For a fair old while, the prize for winning The Apprentice was a £100,000 a year job as Sir Alan Lord Sugar’s actual apprentice. The show served as a sort of cross between the twelve tasks of Hercules and a really long trial shift, where candidates were thrown into pressure cooker situations and had to prove their aptitude across a number of areas - management, selling, pitching and betrayal - in order to get the gig.
That was scrapped a few years back, presumably because the sort of person that triumphs at the end of the process - i.e a ruthless backstabbing narcissist - isn’t actually the sort of person you want to hire into your company, let alone directly underneath you, and the prize was replaced with a £250,000 investment in the winner’s business proposal.
Now, if The Apprentice adhered to any rational real-world convention, the entire show would just be the 16 candidates presenting their business plans, and Big Sug choosing his favourite, all in episode one. But that would just be Dragon’s Den, so they’ve kept the rest of the format almost exactly the same, which is slightly confusing. If anything, the various tasks only serve to muddy his thinking. Even if a candidate is pitching him the new Uber, Sugsy still has to consider how good they are at flogging yoga mats outside Euston Station, or at concepting an entire ad campaign for a fictional brand of wet-wipes, in 48 hours, in a team of ruthless backstabbing narcissists who actively want each other to fail.
As such, it’s harder to predict who will get quasi-hired these days. But seeing as ShortList alumnus and all round telly legend Amelia Tait did such a stirling job at predicting the Bake Off, it falls on me to try and repeat the feat of scouring this year’s aspiring apprentices’ assorted social medias for clues as to how they got on. I am a digital journalist and I am rummaging through their digital bins.
As the format differs somewhat from the GBBO, I’ve had to amend some of Amelia’s methods of sleuthing, but they are vaguely the same, and as follows:
- The dates a contestant has been active on Twitter and Instagram (was there a sudden upsurge in activity mid-competition, indicating a royal firing?)
- The language used in the contestants’ “I’m gonna be on The Apprentice!!!” posts
- Their LinkedIn updates (a sudden departure from a previous position might indicate they’ve secured the moolah)
- The branding, website and social media presence of their various business ventures (do they look like they’ve been given a recent £250,000 facelift, or like they’ve been designed on Windows 95?)
- The viability of their businesses (would Sugar actually invest, though?)
- Lord Sugar Chaos Factor (hard to explain, but basically Mr S’s trust in his intuition means he regularly goes completely off piste, and so fires an extremely competent candidate for a bizarre infraction like “not taking enough credit” while saving a jabbering car-crash wallet-drainer because they keep repeating something like “I’ve got it, Lord Sugar, it!” and that sort of chutzpah reminds him of himself, and so he gives them another chance - and this has to be taken into account)
Sarah had potential darkhorse qualities - she’s a former Shameless and Hollyoaks star, and runs an acting academy so knows how to work the camera to her advantage - but this seems to have got Sir Al’s back up. (“How do I know this ain’t all an act, Sarah? I’m looking for the next Steve Jobs, not Steve bleeding McFadden.”)
From my sleuthing, I’ve deduced that there is a consistent radio silence across the candidates’ social media beginning late April (latest example, the 29th) and finishing in around mid-to-late June, clearly indicating the series’ filming and an agreed omerta. Sarah the only person who returns to Instagram in May, and as early as May 4th (having been absent since April 28th). Her feed indicates she has adopted a new cat on May 5th (which I don’t think you’re allowed to introduce into the candidates’ mansion) and on May 14th she posted a sassy clapback meme about how being sensitive doesn’t make you weak - clearly a rejoinder to a brutal week one firing.
Furthermore, her acting academy - based in Oldham - posted a Facebook update about amendments to class times on April 25th, but on May 16th posted a follow-up stating Sarah was now available to give private tuition. Successful candidates are rarely permitted sabbaticals during tasks to give private acting lessons in Oldham.
Most tellingly, her announcement post not only refers to her being a “candidate” (as Amelia noted with GBBO, winners don’t normally signpost the fact they were only a mere contestant) but barely talks about the show at all, instead being a several paragraph-long heartfelt essay to her family, and her daughter. It’s touching, but also reeks of “I didn’t win, and might have actually done spectacularly badly, but I don’t care because winning The Apprentice doesn’t matter anyway, up yours Lord Sugar.”
