Make or break? What The Apprentice did for these candidates


Did the show help or hinder these former Apprentice stars?

The Apprentice montage

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Love it or love to hate it, The Apprentice is well and truly back.

And while last season may have had you furiously throwing bits of your dinner at the telly shouting “Christopher Columbus is NOT English you muppets” and “Caracas is a word, it’s also the capital of bleeding Venezuela!” you will, I’m sure, watch this year’s series.

You may even start to remember some of the previous candidates and affectionately wonder, whatever happened to them? Well look no further because we’ve tracked down 12 former contestants to find out what they’re doing now, and whether their appearance on The Apprentice helped or hindered their careers…

Christopher Farrell from The Apprentice

Christopher Farrell, series 6: Dodgy mortgage broker turned Somali pirate fighter

You may well be familiar with Chris already. In January 2011 he pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by representation and was issued a nine-month suspended sentence. Since then he’s fled the UK to… fight pirates!

Yep, Christopher’s colourful career has seen him transform from a dodgy mortgage broker into a Somali pirate negotiator.

Modest Christopher says: “I am a security consultant for one of the largest protection companies in the world. Basically I am out signing up new multi-billion dollar deals for my employer with the shipping industry, providing them with armed security teams to help prevent the risk of piracy in Somalia and the surrounding areas.

“I am in charge of the negotiations when it comes to dealing with the pirates direct in order to release captured crews and vessels.”

Farrell, who was fired in week eight of series five, doesn’t believe his time on the show affected his career as he already had the security job lined up before taking part.

“I was given great praise for how I came across on the show and everyone I speak to confirms that I should not have gone at the stage that I did”

That said, he admits to slightly regretting taking part and told us: “I was given great praise for how I came across on the show and everyone I speak to confirms that I should not have gone at the stage that I did.

“The thing I did enjoy about the show was the fact that it makes you realise that no matter what industry you work in; advertising, sales, even BAKING, if you work hard you can succeed in anything that you do, and not be scared to try new things and to push yourself.”

(In week five of the series, Lord Sugar’s aide Nick Hewer described Christopher’s running of a baking kitchen for the week’s baking task as “brilliant military precision”, we can only assume that’s why Christopher has referred to baking in such this way).

Ruth Badger from The Apprentice

Ruth Badger, series 2: Business consultant

The Badger!! One of the most memorable candidates of all time, Ruth – aka the Badger – made it to the final but lost out to Michelle Dewberry. Since then she has launched her own business, The Ruth Badger Consultancy Limited, which “helps SMEs launch grow and become more profitable.”

She says: “The Apprentice was one of the best things I have ever done in my life, so it massively helped my profile which has helped me build my businesses!

“I think The Apprentice is good for people who are good in business. We are now on year seven and I can hardly remember the candidates, so if you are bad at business it could ruin your career but if you’re good I think it could help you to your first million!”

Raj Dhonota

Raj Dhonota, series 1: Bankruptcy to living “Life’s Dream”

Raj made it to week nine but was eventually fired over mouthy Saira and James Max (more on him to come). Despite being old school Apprentice, Raj has little good to say about the show and admits, “I was absolutely was not interested in working for Lord Sugar or Amstrad for any length of time”.

Raj had declared himself bankrupt before appearing on the show and was coming to the end of his three year director’s ban. He says: “After I was fired, thankfully putting me out of my misery, I simply continued with my new business venture, Global Proximity, which involved offshore outsourcing to India. 

“Within three years the business had grown substantially and I sold it for a handsome profit”.

“I’d say it was the worst thing that could have happened to me and the worst decision I have ever made – and I’ve made a few during my lifetime!”

Following the success of his first business, he’s now ready “to help the millions around the world who are unable to fend for themselves through no fault of their own”, and is launching a new venture called Life’s Dream “anytime in the next week or so”.

Life’s Dream gives ordinary people a genuine opportunity to earn extraordinary incomes by helping them to start their own business, Raj told us. Apparently the business is similar in structure to Donald Trump’s ‘Trump Network’, but is focused on innovative technology rather than products.

He doesn’t think his success is down to the show however. “My experience on The Apprentice certainly did not help my career. That was partly through my own choice as well as, no doubt, the result of me being too vocal whilst on set about my views on what was going on.”

James Max

James Max, series 1: Investment banker turned DJ

With one of the highest profiles of all the former candidates, James Max now presents the weekend show on London’s Biggest Conversation (LBC) 97.3 (somewhat of a lifelong ambition for James who grew up listening to the show).

