The Apprentice 2015... Meet the candidates!

The Apprentice returns to screens on Wednesday 14 October for the eleventh series. Lord Sugar and advisor Baroness Karren Brady are joined by new aide Claude Littner to put the candidates through their paces as they compete to become Lord Sugar’s new business partner and win a £250k investment.

The series is back with a bang as viewers will be treated to a double helping of boardroom drama in the first week, with the second episode airing the following evening on Thursday 15 October. The series then continues weekly every Wednesday at 9pm.

This year, there are 18 potential business partners for Lord Sugar to choose from. The nine men and nine women come from a range of careers and backgrounds - from hairdressing and building to corporate management, events and charities.

Since Lord Sugar started becoming a partner in the winning candidates’ businesses, he has invested £1,000,000 - and he wants this year’s candidates to remember just how successful the previous winners have become and what the process can do for them:

“It sometimes gets a bit underestimated because this is an incredible opportunity. A new company will be formed and £250,000 will be injected in there, no strings attached. The bottom line is, this process works. I’ve invested one million pounds in all four winners and all four of those people are doing fantastically well and I’m expecting the winner of this particular process to carry on that trend. £250,000, it’s an acorn which we want grown into a great oak tree.”

When asked about the qualities he is looking for in his next business partner, Lord Sugar says: “When I started my business, I loaded the lorries, I designed the product, I stood on the production line and I marketed the product and that’s what I’m looking for here. A complete all-rounder.’’

Here's this year's lineup...

Aisha Kasim

Age: 30

Occupation: Inventor & Hair Extensions Specialist

Lives: London

Aisha was born in Nigeria and moved to the UK when she was 15 years old. The owner of a hair accessories business which sells extensions, wigs and hair products, she has also invented a hair accessory which is a heated hair bun that curls hair and even wrote the jingle to accompany the product. She describes herself as hippy-ish, funny and quirky, and names Victoria Beckham as one of her business inspirations because she follows her passions which has led to her professional success. She says: “Pressure makes diamonds. It’s something I respond well to, I think it’s go hard or go home.”


April Jackson

Age: 26

Occupation: Owner, Jamaican Boutique

Lives: London

Former Miss Jamaica, April was born in London, before moving to Jamaica and has lived in France and studied in New York. While living in Jamaica, she founded a successful event management company along with a children’s charity. She cites Skinny Girl Cocktails founder Bethenny Frankel as one of her business inspirations because of how she grew her company into a lifestyle brand. April describes herself as ambitious, honest and loyal. She says: “I’m Jamaican. We come first, we win on the track and we will win in the boardroom.”


Brett Butler-Smythe

Age: 28

Occupation: Builder

Lives: Plymouth

Brett went straight to the Royal Navy after leaving school, where he worked as a marine engineer. He says starting his own property business from scratch is his biggest business achievement to date. He says his biggest strengths are being hard working, committed and trustworthy, and that he has no weaknesses. His attitude to business is ‘work hard, play hard, work harder’. He says: “I pride myself on not having any negative or bad traits about myself, they’re all good, they’re all positive.”


Charleine Wain

Age: 31

Occupation: Owner, Hair and Beauty Salon

Lives: Plymouth

Charleine served in the Royal Navy for eleven and a half years before leaving the service to start her own hair and beauty salon and online clothing boutique. She is a passionate fundraiser and has raised over £20,000 for various charities. She cites hairdressers Patrick Cameron and Toni & Guy as her business inspirations because of the impact they made in the hairdressing world. She says her drive and determination are her biggest strengths. She says: ‘’I would describe myself as very determined, ambitious, and I always want to show that women can succeed in business.’’ 


Dan Callaghan

Age: 23

Occupation: Director, Fragrance Retailer

Lives: Manchester

Dan’s first job after university was working for an MEP at the European Parliament in Belgium, where he lived for a year. He describes himself as bright, optimistic and cheerful. He cites turning his fragrance company around after a difficult few years as the business achievement he is most proud of. He names Jeff Bezos of Amazon as one of his inspirations, because he feels the company has redefined the way consumers see online shopping. He says: ‘’I’m just a generally all round quite entertaining person, I think. A lot of people laugh at me.’’ 


David Stevenson

Age: 25

Occupation: Owner, Sports Marketing Company

Lives: Nottingham

David’s background is in sports marketing and his company specialises in increasing crowd attendances at sporting events. He says his greatest achievement so far was promoting a high profile football match between two women’s national teams at Wembley to sold-out capacity. He cites Elon Musk as his business inspiration because of the amount he achieved early on in his career. He says: “Me and Lord Sugar will work together because you’ve got age and beauty and those two go hand in hand all the time. Sugar’s got the age and I certainly am beautiful.” 


Elle Stevenson

Age: 21

Occupation: Operations Executive, Construction

Lives: London

Elle describes herself as a ‘geezer bird’ and says she is effervescent, passionate and maybe ‘a little insane’. Though she’s the youngest candidate of the group, she says those who know her would say she is older than her years. As well as teaching herself fluent Latin, she lists her biggest business achievement to date as her previous role as Operations Director of a construction company at just 20 years old. She cites Taylor Swift as her business inspiration, calling her ‘the best businesswoman of the 21st century.’ She says: “I hate anything mediocre – I can’t be middle. I hate being the person that comes second… I’ve never been the person that comes second. I’d rather be the one who fell over at the start of the race and never make it to the finish line.” 


