The Apprentice 2013: 'lucky' cat waves goodbye to first contestant Jaz

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The Apprentice 2013 kicked off last night with 16 hopefuls tasked with selling imported goods against the clock. But what’s it really like to be on the show and face the first task? Katie Wright, a contestant from last year’s series, reviews the first episode exclusively for AAT Comment, and reveals what it’s like to turn your back on reality and face the cameras   

The Apprentice is back with the usual line up of overzealous candidates, impressive city landscapes and eyebrow-raising Nick Hewer on standby to externalise a nation of astonishment.

The Apprentice: the brash contestant statements

The brash statements came thick and fast from the off, including ‘I am here to conquer’, ‘I’m half machine’ and ‘my effortless superiority will take me all the way’, before the obligatory animal comparisons (‘I roar like a lion’). Stuart Baggs would be proud.

Although this is amusing, I stand in a place of little judgement. As soon as The Apprentice production team forced a camera in my face, I was referring to myself in the third person and calling myself ‘The Blonde Assassin’. It’s clear that this year’s hopefuls have fallen into the same trap.

The series started as it always does: with the tension of the boardroom waiting area and the awkward silent assessment of this year’s competitors – a situation complicated by the fact that some will already have had run-ins throughout the laborious application process.

This year’s curve ball was that the project manager for the first task would be picked immediately. The candidates behaved as they always do – the girls quick to volunteer, whilst the boys just sat on their hands. After hunting the walls for spiders and praying the finger of blame would point elsewhere, Jason Leech joined Jaz Ampaw-Farr as this week’s project managers.

The Apprentice task: the 100-page dossier the viewer never sees

Lord Sugar offered a simplistic version of the task outline, leaving the candidates assuming that more details will follow. This is a mistake I made too, assuming someone would clarify where we have to be and when.

The truth is that they would have been handed a 100-page dossier and given 15 minutes to read as much as possible. It takes a few tasks to realise the first 20 pages are health and safety and the last 20 are a list of props. Who said The Apprentice candidates lacked common sense, eh?

So what’s the task? Was anyone clear? To shift a container load of goods… surely there’s more? Luckily for this year’s hopefuls this task is as straightforward as they come. Essentially they had a multitude of tat to sell including lucky cats, cat litter, leather jackets and bubble wrap.

The boys got off to a good start. Realising that few places are open to business at 4am, they headed straight to a casino in the hope of shifting the lucky cats. The girls, meanwhile, chose to wait in Chinatown in the hope that Londoners love a Chinese takeaway for breakfast.

The Apprentice episode 1 highlights

There were other highlights (or lowlights), including:

  • Myles offering to stuff batteries into the lucky cats (at no extra cost)
  • Rebecca sitting down to pitch a few bottles of water to trade
  • Uzma deciding that selling cat litter to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home would be a waste of time
  • Luisa calling Leah a mere ‘doctor’.

The uncertainty of being a contestant on The Apprentice

The lack of debacles doesn’t take away from the candidates uncertainty for the process they’ve entered. They have just said goodbye to their loved ones for what could be a few months, they have had all their personal possessions removed and have walked straight into a world where it’s perfectly acceptable to stamp on your peers, scream over each other and bully unsuspecting buyers into buying utter tat.

Motivation appeared to be a recurring theme in this week’s episode. Whilst Jaz threw herself into a world of team-building gimmicks, the boys banned the usual rewarding ‘high-five’, much to the embarrassment of Zeeshaan who was left hanging.

Despite mass cheerleading from Jaz the girls were back in the boardroom, but not before the traditional trip to the café and the rather generous offer of a nights sleep. I can only imagine how many cups of tea and foot massages Jaz was offered through the night in hope of escaping the final three. What I do know is that little sleep would have been had.

The Apprentice 2013: the first boardroom

The first boardroom showdown of the series didn’t disappoint. Uzma claimed her ‘logistics’ provided the brains behind every sale, although I am not sure searching the Yellow Pages for ‘pet shops’ can ever be classed as vital logistics.

In the end, Jaz (the ‘half machine’) malfunctioned and got the chop, continuing the week one project manager curse. It’s a shame to see Jaz go, I think she would have offered a lot of experience and maturity to the process; she also had a personality that extended beyond obnoxiousness.

So who were the bright sparks this week? Jason certainly had the likeability factor and Leah had a grasp of the figures (and as most AAT students and members will know only too well, this is vital to any successful business).

There were few real lessons to be learnt from last night’s episode – it wasn’t the best The Apprentice task, but it was great to finally see this year’s hopefuls in action.

Katie Wright, who appeared on last year's series of The Apprentice

Katie Wright, who appeared on last year's series of The Apprentice

Katie appeared on last year’s series of The Apprentice, surviving to week six. She is currently Business Development Director of Liberata, a supplier of services to local government; an ambassador to children’s charity PACT, and a member of the London Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Employment and Skills Forum’.

Apprenticeships aren’t all shipping containers and imported goods. Find out more about AAT apprenticeships now.

Katie Wright is the Sales Director at CapacityGrid.

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