Estimated firing: Week 1.
Sabrina returns to Insta around June 20th, which is actually quite a decent innings, but there are two things that come a-cropper for Sabs.
Her business is a tennis events company with a website that looks like an unloved leaflet pinned to a board in a local leisure centre. The Sugar Man’s favourite ventures are upscaled modernised versions of things he assumes there’s an emerging market for - luxury baked beans, protein toothpaste, vegan fitness apps, gourmet mankinis, that kind of thing. For all the good it might do putting on summer camps for fitness-starved kids, a tennis events company - the likes of which already exist - isn’t the sort of thing that’s going to capture his imagination.
Worse still, she uses her Apprentice audition to describe herself as “Willy Wonka drinking an espresso Martini! So, trying to stay sophisticated and classy on the outside, but a little weird, wacky on wonderful on the inside!” Wacky. Wacky. No, no, no. The Sugar Lord will hate that. You can see him clenching his weary eyes together, his hand squeezing his furrowed brow as though trying to soothe a migraine as she launches into another soliloquy about knitting cardigans for dolphins. He won’t even give her an explanation. “Weetabix confetti and mustard shoes? I ain’t got a bleeding clue what you’re on about, Sabrina. You could have all the tea in china and it’d be no use if you was chucking out of a hot air balloon while doing the Macarena. I’ve heard enough.”
Estimated firing: Week 2.
Frank returns to Instagram on June 4th, the third earliest - and his announcement post refers to himself as a “contestant” and contains the hashtag “#Classof2018” - not exactly winner’s chat.
More clues abound his LinkedIn, where Frank lists himself as still being employed as a marketing specialist for a big media company, and he was sharing LinkedIn posts around their World Cup coverage during June. You’d probably give up the day job if you got the quarter mil investment, and there’s also no indication that Frank has any side-hustle that could be invested in (or that has been.) He also sings during his audition. “The only music to my ears is the sound of a cash register closing, Frank, and time is money, and Frankly, you’re wasting my time.”
Estimated firing: Week 3.
I was all ready to write off public-speaker Kayode (who, it should be noted, is a reality telly veteran having appeared on Come Dine With Me) as he re-emerged on Insta June 1st, the second earliest, and also uploaded a load of videos to his YouTube channel on May 31st, but there’s something a bit puzzling about it all.
His return Insta post is a meme which reads “THE WOLF ON THE HILL IS NOT AS HUNGRY AS THE WOLF CLIMBING THE HILL” alongside a picture of a wolf. He has an interaction below, where he tells someone that sometimes the wolf on the hill gets “complacent with their success.” To me, this seems to suggest he had a strong initial showing, impressing the Sugar overlord, and then royally effed it.
On Twitter, his pinned Tweet is a video of him berating a lecture hall of schoolchildren for apparently not listening to their teacher - and this is the sort of impassioned rant that Sir Alan takes to.
Muddying the waters further, on August 6th, he posted an Instagram picture of a book about ‘Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do About It’ with the cryptic caption “recommended by a business friend who you’ll hear about real soon.” That ‘business friend’? Got to be Lord Sug. They were close.
Here’s what I reckon happened: Kayode smashed it early doors, got made team leader, then proceeded to tank it so spectacularly - perhaps after stopping to over-enthusiastically lecture some more misbehaving school-children instead of focussing on the task (one of the main reasons why most small businesses don’t work) - that “with regret”, Suggy had no choice but to fire him, giving him some parting wisdom and a book which looks like the kind you’d find left lovelessly on a train from Essex to ‘The City’.
Estimated firing: Week 4.
This one’s quite rational. Khadija returns on June 12th - the fifth earliest - and refers to herself as a “candidate” in her announcement post. According to LinkedIn, she left a bunch of positions in September to focus on her eco-friendly cleaning business, which - despite being actually a fairly viable Sugar-friendly proposition - judging from its Facebook presence and website, hasn’t undergone any significant change or exciting new development as a result of Sugar money.