As well as disk jockeying, James contributes to various media outlets including Sky News, ITV1’s This Morning and The Jeremy Vine Show. Of course, real success arrived when he started writing The Max Attacks for Londonlovesbusiness.com (his monthly damning column that involves him firing the businessperson he’s least impressed by).

As for The Apprentice, James says the show neither helped nor hindered his career but was an amazing experience where he made friends for life as a result.

“I learnt a lot in terms of skills but also about myself,” says James. “Taking part allowed me to pause and think about what I really wanted to do. It has opened doors but if anyone thinks opportunities just land in your lap, think again”

He admits that some employers are put off hiring former candidates but says that it can open other doors. Would he recommend the experience?

“A qualified yes. If you are entering for the right reasons and have assessed the potential downsides as well as the upsides, then it may be right for you. If you are just doing it to be famous, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.”

James McQuillan

James McQuillan, series 5: Commerical manager to app developer

James was a senior commercial manager for a broadband provider when he joined the programme and made it to the semi-finalists, the interview stage, before losing to Debra and Lorraine.

Directly after the programme he returned to life at his old firm, “I was lucky as my company wanted me back, many of the other contestants’ didn’t,” he says.

Now he works for a leading high street retailer developing smart phone applications. Eager to keep in a bit of the limelight James also does a spot of presenting at Kempton Park horse racing.

Did the show help or hinder his career?  

“It didn’t help me to look like a serious individual, walking into a meeting and people recognising me as the guy who tried to make Margate gay”

“It was a bit of both, and it opened more doors than it closed. My job at that time was quite serious, working in procurement, so it didn’t help me to look like a serious individual, walking into a meeting and people recognising me as the guy who tried to make Margate gay.”

 (In week five of the series the teams were tasked with rebranding Margate. James and his team decided to rebrand Margate as a popular gay resort. They lost the task.)

James believes Lord Sugar had a “soft spot” for him but was “foolish to let [him]slip through his fingers.” 

Lee McQueen

Lee McQueen, series 4: recruitment, winner, recruitment

Lee won the fourth series despite lying on his CV! (As if anybody would do such a thing?)

Says Lee: “After I found out I won The Apprentice I was taken into a boardroom with Lord Sugar and his son Simon and they told me I was to be a director of a new company called Amscreen, a digital media business that would provide digital media advertising to screens within stores.

“So I not only got a job where I leaned from Lord Sugar, with a six figure salary, but I got to launch a business from scratch too – which was exactly what I wanted.”

In August 2010 Lee left Amscreen after two years spent establishing the company. He now runs a successful recruitment business called Raw Talent Academy.

Does Lee sympathise with those candidates who feel they were unfairly portrayed?

“It’s a difficult one. I wasn’t unfairly portrayed, but I’m the only one who has never been in the boardroom, in the final three. Yes I lied on my CV, and it all came out, but it is what it is. For people going out early it’s hard too, but hang on a minute, you can’t put words into people’s mouths.

“Now I’d like somebody to commission a TV programme that has past winners versus the past runners up.”

Lohit Kalburgi

Lohit Kalburgi, series 3: Telecommunications

Lohit returned to his former job after appearing on the third series of the show but has since left to work for a large telecommunications company.

He says: “As I had expected, after doing something as big and exciting as The Apprentice, you get a chance to reflect on your life and I realised I wanted more, so I ended up leaving the company a few months later and moved into a consulting role for a large telecommunication company.”

Like others, he also believes the experience opened doors rather than “directly” helping his career.

“It’s one of the toughest things I have done in my life,” says Lohit who was fired in week seven.

“They take away your mobile phone, your wallet – they even wait for you outside the toilet!”

“The seven weeks were very intense and it’s a very unusual and challenging experience. When watching the show, I don’t think it fully comes across just how intense and stretching the show is. I woke up at four am and worked non-stop till one am the next day.

“We only had two days off when we were escorted to a park to get some sunshine and brought back home. They take away your mobile phone, your wallet and you can’t contact your friends and family and can’t go anywhere without an escort – they even wait for you outside the toilet!

“You are living with the same people you work with and there is no respite. It was full-on but definitely worth it.”

So there you go, still tempted?

Alex Epstein

Alex Epstein, series 6: PR man turned haircare maker

Oh Alex. He did ruffle some feathers didn’t he. Immediately after his appearance on the show, Alex went back to work with “the award winning entrepreneur [he]had been working with since 2007” (Who needs Lord Sugar?) and his job title changed from head of communications to consultant.

