an odd career path for a law graduate, don’t you think? (And does anyone else remember the last lawyer to appear on the show, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown?)

Most likely to: Obey the rules and play things safe.

She says:

I don’t think there’s anything that I set my mind to that I haven’t achieved.

What she really means:

I only ever set goals for myself that I know I can achieve.

Lord Sugar will say:

Setting up your own business is all about taking risks. I don’t want an Apprentice who plays by the rules and is afraid to take risks.

Jim Eastwood

Who is he?: A 32-year old sales and marketing manager from Northern Ireland.

Background: Jim started in his father’s fish and chip shop chipping potatoes from the age of nine and went on to become a top-performing Sales and Marketing Manager. He was All-Ireland cycling champion as a teenager, idolises Richard Branson and describes himself as “driven, self-motivated, resilient and an eternal optimist”.

Most likely to: Drive himself into the ground on his first through-the-night task.

He says:

I’m charismatic, creative, consistent with impeccable integrity.

What he really means:

I will find new ways to stab you in the back, but I’ll do it with a smile.

Lord Sugar will say:

On your bike.

Leon Doyle

Who is he?: A 26-year old fast food entrepreneur from Leeds.

Background: A former paper boy and lorry driver, Leon survived a near fatal fall from a tree aged 12 and has completed the Great North Run for charity. He founded an online takeaway ordering site and publishing business, and is inspired by Richard Branson and Apple. In his distinctly public school tones, he says he would love to go head-to-head with the best sales and marketing people in the UK, but doesn’t want to “smash his way” through his fellow candidates. This year’s token posh bloke.

Most likely to: Try to convince his team-mates with sensible, rational arguments, and be completely trampled by them.

He says:

I’d be surprised if people had done the same thing as me in a year period.

What he really means:

I’ve just had gender reassignment surgery/been released from prison/just returned from Haiti where I rebuilt 30 homes with my bare hands (delete as applicable).

Lord Sugar will say:

You’re a nice guy. The Dalai Lama is a nice guy. Mother Teresa was nice. But the business world is not a nice place, and ‘nice’ just doesn’t cut it.

Melody Hossaini

Who is she?: A 26-year old founder and director of a global youth consultancy from the Midlands.

Background: Born in Iran, Melody lived in three different countries before settling in the UK. She speaks five languages, set up a UK youth organisation at the age of 13 and has won the Woman of the Future award for her voluntary work. She has previously worked with 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners including Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama, Shirin Ebadi and was trained on climate change by Al Gore. Name-dropper.

Most likely to: Be the one candidate who refuses to sacrifice her morals in the pursuit of profit.

She says:

I want to be more than just average, average was never good enough for me.

What she really means:

I’m only average.

Lord Sugar will say:

Your re-soo-may says you speak five languages. So tell me, what’s the French for “You’re fired”?

Natasha Scribbins

Who is she?: A 31-year old divisional recruitment manager from London.

Background: German-born Natasha earned just four GCSEs but went on to gain a degree in International Hospitality Management. She cleaned the bakeries of a major retail chain at 15 before venturing into business. She is inspired by the Nike brand for their representation of women in sport. She claims to be in your face, manipulative (in a good way, apparently) and ruthless. The world of HR has previously given us the fluffy but utterly hopeless Jo Cameron. Natasha is clearly positioning herself to be this year’s Uber-Bitch™. And there’s the first nailed-on nickname of this season.

Most likely to: Be found bound and gagged by her fellow team members after her first stint as project manager.

She says:

I’m tenacious, I’m charming, I’m witty.

What she really means:

I’m none of the above.

Lord Sugar will say:

You’re so cold even polar bears put on their coats when you’re around.

Susan Ma

Who is she?: A 21-year old natural skincare entrepreneur from Croydon.

Background: Born in Shanghai, Susan moved to Australia at the age of six before settling in London aged 13. Despite her mother having no grasp of English, Susan succeeded in getting herself into a school despite her young age and went on to study Philosophy and Economics at university. Her first job was working on a market stall selling skin care products, which she has now turned into a lucrative business. She comes across as a real team player who wants to hear everyone’s views – a sure-fire recipe for disaster in this environment.

