‘The phone is the signal that everything is going to kick off. Then you get ready, jump in the car and you are off …’ So says Sean Spooner of his whirlwind experience as one of Lord Sugar’s hopeful Young Apprentices in this year’s show.
Sean beat off competition from 16,000 applicants for his place in the final 12, where the young entrepreneurs split into teams to carry out money-making tasks. Each week one of the losing team is fired. The competition is fierce and the stakes high with the finalist winning £25,000 to enhance their education or career.
The series is still continuing but viewers already know that Sean is out of the process, having been fired by Lord Sugar after project-managing the second task. Sean, named the world’s youngest publisher, led team Odyssey as they produced a cookery book targeting the female market. 'Professional Woman’ was pitched to three major retailers, however rival team Platinum bagged more sales with their ‘Where’s Mummy?’ cartoon version. Sean returned to the boardroom to face tough questioning alongside team-mates Maria and David. After a thorough interrogation Sean heard the dreaded words: ‘You’re Fired.’
However, he has no regrets: ‘Lord Sugar makes points with the aim that we learn something rather than just to make us look like idiots. He genuinely cares, because he is involved in picking us, he has a lot invested in us, so when we go wrong, he doesn’t get angry but perhaps frustrated. Both the boardrooms were just a blur because you obviously have no time to think, but you have to say the best thing you can.’
Sean’s other task with Odyssey was sorting and selling used clothes. ‘I really enjoyed it because it was nothing like I have done before. It is the kind of task where there are no barriers, everybody can just contribute. It was fun.’
Taking part in the show can be gruelling, with long hours of filming and interrogation from Lord Sugar and his advisers, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady: ‘When you watch the programme you don’t understand the scale of the production, there are cameras everywhere. On the first day they were all in our faces but after that they just blend into the background. My team worked with Karren on both tasks. She is effective when you go wrong and is always there to point you in the right direction or give some tips.
‘I think the show was edited fairly, they have so much footage and have to get it down to such a short amount of time. Maybe a few bits are exaggerated to push the story forwards, but I think it was a really fair edit. Everything which did or didn't happen was shown that way so all of the bad bits were of my making, not the editors.
‘It is kind of gutting to be fired, but kind of a relief, because it involves 6am starts and late nights, although what you are doing is fun and you want to be there, equally it is exhausting. I don’t know whether it will open or close doors in the future but I have a few good contacts so far.’
Sean’s next business is about to launch with the publication of 10,000 copies of his latest venture, Magnate, a free men’s lifestyle magazine which will be distributed at the main London railway stations. His first edition features an interview with Richard Branson.
‘I am still going down the publishing road despite losing a publishing task. On that task, the firing wasn’t as bad as the losing. When you get fired it is more of a relief and you are only answering for yourself, but having four people who are on your team sitting behind you, regardless of how much they did or didn’t contribute to the failure, you are the PM and supposed to know about it. That was the bit that sticks out in my mind.
‘As an experience it is such an intense few weeks and somebody like Lord Sugar has so much clout. You learn so much so quickly. You feel more developed as a person and you come out of there thinking: "Right, I may have got fired but if I am able to do that, what is stopping me?"