Why does she get fired? I’m not sure, although her audition has her talk about how much she likes private healthcare, and Lord Sugar is ostensibly an NHS-loving Labour peer, so maybe this went down badly.
Estimated firing: Week 5.
Helpfully, Kurran was absent from Instagram between August 2017 and August 2018, which either means he’s not a big poster, or else was so serious about his Apprentice application he forwent social media for a year, or else specifically hates me and my ability to do this article.
Kurran is a recent law graduate, according to LinkedIn, with no businesses. His Instagram announcement tells you to check out the link in his bio, a clip of his audition, “if you fancy a laugh.” Now, there actually seems like a massive ‘I didn’t do very well at all, this clip is probably the most screen-time I have in the entire show’ red flag.
So let’s inspect:
“I don’t just live for the weekend…” he blunders. “My weekend sometimes spills over into Monday, sometimes Tuesday… In fact, just the whole week, but that’s the way it is.” What is Kurran saying here? He can’t wait for his days off, and that his days off last entire weeks? Even as Apprentice ‘you-have-to-say-something-utterly-nonsensical-and-baffling’ VTs go, this is very confused.
Estimated firing: Week 6.
‘Rick Monk.’ What a fantastic name. Rick Monk is the guy in your company everyone gets emails from. Nobody has ever met him. Nobody knows what he does. Everyone has a theory on his backstory.
Rick Monk is a jaded PI who left the force after his partner got murdered by a mob boss and the chief did nothing about it, and now seeks a path of bloody vengeance. Rick Monk is a galavanting anachronistic treasure-hunting explorer, with dashing facial hair and a scarf that always seems to be billowing, and he’s chartering a biplane to the heart of a jungle to steal the riches from the cursed tomb of an ancient emperor you’ve never heard of, and he’s always saying things like “tally ho!” and “pip pip!” Rick Monk is the Never Mind The Buzzcocks punchline member of a cheesy late-nineties boyband. Rick Monk is a former IRA enforcer turned informant in witness protection living under a false name. Rick Monk moonlights as a trucker in South Carolina and spends his free time fused to the recliner in his self-built man-cave necking lite beers and shouting at the NFL games, or else at his son, Rick Monk Jnr, a teenager who looks like a Russian doll identical version of himself, when he doesn’t want to turn off Fortnite and come fishing. Rick Monk is the hardest man in prison because he knows every martial art, sleeps upright with his eyes open and is really good at chess.
Rick Monk is a ‘quality controller’ family man from Chorley, and a “candidate” on The Apprentice.
Rick Monk doesn’t have a LinkedIn, and doesn’t even mention owning a company, or even doing a job in any of his social media. In his audition, he states “I’m not interested in helping other people, and helping them better themselves, because it’s numero uno” - which is not the sort of sentiment Seigneur Sucre will want a potential business partner to be spouting.
To be honest, I don’t know what a ‘quality controller’ even is, I’ve just put Rick Monk this far down because I like his name.
Estimated firing: Week 7.
JASMINE. YOU CAN’T JUST JOIN INSTAGRAM TWO DAYS AGO. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DEDUCE HOW WELL YOU DID?? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?
According to her LinkedIn, she left her position at a big car manufacturer in September, but after that the trail goes dead. I’ve no idea what she’s doing with her life.
Her audition video makes her seem too professional and nice. “You’re very nice, Jasmine,” that’s what Sugsy’d say, spitting out the word ‘nice’ like a sommelier spitting out piss. “I don’t need nice people. Gandhi was nice, but how good was he at lifting Amstrad computers, let alone flogging them out the back of a van? That’s what I did. And that’s why I’m where I am today, instead of Gandhi.”
Estimated firing: Week 8.
David Alden is a tax advisor. That’s pretty much the only thing I know about him. He’s off social media, and he looks like a Gerry Anderson puppet, except on one of his few public Facebook pictures, which makes him look like the forgotten fifth member of a 50s doo-wop quartet.
