The Apprentice reviewed by a career coach: Harpreet and her cake empire had substance and the icing on top

Harpreet Kaur and her cake empire had both substance and the icing on top, writes career coach Corinne Mills

This week was the final candidate showdown as another season closes on The Apprentice.

For months, they’ve lived in Lord Sugar’s business kingdom, a land where winners are required to sacrifice family, bullying is encouraged, blagging is admired and the pandemic seems non-existent, even though it must have been filmed before the relaxation of most social distancing rules.

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While we’ve all been dressed in elasticated trousers for the last 2 years, every week the girls wore high heels and spanx-lined smart dresses with coiffured hair and eyebrows.

The guys always dressed in suits and ties. It had a distinctly retro vibe in look, feel and attitudes.

‘A meticulously well thought through concept’

The finalists of the latest series of the BBC programme The Apprentice, Harpreet Kaur and Kathryn Burn with Lord Sugar (PA)

The two finalists, Harpreet Kaur and Kathryn Burns supposedly had only 3 days to prepare their business pitch.

However, Harpreet who’s been running her business for 5 years, clearly eats, sleeps and breathes her business. She may have asked her colleagues for input but we all knew that was just for show.

Discussing branding, she ignored Navid Sole’s brilliantly accurate suggestion of “Hyper-joy” for her sweet treats, before settling on “Oh so Yum!”. It may have had some odd echoes of “Yo Sushi” but somehow the words seemed to sit very comfortably on the tongue, just like her cakes.

When the expert panel warned that dessert deliveries may be a saturated market – a pun surely intended, she said that she was already running a successful business against competitors with six figure profits. This was a meticulously well thought through concept for a dessert café and gift delivery service. She and her cake empire had both substance and the icing on top.

‘She liked the logo so that was all that mattered’

Kathryn Burn and Harpreet Kaur of The Apprentice on the concourse at Liverpool Street Station in London

Meanwhile, her competitor Kathryn’s matching pyjamas idea certainly had legs, lots of them, both animals and human, but by contrast with Harpreet she seemed half-hearted. Perhaps if she too had been willing to sacrifice a loved one we might have believed her more.

Her colleague Harry Mahmood said that her branding logo looked like something from the Exorcist, demonic figures holding a child hostage. Others thought it looked like a charity logo, or a family planning advert – not quite the cutsie, warm, lovely-jubbly, instagrammable photo vibe she was going for.

But she seemed curiously unfussed at the feedback. She liked the logo so that was all that mattered.

Equally, when challenged by the lady from George from Asda, who presumably knows a thing or two about fast fashion, she was quite dismissive. Her newly-created jungle theme was still on trend she insisted because she followed high street fashion closely and after all it was in D & G’s last season.

Was it that Kathryn didn’t understand how much advance planning was needed for fashion and manufacturing or was it that she didn’t overly care that much?

Perhaps there was a clue in the candidates’ different responses to Lord Sugar’s question about how they would spend his £250k investment. You got the sense that Harpreet had already earmarked the spend and had cottoned onto the idea that franchising was the way to make it work.

Kathryn’s response was that she would spend it on marketing, particularly influencers. You could almost hear Lord Sugar’s wallet tighten in response. There was no way he would spend his hard earned cash on z-list celebrity endorsements. She really hadn’t thought this through.

‘Kathryn may much prefer to be an influencer’

Perhaps it also revealed where Kathryn’s business interests really lay. She’s not the only would-be entrepreneur excited by a glossy shop front who fails to appreciate the unglamorous behind that needs to sit behind the whole enterprise.

Planning, logistics, cost control, managing staff, suppliers, customers, problem-solving aren’t sexy or instagrammable but without them your business is sunk.

Kathryn may much prefer to be an influencer. All the glory and delegate the graft. Nice work if you can get it!

And she’s not the first Apprentice to try and use the series as a springboard for this purpose – most of them infamous, rather than famous. But in contrast to Harpreet’s serious commitment to her business, it felt like Kathryn was half-hearted by comparison. She’ll be successful elsewhere.

The right person won. Maybe we’ll see her sister on the next series.

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