The Apprentice, episode 12: and the winner is… » SMEInsider

The Apprentice, episode 12: and the winner is…

The moment of truth has arrived, as Lord Sugar finally makes his decision as to which of the candidates will receive his £250,000 investment to grow their businesses. For the last time, we have exclusive expert commentary from last year’s runner-up, entrepreneur Bianca Miller, and Neil Dagger, senior product marketing manager for domain name registry Nominet. Warning: contains spoilers.

Missed the last one? Catch up with our commentary on episode 11.

Join the conversation on Twitter: @SMEInsider #TheApprentice #BiancaMillerSays



Bianca Miller


How 12 weeks have flown. I can tell you from my own experience that three months of filming under those conditions is gruelling and getting the final is an amazing achievement in itself, so I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Joseph and Vana for getting to the final!

Vana’s idea was a dating app with a twist: users play a game to assess compatibility and to get them playing together before revealing what they have been waiting for… A picture of the potential match!

Her subteam went to a railway station for market research and cleverly (this is sarcasm) asked as many non-single people as possible what they thought of the app. Therefore Vana had a very small pool to reference from – three single people in total who all said yes, they’d download the app – a 100 per cent success rate. But 100 per cent from a sample size of three isn’t ideal market research. This type of result is why entrepreneurs often struggle with delegation – as the saying goes: “If you want something done properly…”

The Apprentice richard charleine vana

Vana then met with another popular app owner who suggested that £250k is just about enough to build an app for testing and that her burn rate would result in the investment being spent in six months. He also gave the unfortunate statistic that that 15 apps fail per week.

With this new information, Vana decided to take the brave step (it’s recorded and she is supervised, so she had to really) to be honest in her pitch and accept that a second round of investment would be required to make the business sustainable – maybe even viable.

Joseph’s business idea was to create a plumbing brand that could be franchised to individuals in different geographies, with a focus on renewable energy products.

TA11 e12 joseph's team brainstorm

However Joseph had to change his plans quite quickly after being informed that renewable energy would be the next big thing, but in five to 10 years. Market research suggested that user-based technology would be a better advancement on the business plan, and so he adapted by adding an app to the proposition.

After some fairly entertaining acting skills from his team, Joseph was able to communicate the need for good plumbing services for residential customers.

The pitches

Both candidates excelled in the pitches and proved why they were the finalists.

Joseph connected instantly with his idea by utilising his own personal story and journey to the business idea. He came across as passionate, willing and happy to adapt the business plan to what was required to win. To be honest it still wasn’t clear by the end of the pitch and boardroom scenes what his business proposition was – was it a larger plumbing service with user app or is it a franchise opportunity?

The Apprentice joseph pitches

Either way, he gave a very good boardroom speech about the book that changed his life… yes it was Lord Sugar’s autobiography!

Vana pitched with professionalism, humour and grace – though may have used some carefully selected market research information in a way that made her case more compelling. But she was excellent and if her proposition didn’t require significantly more than £250k she may have been onto a winner. The reality is Sugar doesn’t do diluting shares to gain more investment and nor would he (or the show rules) allow a larger investment, or it would open the floodgates.

The Apprentice vana pitches

Joseph was “hired” and I have no doubt the team who surrounded the winners will help to shape the future of the business. In a matter of months we will see what the business offers. To be quite frank, good plumbers are hard to come by, so a service that provides them wouldn’t go amiss!

I have no doubt Vana will get the capital she requires to make her dream a reality. I wish her every success.

Final business lessons:

Choose your team wisely – You can’t do it alone, so surround yourself with advisers or employees who you trust to get the job done.

The Apprentice natalie and vana laugh

Pitch with passion – Take the audience on a journey, help them to understand the why, what and how.

Know your budget – If you know the investor’s budget and capacity, try to pitch within it. Having the right person on board can make all the difference to the business.

Have a plan B – a favourite quote of mine from a musician goes: “I haven’t got time to think of what may work, my plan B is another way to make plan A work.” I have no doubt if Vana wants to pursue her business idea she will have a plan B ready. Whatever that plan may be, she has an amazing opportunity to utilise her new found platform.

It has been an enjoyable 12 weeks with you. 10 months to go until the next series! The countdown begins…



Neil Dagger

Nominet – The UK internet registry for and the new shorter .uk

As this year’s series of The Apprentice draws to a close, we are left with the final two warriors Joseph and Vana going head to head: Joseph with his plumbing service franchise business idea and Vana with her dating-stroke-gaming app. Two business ideas and two young entrepreneurs who could not be more different. Both face similar challenges of getting a new idea off the ground, and convincing their backers of future business potential.

Their final task was to create a digital billboard and a promotional video for their business, then present their ideas to a large audience of business experts who are already in their chosen industries and are very much aware of the unique challenges and the market dynamics. Finally they had to convince Lord Sugar of the advantages of sinking his £250k into their project and that they would show him a tidy return.

The Apprentice lord sugar stern

Both business ideas carry huge risks. Joseph has struggled to convey his unique selling proposition and how he will stand out in a crowded, competitive marketplace. His strongest asset is his energy, determination, enthusiasm and desire to win. But will that be enough? Vana has a great idea but the experts seem united that her business model requires more initial investment than £250k to get off the ground. To succeed with an app requires the long view over many years to build a following of free users before eventually monetising it and charging customers for the service.

To “assist” them in their task, Joseph and Vana were offered a staff of ex-candidates who were allowed out in public in some form of care in the community exercise. We’re not sure if this was a help or hindrance. Vana chose wisely, selecting candidates with relevant skills to the task in hand.

The Apprentice vana's team

Joseph just chose some of his mates regardless of skills or experience. He wasted the first day building a logo and some branding design, employing a stumbing “blind leading the blind” strategy. His second day was put to good use, as he met a team of industry experts and gained a lot of good advice.

The Apprentice joseph's team

Vana had a more productive first day, making a great video with her strong marketing team of brand experts. Her second day was more challenging as her market research team tasked with identifying the demand for her dating app interviewed people already in relationships and are therefore less excited by a dating app. If only their first question had been “are you single right now?”. Painful. They only actually got feedback from three people who were single, making the whole exercise pointless. A valuable lesson in accurately surveying your target audience, thinking about customer profiling and selecting your approach and questions carefully to screen out views outside your target demographic.

Both finalists’ presentations to the assembled experts went very well and they really excelled. Superb pitches for which they should be very proud. Clear, confident and professional getting well-deserved applause. They sailed through and headed to the boardroom to decide the winner.

The Apprentice candidates city hall

Vana is an extremely investible personality. Had she had a different business idea she would almost certainly have won. But she could not shake off the fear that her business idea could not return a profit for the £250k investment before the money ran out. She tried to cover this off with a suggestion of future VC investment but it was all too risky.

Joseph displayed flexibility throughout, modifying his business idea, taking on advice given, adding ideas like including smart technology and adapting on the fly. His down-to-earth approach won over Lord Sugar and although his USP was still unclear, he was declared the winner.

The Apprentice joseph you're hired

The very best of luck to both candidates.


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