Gary Poulton

Age: 34

Occupation: Programme Manager

Lives: Nottingham

Gary spent seven years at a leading supermarket chain as a Programme Manager, developing new store sites. He describes himself as someone who likes to succeed in all he does, and his biggest achievement in business to date was delivering the largest property development programme in the history of the supermarket he worked at in 2010-11. He says: “I look like the nice, easy going, laidback Brummie but once I start doing my business, people know I’m the real deal.” 


Jenny Garbis

Age: 23

Occupation: Business Management Student

Lives: London Jenny graduated from university this summer, where she achieved the highest grades in her year for her Business Studies course. She describes herself as an adrenaline junkie who is only being happy when she’s busy. A keen feminist, she cites actress Emma Watson as an inspiration for her role in the recent ‘He for She’ campaign. She says that if she didn’t work in business, she would like to be in politics. She says: ‘’You will see my name in lights – Jenny Garbis, don’t forget that. That’s going to be a global name. That’s going to be an entrepreneur everyone looks up to.’’


Joseph Valente

Age: 25

Occupation: Owner, Plumbing Business

Lives: Peterborough Joseph describes himself as successful, passionate and driven. He says he applied for the show because he feels it is his destiny to be Lord Sugar’s business partner. He currently runs his own plumbing company and feels having a business is like being a parent, as it needs undivided attention and nurturing, and that Hugh Hefner is one of his role models. He says: “I am the definition of success, I’m a godfather of business and I’m here to make Lord Sugar a lot of money.’’ 


Mergim Butaja

Age: 23

Occupation: Sales Account Manager

Lives: Coventry Kosovan-born

Mergim fled from the war-torn country to the UK with his parents and siblings when he was seven years old. Since the age of 18, he has been supporting his family by working in a range of jobs from sales to waiting tables. He names CEO of leisure retail chain The Range, Chris Dawson, as his business inspiration because of their similar backgrounds. Mergim says his determined attitude is his biggest strength and hopes he will inspire people who have lived through similar circumstances to succeed He says: ‘’Why am I a worthy business partner for Lord Sugar? I’d be a challenge to him. Everyone he’s met probably sucks up to him. I won’t, I’ll tell him like it is.’’ 


Natalie Dean

Age: 25

Occupation: Corporate Account Manager, Telecoms

Lives: Coventry

Natalie’s business background is in corporate management in the telecoms industry. She describes herself as a tomboy and has a passion for football, playing for a local women’s team and supporting Sheffield Wednesday. She says Liv Garfield, CEO of water company Severn Trent, is her business inspiration because she admires what she has already achieved in her career. She says: ‘’If I set my mind to something I won’t quit until I have done it.’’ 


Richard Woods

Age: 31

Occupation: Director, Digital Marketing Agency

Lives: London

Richard is a director of a digital marketing company. He describes himself as self-assured and ambitious, and says his only regret is not being a millionaire before turning 30. He says building up four profit-making companies is the business achievement he is most proud of to date and cites Richard Branson as one of his inspirations because of the business empire he has created. He says: “I’m a Swiss army knife of bouncy skills, business skills, enthusiasm, I’ve got everything highly tuned and highly chiselled.” 


Ruth Whiteley

Age: 47

Occupation: Owner, Sales Training Consultancy

Lives: Harrogate

Ruth describes herself as positive, colourful and driven. Her background is in telephone sales, though she previously worked as a DJ on a mid-morning show for her local radio station as well as a stint as a court reporter. Her biggest business achievement to date was setting up the telephone sales teams for an online schooling company in Scotland and Australia, as well as expanding the growth of the sales team in Philadelphia, USA. She says: “Lord Sugar might think I’m a bit gushing, he might find me over-zealous, but I think he’ll think I’m great.’’ 


Sam Curry

Age: 23

Occupation: Private Tutor

Lives: London

Sam has been working as a tutor since leaving university, he has a passion for the arts and has taken part in numerous films and stage productions. He cites the fact that he’s always worked for himself as his biggest business achievement to date, and describes himself as loyal, honest and adventurous. Richard Branson is one of his main business inspirations because he agrees with the Virgin founder that you don’t need to be ruthless or cruel in business to succeed. He says: “I’m an interesting mix between happy go lucky and adventurous and then quite logical and sensible. It’s a strange combination.’’


Scott Saunders

Age: 27

Occupation: Senior Account Manager, Sales

Lives: Hertfordshire

Scott’s business background is in sales, and he describes himself as sharp, motivated and obsessed with making his first million. He likes simple but effective brands such as and cites Richard Kiyosaki, founder of Rich Dad Company, as one of his business inspirations because he admires the way he does business. He says: “People do say to me they’ve never met anyone like me.’’ 


Selina Waterman-Smith

Age: 31

Occupation: Owner, Events Agency

Lives: Dubai

Selina studied in the UK before setting up her own events company in Dubai. She incorporates her performing arts background with the circus into many of the events that her company hosts. She describes herself as feisty, strong and kind. She cites setting up her business in a foreign country as her top business achievement to date. She says: ‘’I am strong minded… I do like to be the leader.’’


Vana Koutsomitis

Age: 27

Occupation: Social Media Entrepreneur

Lives: Barcelona

Vana speaks five languages and grew up in New York but has also studied in Spain, France and China as well as living in Shanghai and London. She currently runs a networking site for finance professionals. She says she has been entrepreneurial since the age of seven, when she sold her old toys on the streets of New York. She cites Aston Kutcher as one of her biggest business inspirations because he has an eye for commercial ventures. She says: “I believe this is a marathon and if you have stamina and if you do things with integrity, morals and direction, you can get where you want to go".


The Apprentice premières next Wednesday at 8pm on BBC One. 

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