Winner of 2016’s The Apprentice, Alana Spencer, reveals
how Lord Sugar likes when candidates are ambitious and take risks – but having
an “all or nothing” approach can spell disaster
First of all, I’m very pleased with the two finalists. Carina and Scarlett, they are the two who I thought would make it to the last round. It’s been one of those series where it could have gone in any direction, but I think from last week, it was quite obvious who the two front runners would be.
Lottie could have been the dark horse if she had a good business plan. And she did not. It is an absolute offense to get to that stage in The Apprentice, be such a stand out character (for good and bad reasons in Lottie’s case) and not have a solid plan. The whole reason you go onto The Apprentice is to win an investment with Lord Sugar, and the fact that she didn’t have a good business plan just screams to me that she went on to the show for other motives. She could have simply wanted thrust herself in the public eye or pursue a career in media. If she had genuinely wanted that investment, she would have created the best business plan she could have possibly put forward. When I was on the show in 2016, I spent several days writing my business plan and I had help as well to make sure I brought my best foot forward. When you get to that stage in the competition, you need to be prepared – and she wasn’t. I think that’s the reason she got fired first. Lord Sugar would have recognised at that point that she was not there for business. She was definitely the right person to go first out of the five contestants. It’s almost a bit offensive to not present a good business plan, especially if you’re that far into the competition. So definitely, she was the right person to go first.
With her business plan, I think it was quite native that she only showed her income and no added costs. She didn’t show that she’d require additional expenses for running her events – so she would be operating at a 100% profit apparently. That was completely naïve and kind of showed her age, being only 19. She hasn’t really showed how young she is throughout the process. But in that little moment, I think it became very obvious how not ready for this she is.
She proposed that she would throw 90 events a year, which is two a week. With my small team, I throw several ambassador events but it takes us months of prep to prepare for just one event. So, to think she could throw two a week on her own with seemingly no staff – I presume she’s not taking wages either as she proposed no outgoings – is just ludicrous.
I slightly felt for Lewis, because I get the impression that maybe hasn’t had much experience with interviews. In his interview with Linda Plant, it all really fell apart with him when she asked him about his experience. At that point in the process, you have to be a bit clever with your answers and not just speak before you think. And I think what he did wrong, was instead of saying “I’ve had this amount of experience in x, y, z…” he just went no. And that is not good enough at this stage. Lord Sugar is investing £250,000 in your business and saying you’ve not got any experience is just not good enough. Lord Sugar needs to feel confident in investing in you. I think he had quite a good business idea. But as Claude said, it’s all or bust. If it went really well for him, then he could potentially make a whole lot of profit. If he invested it all in the first event, and it didn’t go well, then he’d be broke. And there is one investment, and one investment only from Lord Sugar. You don’t get top up investments if you need it.
I also feel like it was a bit unfair for them to test him with countries on that world map. That was very production led, that was very for TV. However, in that moment, Mike was definitely trying to expose him because if you put a globe in front of me and asked me to show where certain places were, I don’t think I would be able to know. On the flip side of that, he does want to be in travel so perhaps he should have more knowledge of where places are. If you ask me to tell you how to bake a cake, I could definitely do so. I’m sort of arguing with myself now, but I think it was a bit unfair to do that really. That really did put him on the spot.
It’s been a bit of a shame really…He’s been quite strong throughout the process. He’s been quite a stand out candidate apart from the previous design task where he made the perfume… I got the impression that Lord Sugar, Karren and Claude haven’t been his biggest fans throughout the process. And I’m not sure why, or whether he did something that wasn’t aired on the show. There was definitely an undertone of them not liking him, so I think that he had to work extra hard to be recognised. He was a good candidate but based his business idea was very risky, so that would have been the sealing point for Lord Sugar I think. He likes us to take risks, but he likes us to take calculated risks and he definitely wouldn’t want one of us putting all of our money in one thing. I think I can understand why he was not in the final two.
I really like Pamela, I think she came across really well in this episode. We got to see her talk about something she’s really passionate about, which is the beauty business she’s been running for quite a while. It was nice to see her in her element, rather than her in a task that’s completely different to her industry. We haven’t seen much of her during this season. She has been accused of being rather quiet in the show, but this week, she has showed that she’s not someone that sits back. She should be really proud of the fact that she made it into the final three. She even showed a bit of emotion once when she talked about her mum and her business. That shows that she really cares about was she does and that she’s really invested personally and emotionally in running her business.
Lord Sugar has already got two businesses that are similar to what Pamela does. He’s got Tom who designs beauty-based tools – a make-up brush cleaner (which I personally own, and it is really good. It cleans and dries your make up brushes in like 30 seconds!) He’s got Susan who owns Tropic skincare, with a crazy turnover of almost £30 million. She has over 200 skincare products but it’s taken her a while to get to that point. Susan didn’t have loads of products when she started. He would have known that Pamela could get to that point. However, he might have thought that since he already has two very successful beauty businesses, he might have doubted whether he should invest in another one. And also, there are new regulations banning single use plastic by 2021. That would have been a flag for Lord Sugar. You could tell he sympathised that the situation wasn’t ideal. Rule changes can kill your business overnight. And he would have been conscious of that. She did really well getting in to the final three and I think she should be really proud.
I have had my eye on Carina from the beginning. As a fellow bakery owner, her business is slightly different from mine as she has stores, whereas my business is online, ambassador and wholesale driven. Carina has been someone that has stood out throughout the whole process. She’s very creative and has been quite impressive. If it was based on the competition alone, she definitely deserves to be where she is. I think it swung in her favour because she had a very good and ambitious business plan. Even though they seemed to be laughing about the fact she planned to launch 2,000 stores, it was a good pitch on her part. That’s what Lord Sugar wants to see at the end of the day. He wants to see people who are not afraid to dream big. I follow her business page on Instagram and the bread and coffee they make look delicious, they’ve created a very industrial-looking coffeehouse. I could see it as a chain, it’s a very recognisable brand. I’m excited to see what she does for her final pitch. Considering she’s not actually a baker, it looks like they’re going to get her baking. Will she stand out once they try her products? The key thing for her is to prove she can financially justify opening two stores with £80,000. I know from my experience that that money does not go that far. She will have to do things on a shoe-string which I’m sure she could still make it look good. Luckily, industrial-looking furniture is quite in and not too expensive to do. She’ll really need to prove how she can scale this up with £250,000 and not need buckets more money.
Scarlett has been someone who’s done exceptionally well throughout the process. She’s come across very astute, very professional and someone who steers away from drama, but is not afraid to speak her mind. But she does so in a way that does not cause confrontation. She has got a recruitment business and Lord Sugar already has two, so he knows how well he can do from another one. Ricky Martin was the first Apprentice winner to record profits in a year of £1 million in recruitment. Will Lord Sugar go with what he knows works or will he go for something unconventional? Although he invested in my bakery business, which was very different. Will he go for something that will challenge him?
Scarlett fell apart a little bit on her business plan and it wasn’t as comprehensive as some of the others. I think she thought they would just “get it” which is quite naïve, but I think you would think that when you’re talking to business people as you’d assume they will get what’s in your head. But it doesn’t work like that unfortunately. I think even though she didn’t have the numbers, it sounded like she had a good business plan – so that was enough to carry her through to the finals.
Who’s going to win? I have no idea. I think I’d quite like it to be Carina, it would be nice to have a fellow baked goods winner. But I think either of them would be worthy winners. I’m definitely gearing up for the final.