The Apprentice: 10.12 The Final
After 11 testing weeks, 20 contestants have been whittled down to just two. The plans were examined during the week yet Bianca and Mark would now have to to prove their worth to earn a business partnership with Lord Sugar and a £250,000 investment. This meant a daunting full business launch in front of industry experts after market research, brand design and a promotional video. May the best businessperson win.
Of course, it would not be the final without the fleeting return of fallen comrades. This set up the deliciously awkward possibility of Daniel having to work with his arch-enemy Mark yet it was a mark of how civil relations were between the finalists that Bianca took him on and avoided the conflict. Joining them were Katie, Felipe and Lauren and they quickly set about researching the hosiery market. Fun for Lauren and Katie, torture for Daniel. Adapting has been one of Bianca's strong points and the trip to Wolford Tights proved educational as she quickly figured she would have to re-adjust. This included another of Nick's grimaces at the suggestion of a £35 price and 30 skin-tones, a welcome comedic feature of the show that will be sorely missed with his retirement.
With a background in the digital marketing industry, the research for Mark was mainly fine tuning what he already knew about bumping businesses up search engines. In this case he was accompanied by James and Solomon while Sanjay and Sarah figured the Unique Selling Point would be a bespoke, personalised service. This was later endorsed with new business of a £36,000 contract. Sweet.
Strangely, neither of them had a brand name ready to go. After much deliberation, Bianca eventually decided upon Felipe's suggestion of True Skin which said it all for skin toned tights. Questions remained over pricing as Felipe was adamant that £24 was excessive and a focus group agreed that that price was suitable for a pair. Questions also remained over the bland, basic packaging yet the crux of the matter was how Bianca would react to the advice.
The only qualms over Mark seemed cosmetic. Climb Online was a simple, effective name yet for someone so confident the pressure was clearly getting to him. With Sanjay directing the promotional video Mark left the extras hanging (literally on an indoor climbing range) as he fluffed his lines.
At least Mark had his team behind him, Bianca risked losing hers when she sent Sarah, Daniel and Felipe home without getting their input on the video. Not that it made much difference, the video looked professional and Katie had done a sterling job directing it.
The business launch was the final bake, the final X-Factor performance and the final dance on Strictly; weeks of progress boiled down to a final test. This may well be the most disappointing batch of contestants in the show's history yet one of them would finish the day victorious. All that remained now was to showcase their business and survive questioning from those in the know.
The pressure mounted as showtime neared yet after all the hype both finalists sailed through. Bianca looked calm and headstrong while her launch was a classy affair featuring leggy models and an orchestrated routine. While Mark looked fidgety in rehearsal his demeanour on stage was confidence personified. Yet James and Solomon had to have their influence eventually, in this case a routine of bizarre morph suits seemingly climbing up a search engine.
For Lord Sugar this was a complex decision. A product or the service industry? A niche to exploit or experience in a crowded market? Stock or salaried employees? The advice was also telling. Karren was quick to praise the man behind the business plan, primarily Mark's team management and the fact that he wouldn't need his hand holding. However, Bianca had a great business idea that definitely had legs yet she would need guiding through the manufacturing process. In the end, Lord Sugar went with the devil inside him and plumped for Mark, few could argue with him.