He’s a complete non-entity, and this background chameleon presence will stand him in good stead til this point, when Suggs will point at him, having suddenly noticed him for the first time after watching Jasmine leave, and he’ll announce “David, David, David, I don’t know what you do”, and that’ll be that.
Estimated firing: Week 8 (double firing.)
At 20, Alex is the youngest candidate in the process, and this will mean he endlessly reminds Lord Alan Sugar of himself. “I was a young man, once…” he’ll say, and then he’ll pause for a beat, and his gaze will fall upon the middle distance, far beyond the candidates, far beyond the boardroom, and the cameras, and his empire, to his childhood, where he’ll see himself, a young man, hauling an Amstrad computer out the back of a van, flogging it in the playing fields of his primary school, all his classmates laughing and smiling, his mum calling him, “Alan!”, she’s yelling and waving from the horizon, “Alan! Dinner’s ready! Spag bol! You’re favourite!”, and he’s running towards her now, with a big beam on his face, a propellor hat on his head and an oversized lollipop in his hand, and he can almost taste that spag bol, and yet his mum doesn’t seem to be getting any nearer, even though he keeps pumping his little legs, she keeps disappearing further into the distance, into the past.
“Alan?” He’s back in the room now. Karren Brady is looking at him quizzically. “Alan, are you alright?” And he dabs a tear from his eye. “I’m fine Karen,” he says, with a sharp intake of breath. “I’m fine.”
Alex returns to Instagram on June 23rd, which is about par for the course, but the smoking gun is his side hustle business. One is a social media consultancy, and the other is a drone photography business which joined Twitter this month, and has tweeted once, a tweet which reads: “Hello World!” Not to jump to too many conclusions, but it would seem the social media acumen present in the latter would rather negate the viability of the former.
He’ll have gotten this far because Lord Sugar née Sir Alan will have wanted him to do well, but that won’t be enough. More to the point, in his audition, he remarks “I know everything. Call me Google… it’s my middle name.” And this will bring about a damning remark from Lord Sugar, “Well I’ve Googled your name, and you aren’t anywhere to be bleeding seen.” This will be a stinging rejoinder, and one I’ll appreciate, having Googled Alex Finn and discovering frustratingly little.
Estimated firing: Week 9.
Tom has one of the most enticing Insta announcements: “Exciting times people. I am happy to announce I will be on this years The Apprentice. S*** is going to kick off.” No reference to being a candidate, only about s*** kicking off. Earmark Tom as one of the most volatile and therefore watchable candidates of this series.
“All the lads absolutely love me, but all the girls absolutely hate me,” he chuckles in his audition. “Because I’m having such a good time!” This seems extremely ominous.
Other clues: Tom’s is one of the later returns to Instagram, but his LinkedIn has him still working at the tree surgery company he founded. Their general social media and web presence is decent enough, but they’ve been around for 8 years, and can I see Lord S being enticed by a practical service that involves very little by way of new-fangled tech? No. Expect a strong wrong followed by an explosive late exit.
Estimated firing: Week 10.
One of the later Instagram returns, and according to LinkedIn, Jackie worked as a consultant up until this week, leaving the position to start REBELPi, a ‘Canadian ice wine’ business. This is promising stuff, and whatever Canadian ice wine is, you can see that combination of words receiving a thoughtful jut-of-the-lip nod from the Sugar. He doesn’t know what it is, nobody does, but it sounds like the sort of thing a ‘hip London crowd’ would go in for, and you’ve piqued his interest.
However, there are clues against her. In her audition, she proudly boasts of having a habit of “rubbing people up the wrong way”, which is one of the primary things the Lord will admonish you for in the boardroom. What’s more, the ice wine company is incredibly nascent, but judging from its website, seems quite nascent and raw. The ‘about’ section reads: “Ice wine production is one of the rarest and riskiest in the world and considered ‘extreme winemaking.’”
‘Sweets In The City’ - last year’s winner - was a far more conservative punt from Sugar. It was basically Uber, for sweets. That was it. And it was launched to market with a polished website.
In contrast, Jackie’s Canadian ice wine - the most extreme and riskiest wine in the world - seems a lot more like a pointed “I’m going to prove you wrong, Lord Sugar!!!” venture.