Now Alex works with start-ups, “helping them to establish new brands that will be valuable in the future” but his main focus right now is…  haircare.

“It’s something new and very different, and will offer consumers a new type of experience when buying their haircare products”

“Before I went on The Apprentice I started to develop a new business that would offer a new and innovative range of haircare products. It’s something new and very different, and will offer consumers a new type of experience when buying their haircare products.

“It’s due to launch soon and it’s very exciting. That is my main focus right now.”

Alex says everyone should have an experience like the one he had. “From making the show, to sharing the experience of being on national TV with family and friends, it was all like one big and fast roller coaster ride. There are definitely no regrets, and looking back I wish I could do it all over again!”

Melody Hossaini on The Apprentice

Melody Hossaini, series 7: Social entrepreneur   

Oh the lovely Melody. The series seven pin-up drove viewers either mad with lust or annoyance. Some both. Now Melody, who at age 13 “set up one of the most democratic youth bodies in the world”, remains a passionate social entrepreneur and still runs InspirEngage International, the company she started in 2009 to help young people into employment and enterprise. 

Did her time on the show help or hinder her career?

Melody says: “I was there to win it and not looking for a boost to my career. The Apprentice is a programme watched by millions every week giving you a very valuable platform.

“The help aspect is that the platform is a powerful tool to engage with people. The hindrance is that your name changes from ‘Melody Hossaini’ to ‘Melody from The Apprentice’! I wouldn’t want it to define me.”

Ben Leary on The Apprentice

Ben Leary, Series 1: Headhunter

Headhunter Ben was fired in week eight “for not taking stronger control of his team.” He was then headhunted himself and moved to China to work for a multinational.

Since then he has founded Column Associates, a recruitment firm specialising in the Asia Pacific region.

“I’ve relocated to Beijing and incorporated an executive search business, supporting technology and banking companies to source key talents for their businesses in Asia… we have
grown a profitable business employing 26 people from various corners of the world.”

Ben doesn’t think The Apprentice was the best thing to happen to his career, but admits the exposure was beneficial and has helped him with PR activities in China.

Would he recommend the experience? “Yes. It was tough, but if you be yourself and approach the show in a pragmatic way it does have a positive impact on your career.”

Adele Locke on The Apprentice

Adele Locke, series 1: Retail manager turned male groomer

Sadly Adele was led to resign in just week four of the first series after two of her relatives fell seriously ill. She has since launched her own beauty business for men, The Gentry Grooming Co.

She remains positive about her experience however and says: “For me it wasn’t great due to the adversity in my life at that time.

“However, if you have got the grit and determination to put up with the backstabbing and silly tricks some of the contestants get up to, then go for it, as one thing I did get from the experience is bravery and a lot of great contacts.”

Did it help or hinder her career?

“Now that we are vintage Apprentices – being on the first series – I don’t mind mentioning it”

“In some ways it hindered it as I didn’t enjoy my experience on the show and I was often embarrassed to mention I had been on the show, so I used it as little as possible unless someone recognised me of course!

“However it was the catalyst for me to start my own business and now that we are vintage Apprentices – being on the first series – I don’t mind mentioning it.  

“I find it quite funny now and it was a long time ago.”

Noorul Choudhury

Noorul Choudhury, series 5: Science teacher turned actor

Noorul was a science teacher before he went on the show and lasted six weeks before his turn came for the firing line. Though he didn’t seem to impress Lord Sugar much, the government had other ideas and approached him for a national school improvement campaign called the National Challenge.

“The initiative was to transform schools, raise results in English and Maths and tackle under achievement by young people,” says Noorul.

Since then he’s been back in the spotlight, albeit a smaller one, on the BBC Radio Manchester Monday evening slot.

“I did an advert last Christmas for the NHS, you can find it by searching Turkey Tales NHS”

“I am still in the education sector and occasionally dip my toe into my first career – pharmacy,” says Noorul.

Despite telling Manchester Evening News that he was unfairly portrayed – “What came across on TV was not my personality” – Noorul has since boosted his carrier through acting.

“I have been going to an acting school for over a year and can be seen in the Channel 4 comedy by Jack Whitehall, Hit The Road Jack. I did an advert last Christmas for the NHS, you can find it by searching Turkey Tales NHS.” (We’ve done it for you).

Noorul has some advice for those thinking of applying: “Don’t be blinded by the whole glamour associated with the programme! It’s a graft, it’s long hours and massively edited. Most of what happens on the programme would not happen in the real world.

“If you don’t mind being labelled the village idiot, or the shrinking violet, or the ruthless and the bully then go for it!”