Entrepreneur, wine connoisseur, heartthrob and TV star. The traits of Tom Gearing make the 23-year-old sound more James Bond than Apprentice candidate, but after half an hour in the company of the latest bright spark to have come through Lord Sugar's boardroom, one thing's for sure. Here is a man with the world at his feet.
"As soon as the show was over I went on holiday with my girlfriend," he says (sorry ladies, thought we'd let you know early on). "It was nice to get away from all the furore. It started slowly, but as the series went on, I'd get more people asking for pictures and recognising me. It's all fun, I'm enjoying it as it's only going to happen once and I'll be forgotten about in a few weeks."
With this in the back of his mind, Gearing is doing all he can to make the most of his time in the spotlight now. He has moved his company Cult Wines plus its eight members of staff into a new office in Richmond and is working hard to expand the business.
"Since the show I've had a lot of people in the financial and wine industries contacting me. It's been brilliant. I have a lot of options on the table and I have a lot of people to meet and discuss these options with," he says. "The Apprentice has given us a fantastic launch pad and I'm looking forward to exploring all these new avenues."
Gearing's optimism isn't surprising. Even though Lord Sugar opted for rival Ricky Martin's recruitment business idea over the wine hedge fund that Gearing proposed. The Amstrad tycoon didn't tear Gearing's business plan apart, he agreed it was a decent idea; he just opted for a tried and tested business, rather than a new unproven one.
"I am going to make a success of it and it's not to prove Lord Sugar wrong or anything, he liked my idea and Nick Hewer said my plan was fast paced and exciting," he says. "I was just speaking to a guy based in Luxembourg about the hedge fund. That's an opportunity that's arisen from The Apprentice. Stuff like that is happening all the time." He pauses for a moment before adding, "Perhaps I'm better off without Lord Sugar's investment."
And after coming through the boardroom unscathed to make it all the way to the final, Gearing will be able to handle anything the business world has to throw at him. "It's difficult to compare the boardroom to anything else," he says. "I guess the closest thing would be if you were going for a job interview, but Lord Sugar is the interviewer, you've got eight cameras pointing at your face and all your rivals are sitting beside you. It's really nerve-racking and you have to be prepared."
"You get held outside for about three hours before you go into the boardroom. I just used to think about every way that someone could point the finger at me and work out my comebacks."
But with his own business already booming why did Gearing decide to put himself through the anxiety of appearing in Lord Sugar's boardroom?
"I've always been a massive fan of the show but I would never have considered applying for it until they changed the prize to investment rather than a job," explains Gearing. "If you go down the normal routes of looking for investment you don't get exposure. At the moment Cult Wines and myself are getting opportunities we never would have had otherwise."
Despite getting to the final, Gearing confesses that he had a pretty simple game plan. "All everyone's thinking is, I do not want to be the first person to go home. It doesn't matter who you are. All I wanted to do was win that first task."
Fortunately he did make it through that first task and a shed load more after that. There were highs and lows. "My funniest moment was when we pitched the groove train to Virgin Active. It wasn't shown, but Azhar said we had to pitch our idea at them while doing the 'groove train' exercise. We were there trying to come off as serious professionals while doing a Michael Jackson moonwalk," he says. "But the worst moment was during the art task when I didn't get the artist I wanted. They kept the news from me until the end of a really long day and at 10pm they stuck a camera in my face and gave me some news that could've ruined the task for me, before pressuring me to pick someone else."
Gearing has no regrets about appearing on the show. His business is on the up and he has Lord Sugar's business card tucked away in his wallet. But what's his focus now that the show's over and his time in the limelight may soon be over, as he admits?
"The one thing I want to do is keep my name out there in the business world," says Gearing. "I hope this is the launch pad to get my name in the newspaper pages about business and the fine wine market."
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