And what a final it was. Kate and Yasmina, Sir Alan said, were the best finalists he’s ever had. And by god, they were good.
I suspect even the very toughest of business cookies would’ve been flustered by the Apprentice’s last and largest task: to come up with a new concept for a box of chocolates, including the flavours and the branding, identify the target market, price it, create a TV advert and organise an event for industry experts coming to taste and judge the chocs. That really is one terrifying monster of a challenge, requiring a breathtaking range of skills.
Luckily, for us as viewers at least, ex-contestants got drafted in to help out. Which means once again we had the intense pleasure of watching Philip leaping around like a coked-up leprechaun choreographing dancers for the event, Kimberley once again bringing breathtaking embarrassment to the marketing industry by creating an advert so 80s-cheese it may as well have put on a metallic conical bra and some legwarmers, and Lorraine once again being her weird, weird but smile-inducing self.
Both Yasmina and Kate did a spectacular job of pulling the whole thing off, it really does have to be said.
Yasmina created ‘Choc Electric’, eyebrow-raising flavour combinations aimed at young, risk-taking (kind of), aspirational foodies. Howard later praised her for having the guts to completely renovate her initial plan to create a male-targeted product, doing a U-turn when time was tight after realising Choc Electric would appeal to a wider market.
Kate went for high-quality, romantic and really quite delicious-looking chocs that capitalised on the recession-popular ‘staying in is the new going out’ ethic.
Both, it was widely agreed, were marketable ideas, and – aside from the fact Yasmina’s combinations turned out to be so repulsive that the actors in the advert had to spit them out after each take and even hard-nosed Margaret could only palette one – the choc industry darlings were really rather impressed.
But what it all comes down to in The Apprentice, really, and as in real life, is profit margin.
Yes, you have to get on with people, you have to be able to manage people, to keep calm and to deliver smoothly and to have some seriously good ideas under a hell of a lot of pressure - but if you can’t explain exactly who you’re going to make money off and how much you’re going to make, you’re never going to make it in a Sir Alan job interview.
For all her excellent presentation and creativity and management skills and bags of charm, that’s where Kate fell down. She couldn’t give a specific answer about her profits. Retailing at £13 a box, the most she provided her audience of critics with, when asked, was: “There would be ample profit for everyone involved.”
And as another black mark against her work, she hadn’t clarified her market. “They’d be in all the big supermarkets and retailers - everyone really,” Kate smiled, looking pleased as punch. But, as Sir Alan pointed out in the boardroom, you can’t enter the mass market at the very top end of the pricing bracket without an established, quality-trusted brand behind you to justify it.
Even though it was widely agreed Kate’s his-and-hers tripartite chocolate box (one drawer for him, one for her, and one to share) was an original and marketable concept, the figures just hadn’t been examined thoroughly enough. As anyone anywhere near as entrepreneurial as Alan Sugar knows, the money is and always will be the most crucial aspect of any business idea.
Yasmina, on the other hand, kept an incredibly close eye on her margins (as she always has – remember her announcement way back on her sandwich and canapés task that every single item had to make a 70% margin? Even when that meant presenting tinned tomatoes on half a French stick to appalled and downright befuddled city lawyers). She suggested a retail price of £6 for her box, and explained each chocolate cost only 7p to produce, leaving plenty of cash free to divvy up between creator and supply chain. Her box design was cheap but jazzy – and, in fact, much to Sir Alan’s approval –and she knew her target market.
And even though Sir Alan said he had his reservations about potential future regrets Yasmina may have if he got her to leave her own 20-person-strong restaurant business to join him, the acumen being at the helm of a business had given her eventually outweighed his doubts. She led well, she had good ideas, she executed them reliably, and, most importantly of all, she always, unflinchingly and unwaveringly, made making cash her number one priority.
Congratulations Yasmina – Sir Alan’s brand new apprentice.