Most likely to: Be the candidate all the others get along with, and the one everyone talks over in group meetings.

She says:

I’m very easy to talk to, I’m very enthusiastic, I’m very easily amused.

What she really means:

What the hell am I doing here with this bunch of muppets?

Lord Sugar will say:

It’s all very well canvassing everyone else’s opinions, but business ain’t no democracy. You have to stand by your own decisions.

Tom Pellereau

Who is he?: A 31-year old inventor from London.

Background: Tom started out working on a farm sorting agricultural bulbs from mud. A keen inventor and sports enthusiast, he succeeded in taking a prototype made in his kitchen to the shelves of two leading pharmacy outlets. He describes himself as “creative, adventurous, loyal and enthusiastic”.

Most likely to: Be his team’s main source of original, off-the-wall ideas, all of which they will reject in favour of something which has been done a million times before.

He says:

I do personally think I have the ability to think differently from other people.

What he really means:

No one will ever agree with me.

Lord Sugar will say:

It’s all very well having brilliant new ideas, but it’s no good if you don’t blahhdy sell them, is it?

Vincent Disneur

Who is he?: A 29-year old telecoms software sales manager from Canterbury.

Background: Half-Belgian, half-Swiss and born in Glasgow, Vincent is a film and theatre buff. A self-confessed show-off and perfectionist, he cites Bill Gates and Richard Branson as role models and would love to have been the brains behind Microsoft. He in no way looks a cross between Raef Bjayou and a modern-day Bond villain.

Most likely to: Speak articulately and clearly while making absolutely no sense whatsoever.

He says:

I have an unprecedented amount of business acumen.

What he really means:

Has anyone ever been on the show with no business acumen whatsoever? That would be unprecedented, right? (Actually, it wouldn’t.)

Lord Sugar will say:

Disneur? That performance was more like Disney.

Zoe Beresford

Who is she?: A 26-year old project manager for a drinks manufacturer from Cheshire.

Background: A farmer’s daughter, Zoe joined her family firm straight from university and played an integral role in the company’s development working in sales and marketing. She bought a house – a doll’s house? – with her sister at the age of just 12. She was also awarded the Rolls-Royce Manufacturing Technology Prize for the highest dissertation mark in the school of engineering, and says “four, five o’clock starts don’t bother me at all”. (Which is pretty much what sleepy-head Stuart Baggs said last year.)

Most likely to: Throw herself into every task with zealous energy.

She says:

I’m immensely driven and I don’t stop until I get what I want.

What she really means:

You’re either with me, or you’d better get the hell out of my way.

Lord Sugar will say:

You’re a hard worker, sure. But so is a donkey.

It’s difficult to get an accurate read on the candidates based on a short pen profile and snippets from the audition videos – and my initial impressions will no doubt be proven 100% wrong by the end of the first episode – but it does appear there are fewer corporate animals and more genuine/would-be entrepreneurs than in previous years. Of course, that may all just be editorial spin. The only way to find out for sure is to tune in. I’ll be here with weekly recaps the day after every episode. Care to join me?

The Apprentice starts on Tuesday 10th May at 9pm on BBC1. The second episode is the following evening, and the series will continue on Wednesdays thereafter.

(All images are courtesy of the official BBC Apprentice website.)

Link: BBC official website

Season six episode reviews

Episode 6.01: Sausages

Episode 6.02: Beach accessory

Episode 6.03: Bakery

Assessing the final 12

Episode 6.04: Selling to trade

Episode 6.05: Fashion

Episode 6.06: Advertising

Episode 6.07: DVD

Would you employ any of the final 8?

Episode 6.08: Crisps

Episode 6.09: Discount buying

What can we learn from the fired candidates?

Episode 6.10: London Tours

Episode 6.11: Interviews

The 20 best moments

Episode 6.12: The final

Whatever happened to the previous Apprentice winners?

Season 1: Tim Campbell

Season 2: Michelle Dewberry

Season 3: Simon Ambrose

Season 4: Lee McQueen

Season 5: Yasmina Siadatan