<Written by Becs>
Ahh The Apprentice is back next week! Hoorah for a shiny new batch of candidates in freshly bought suits, Lord Sugar's classic expressions in THE BOARDROOM (the room of dooooom!) and being able to watch this year without hiding behind a cushion and dying inside.
Whether you're an Apprentice groupie or you simply HATE the show, The Apprentice is known as the programme that people love to hate. It is sculpted (trust me - I’ve seen how they do it) to make viewers squirm, the tasks appear straightforward yet the candidates defy logic (hmmm I wonder why?) and we all sit on our sofas eating Dorritos shouting "WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING?!" every time they deliver an excruciatingly bad pitch to a 'well known supermarket'.
Twelve months after my own adventure into the crazy land of The Apprentice I am still fascinated by the love-hate relationship that people seem to have with the show.
I've genuinely had strangers recognise me from the other side of the street and dodge through MOVING traffic to tell me how much they hate the programme... before excitedly requesting a selfie. People have adamantly denied watching the 2016 series... before telling me in detail exactly what I did wrong in each episode (eh?) and a man once heckled me on a train by shouting "EY LOVE - YOU'RE FIRED!.... WHAT A LOAD OF SHIT" before politely requesting that I record a video for his daughter because she loved me on the show.
Strangely this love-hate viewing relationship with The Apprentice appears to fuel the popularity of the show, which has dropped in viewing figures but still pulls in a whopping 6 million people. In truth we love despising the candidates, we enjoy rolling our eyes at the same tasks EVERY year and we like to hate Lord Sugar. We are British and we love to hate things.
For a normal human suddenly entering the powerful machine of The Apprentice last September I was blown away by how many people recognised my face. I expected around 4/10 people to vaguely notice I that was a girl on telly but it was more like an explosion of 9/10 people asking me for selfies, grinning excitedly as I walked by, surreptitiously taking photos of me (UMM I CAN SEE YOU) and wanting to talk to me... all the time... ANYWHERE. Groups of teenagers with Snapchat were the craziest ones.
Although the prolific selfie requests have calmed down now (thank god) they have lately evolved into a bizarre conversation I experience 2 - 3 times a day when strangers declare that they know me and did I used to work at James & Son Solicitors / do my kids go to Harrowmouth Primary School / did I go to a Pacha after-party last month in Ibiza / am I a presenter on CBeebies.
Notwithstanding my power to befuddle people with my recognisable face, The Apprentice experience has been absolutely amazing for our little business Fi & Becs. Imagine a HUGE FREE ADVERT for your tiny little business on prime time television. Although I was essentially useless on the programme (cringe), I didn't come across as aggressive, back-stabbing or horrible to work with (phewf) so we have been inundated with new work. Exciting doors have opened leading to university lecturing, guest speaking and presenting jobs plus new clients have flocked to us in unexpected abundance. Boom!
Having recently met a batch of the new candidates (who are all competent, lovely and successful - do not believe what you see on TV), one of them asked if The Apprentice had changed my life. I hesitated before answering "ummm not really, I'm still a mum, I still work at home drinking too much tea whilst chatting to my sister... we're incredibly busy and I get to do some fun radio and filming stuff but otherwise... my life is exactly the same."
The Apprentice is an absolutely awesome experience... if you know exactly what you want to get out of it.
Some candidates may want fame (both Jessica and Karthik from my batch impressively went on Celebrity Big Brother!), but I wanted a huge chunk of free PR for my business. Considering our website got 13,000 hits on the week I was fired, my LinkedIn connections went bananas and we now have over 200 clients I'd say my small mission was achieved. It was also pretty cool when Lord Sugar tweeted about the copywriting work we did for Alana's winning business Ridiculously Rich! (Alana is also absolutely lovely by the way - you definitely don't need to be a twat to win The Apprentice.)
Alongside our Fi & Becs business stuff, the last 12 months have also been super fun for me as a human. I've lectured at six universities (plus becoming a regular lecturer at The University of Liverpool), become a frequent panellist on BBC Radio Manchester, adored being a Business Angel for three school enterprise projects, written columns for a local paper and recently presented for a series of exciting business films that are launching at The Business Show this November in London. Yay!
Soooo, this year I'm looking forward to watching the brave new candidates experience the public's love-hate relationship with The Apprentice. I can't wait to see them running around in London completing inane tasks set in impossible timescales by the production team. I'm grateful that I won't have to watch this series from behind a cushion but I have no doubt that I'll still be cringing and writhing in sympathy as I see the poor things set up to fail... repeatedly.
Whilst balancing a plate of Doritos on my ever-growing bump (I'm 5 months pregnant) I shall raise a glass of elderflower spritz (wine replacement) and salute the excellent machine of The Apprentice which made our last 12 months exciting, adventurous and (thankfully) successful.
The Apprentice 2017 starts on Wednesday the 4th October on BBC One. Make sure you also watch You're Fired on BBC Two afterwards as that's the BEST BIT where you get to see what the candidates are like in real life!