IN THE end it was Lord Sugar’s instinct for entrepreneurial adventurousness—“I’ve got to follow my gut”—led him to crown Alana Spencer as queen of The Apprentice UK Season 12 at the end of a tense, close final on Sunday December 18.
In choosing Alana’s cakes business, Lord Sugar has ventured outside the comfort zone proposition of Courtney Wood’s novelty gifts business model, which the veteran businessman appeared to be edging towards, as something that he had been doing all his life.
The last task in this season of The Apprentice UK saw baker Alana and novelty gifts entrepreneur Courtney, assisted by eight of their former Season 12 candidates, launching their proposed businesses to Lord Sugar and an audience of 200 industry experts at London City Hall.
Alana—aided by Grainne McCoy, Oliver Nohl-Oser, Rebecca Jeffery and Frances Bishop—emerged as the winner, finally convincing Lord Sugar that her small business, run from her country kitchen in West Wales, had most potential for upscaling into a large cake brand.
Ridiculously Rich by Alana was the full brand name chosen, the 24-year-old entrepreneur finally realising, persuaded by Oliver, that she was the unique selling point of her brand. And despite some chaos arising from the change of brand from Ridiculously Rich, and a pitch that saw her uncharacteristically wobble from nerves, it was sufficient to see her home for this season of The Apprentice UK.
In doing so she pipped at the post her rival Courtney, who (assisted by Katrthik Nagesan, Paul Sullivan, Sofiane Khelfa and Jessica Cunningham), seemed to be on the verge of clinching it, due to a business model for his Purple Whale brand that was based on design, manufacture and swift turn-around that would have been more in Lord Sugar’s comfort zone.
Courtney’s effort in the final was very strong indeed. He managed to successful lead a team of strong personalities, battle through some early indecision, and even subjected himself to a range of public speaking confidence techniques at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, to emerge a viable contender, who was described by one of the experts as “an exciting talent [who] needs a helping hand”.
“This is a tough one…”
“This is a tough one,” Lord Sugar told his associates Claude Littner and Karren Brady, discussing both candidates before bringing them into the boardroom for his final determination.
It was a classic dilemma for the veteran business mogul, which he aired directly to the candidates themselves: “Alana, I feel that you can scale up, and your margins are good, and you’ve got a lot of potential. Courtney, all of the stuff that you do, I’ve done all my life.”
Indeed, the game appeared to be over for Alana, when Lord Sugar said: “Maybe you can convince people that they’ve gotta go and buy Ridiculously Rich, but people say to me, stick to what you know. And when I didn’t stick to what I know, I’ve lost a lot of money.”
In the end, Lord Sugar went with his gut and opted for life outside the comfort zone, choosing Alana, bringing to a conclusion one of the tightest and most tense finals of The Apprentice UK for some years.
Afterwards, on the You’re Hired aftershow, Alana told host Rhod Gilbert that a decisive factor was the fact that she had been in business since she was 17 years old, and also that she had built a very good small firm that had the potential to be built into a big business with Lord Sugar’s assistance.
Courtney said that he was disappointed by the outcome, but said: “I’m really pleased for Alana. She really deserves it. She’s come really far in this whole process.”
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