Reigning Apprentice winner Sian Gabbidon has opened up about her whirlwind year since winning the show.
A few months after she was declared Lord Sugar’s new business partner, Sian’s modest self-start swimwear company was up for sale on ASOS UK, US and Europe and nationwide in House of Fraser.
“It’s a big achievement and been such a thrill. But you know, that’s just the start for us. It’s the first step,” says Sian.
“The platform of being on the Apprentice is amazing. There’s no doubt having somebody like Lord Sugar on board has opened doors for me. Having his knowledge and guidance on how to approach situations is a massive help.”
Sian says even 12 months after winning the show she still speaks to Lord Sugar at least one week.
“We chat on the phone or have meetings to catch up on what’s going on and what the next plans are,” Sian explains.
She describes the 72-year-old as ‘very much on hand.’ “If I have a query I can drop him an email, if I need any help on something he’s very involved. He’s really good. The knowledge, the commitment, everything has just been fabulous.”
Lord Sugar has now been guiding the plucky business hopefuls for fifteen years on the BBC show – to varying degrees of success.
Sian says: “Some people say ‘Oh, it’s just a reality show’. But it’s very real. It’s changed my life and I’m sure the other contestants would say it’s changed theirs too.
After seeing off her rivals in the boardroom week in week out, last woman standing Sian was awarded a £25,000 investment and a 50/50 partnership with Lord Sugar.
As the reigning champ, Sian has cast her eye over this year’s hopefuls to try and pick out a worthy winner.
“I like the look of Jemelin. I like her vibe,” says Sian. 34-year-old Jemelin Argias – a network marketing consultant from north London – certainly fancies her chances, bragging in her introduction: “I never have problems, I only have solutions.”
“But there’s also a few I’ve seen this year that look a like a nightmare…. but they probably won’t be!” says Sian, adding that you never can tell in the early stages.
Cockney pillow company owner Tommy Skinner has caught Sian’s eye. “He seems like a proper geezer. He’s going to be loved or absolutely hated.”
Before the show had even started this year, critics accused the BBC of ageism with the line-up featuring one of the most youngest and glamorous crowds ever – with one contestant being just 19-years-old.
But Sian says it’s a step in the right direction.
“Times have changed. It’s about time they got younger people in because there’s no age on business. Obviously if you’re a business person you have your experience but if you’re genuinely interested in business and you’ve got ideas then go for it.
“Social media nowadays opens up the doors for everyone to be a business person. People you are young can make millions from YouTube channels these days.”
Sian knows only too well the power of social media. As a model for her company, her own Instagram page doubles as an advert for her designs and she can be seen posing up a storm from a range of exotic locations.
“I think there’s a line and you have to be professional in business but you’re still a human. You can still go on holiday and put a bikini on and take some nice pictures.
“I own a swimwear brand so I’ve got a new line out and get a picture in a bikini it’s a kind of self promotion,” explains Sian.
“But I still think there has to be a level of professionalism in some areas. It’s not ‘sex sells’ anymore in the way the world works, but you are still allowed to take nice pictures when you want.”
Sian also offered up some advice for the new candidates.
“Make sure at first you have your teamates and you have some candidates on your side. Because what can happen is you go in there all guns blazing and there’s big characters and people clash and you lose the respect of the team.
“In my opinion just get through the first few episodes by keeping with the team. If you lose respect and then make an error you’re the one that’s going to get called in [to the boardroom] and you’re going to get ripped apart.
“So be friendly, approachable, easy to work with – but still get your point across,” Sian advises.
With the Apprentice now in its fifteenth series, Sian said there’s still some surprises viewers might know about the experience.
“You aren’t allowed to speak to home. You aren’t allowed to listen to music. I really struggled with that because i get up in the morning and put my music on.”
Contestants are also banned from watching TV or reading the paper in their shared house. “I think it’s to keep you focused, keep your mind on the tasks and things,” says Sian.
“I used to go back to the house a lot of the time and just go straight to bed. I was knackered. And you’ve been together all day. I like my own company and wanted some space.”
This year Sian is glad to be taking part from the other side – as she launches her own podcast reviewing the episodes as they go out.
“It’s madness! I can’t believe it’s been a full year to be honest. It’s going to be weird to watch it and not feel like I’m part of it. When I first came out of my series I said I’ll never judge anyone again because it’s such a hard process. But I’m obviously going to judge people now!
“But I’ll be sat at home like everyone else enjoying it with my cup of tea. It’s going to be interesting.”
As a huge fan of the show, and having gone through the experience herself, this year Sian is getting involved with the launch of her podcast The Wake Up Call.
The show will go out the morning after the BBC One show and will see Sian and a host of celebrity guests ‘having a laugh and catching up on last night’s antics.’
For her first week Sian is joined by some of the most loved contestants of last year including Camilla Ainsworth, Sabrina Stocker, Kayode Damali and Kurran Pooni.
Sian says she’s hosting party for them to watch and discuss the show at a recording studio in London.
“I love the Apprentice and a lot of viewers are fanatics so it’s fab that on the way to work or whatever they can have a little listen and a laugh to the podcast as we catch up on last night’s episode,” says Sian.
Sian’s Podcast The Wake Up Call is available to download on ITUNES weekly from 3 October
The Apprentice airs Wednesdays BBC One at 9pm