Estimated firing: Week 11.
Sarah Ann Magson
I’ve had to ignore a considerable amount of my methods of deduction to put Sarah here. She returned to Instagram fourth earliest, for instance. But don’t worry, because there’s a big because, and that because is: because her business - a luxury cots and prams company - has had an extreme glo-up from the point before the series, and the point after.
Another clue: she has been one of the most active in terms of announcement Instagram posts, which indicates she actually did quite well and didn’t totally humiliate herself, and so actively wants people to watch - as well a particularly juicy post which reveals her daughter had to “pretend” to be her to keep the “secret” from getting out, which would explain the early Instagram re-emergence.
To be honest, Sarah could easily be a contender to win the whole thing, it’s only on the strength of the other candidates that I reckon she gets weeded out at interview (unless they pull some crazy nonsense like last year and have more than one winner.)
Estimated firing: Week 11.
This is the most generous entry. Daniel’s announcement post pegs him as a “candidate”, but there’s an annoying blackhole in his social media. He’s absent between April 4th and July 8th, but posts basically on a quarterly basis, which makes him difficult to sleuth.
He’s here because, on the face of it, he’s the only boy with an even remotely viable business plan - ’Revival Shots’. a soluble formula that claims to help subdue hangovers.
Problem is, the website looks like Daniel designed it himself in two hours after Googling “free web design” and choosing the first Wix template he saw. The branding is even worse. To their slight credit, they have managed to get ‘Jordan’ from the Ibiza and Magaluf Weekender to send them a selfie for their social media, but that’s about the strength of it. He didn’t get the money, clearly, but the essential nucleus of the idea isn’t a million miles from ‘feasible.’
Estimated firing: Week 11.
Camilla’s was one of the canniest ‘I’m going away for a bit’ Instagram cover stories, claiming to be off to San Francisco to build some “killer business skills”.
Going entirely off her audition tape, and her age, she’s 22 and seems precociously professional. Like, actually switched on and not the sort of deluded megalomaniac that make up the majority of most Apprentice fields. Eerily reminiscent of series two winner Michelle Dewberry.
Her business - which she started in December 2017, and LinkedIn has her still in charge of - is Sugar catnip. Mylkplus is a nut milk company with genuinely, and weirdly, quite good branding. The packaging looks… good? The idea: a dairy-free ‘cruelty-free’ milk alternative…. will almost certainly be popular? The shop section of the website is… nearly identical to ‘Sweets In The City’?
The only thing that counts against Camilla is that she refers to herself as a “candidate” in her announcement post, and that’s a smoking gun. Sorry, Ainsy.
Estimated firing: Week 12.
Sian wins. Put a bet on it. Apply for the next series of The Apprentice with the business proposition to invest £250,000 in Sian winning this one, because it’s the best investment you could make this year, and you will win series 15.
Sian is: the second last person to return to Insta. According to LinkedIn, she left one position this month, but remains the head of Sian Marie Fashion - perhaps the most viable business going. She’s got the investment.
If this was Dragon’s Den, Sian would pitch her business - a swimwear company that has a genuine online presence, that seems to be worn by a regular carousel of influencers, and which has been featured on TOWIE and Ex On The Beach - and the Dragons would conclude that it seemed like something that would not only sell, but had already established itself in the market, and would therefore be able to do a lot with a £250,000 investment, and she’d win.
As it is, she still has to do the weeks of tasks, but judging from her audition tape, she actually seems pleasant and not like an objectionable arsehole, but still serious enough to deflect Sugar’s “nice” (read: wet flannel) dismissal, has a down-to-earth Yorkshire vibe and she was nearly a professional footballer. Unless Sugar’s chaos intuition malfunctions completely, this is a checklist of qualities you need to meet to gain his approval.
The only thing that counts against Sian is that my connection to her website was registered by Google Chrome as being ‘Not Secure’, as opposed to Mylkplus’ reassuring green padlock. Either she’s skimped on a web host and SSL Certificate, or Lord Sugar didn’t give her the money for one.
Predicted hiring: Week 12.