From the top · 18 December 2018

an embarrassing spectacle?: What real entrepreneurs made of The Apprentice final

What did our panel make of the final episode? | Credit: BBC
As Lord Sugar goes into business with swimwear designer Sian Gabbidon, we asked our panel of real-life entrepreneurs how they observed the final episode of The Apprentice 2018.

Having entered the final at the expense of Daniel Elahi, KhadijI Kalifa and Sabrina Stocker, nut-milk entrepreneur Camilla Ainsworth lost out to Sian Gabbidon after rigorous interviews and a three-day branding challenge working with their fellow contestants.

The business mogul’s 250, 000 investment into Gabbidon’s Swim by Sian brand represents his first foray into fashion. While he accepted the “crowded market” the duo were partnering in, he praised Gabbidon’s expertise in the sector.

In an Instagram post, the Leeds-based designer said she was “overwhelmed” to have won this series, and shared her excitement of the road ahead.

But did Lord Sugar make the right call? We asked our panel how they felt about the finalists and whether the BBC’s business show still has legs.

Danny Doughty, director, Roch Valley

The rejected candidates made a return this week to help Camilla and Sian battle it out for the top prize and were subjected to the humiliation of getting picked? playground footy style. Poor Sabrina was last pick again, even though she had proved herself to be one of the best in the process. Presumably, they pick their house friends rather than the qualities they need to win.

Business naivety

Both candidates showed their business naivety in this episode, but Camilla more so. She didnt seem to understand her margins or the intense price pressure when dealing with supermarkets. It was a good idea to try to differentiate her brand with a higher nut content but why go for 15% when the average is 2%? Even 4% would be double that. Camilla’s other major error was the poor packaging she came up with, it had the feel of a cheap dairy product when she should surely have been going down the quality organic route and emphasising the health benefits of her product

“Camilla’s TV ad didnt help matters it was terrible, messy, unfocused and unfunny.”

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Steely determination

Sian’s steely determination came to the fore in the final, although she certainly should have given clearer instructions to the team who were responsible for making the gif, allowing Kurran to be sidelined by Jasmine, who thought she knew best but produced a cheap looking image. Sian saw the error of her ways and gave Kurran the opportunity to direct the TV ad which turned out to be quite good (under the circumstances). Sian’s real moment came when she designed a swimsuit on the spot which went straight to print and into a garment the next day.

“The low point for me was the embarrassing spectacle of the two desperate women bickering with each other in the boardroom in order to secure the coveted investment.”

I really hope our young entrepreneurs don’t see this as acceptable business behaviour. In the end, I believe Sian was chosen for her design ability but in such a saturated market there will be many challenges for her in the weeks and months to come.

Sian Gabbidon | Credit: BBC

Aaron Short, co-founder?

Sian has stood out as a professional, focused and creative business person from week one so Im really pleased that she’s walked away with Lord Sugar’s investment. Her pitch was fantastic and although Im not sure she created her idea of the perfect brand for SYO Swim in the final episode, her passion, knowledge and potential shone through.

The digital advert featuring Sabrina was definitely a flop, and demonstrated the importance of carrying someone’s idea forward and bringing into all the elements of brand marketing. It didnt fit the tone of the TV ad and final bikinI product and didnt mesh with the brand overall, but with Sian’s vision and a team of professionals, I think there’s plenty of opportunity for a more focused and vibrant brand moving forward.

Meanwhile, runner up Camilla created a popular and premium product that went down well with consumers. Again, her branding for MLK IT wasnt fantastic and her costings werent coherent enough. Camilla’s pitch wasnt as professional as Sian’s and it was apparent that she isnt as experienced in business. She has plenty of potential though, and maybe one day well see her product on the shelves.

Scalability and manufacturing was a big obstacle for both Sian and Camilla. Karen had a good point that this would where Lord Sugar would step in to bring in his expertise and make it all possible. Pairing Sian’s talent and Lord Sugar’s business know-how was a no brainer.

it’s been an interesting 12 weeks and ultimately, professionalism and strong leadership have prevailed. Sian demonstrated expertise and focus during the process, while her creativity in the final episode was definitely what sealed the deal. It will be interesting to see where her brand goes from here!

Stacey MacNaught, freelance content marketing consultant



Praseeda Nair is an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.