The battle to become Lord Sugar's chosen winner in The Apprentice is reaching its final furlong, with just five hopefuls remaining from the 16 enthusiastic entrepreneurs who graced our screens in the first episode.
Before the last challenge this Wednesday, which sees the candidates tasked to come up with luxury retail items at affordable prices, and the final showdown on Sunday night, a special show will air tonight to discover more about the contenders.
The Apprentice – The Final Five on BBC1 at 10.35pm looks into the family background and childhoods that helped shape the ambitions of these very focused business types.
Here are just some stories featured in the show (and cute pictures of the candidates when they were little)...
At the age of 10, Tom was introduced to the fine wine business by his father. Road trips to Burgundy launched a love-affair with wine that has put Tom at the top of a London-based, multi-million pound business. Tom says “What do I love about wine? I love all the aspects; I like the technical aspects of it, I like the romance about it, I love the way it brings people together, I love the fact that people are passionate about it and, do you know what, it’s a global product. Everyone in the world loves wine.”
Three years ago, aged just 20, Tom took over the family business. Working with his father has given Tom the confidence and business acumen that he has today. He has transformed the company into a firm that has 350 clients in 21 countries.
Living in Wiltshire until she was 18, Jade grew up on her dad’s caravan site and so quickly learnt how to mix with people. She says: "I was always the child at school that was taller than everyone, really loud, and I think I probably scared people because I was so confident. I've been like this since I was about six years old!"
Working in the shop on the caravan site gave Jade her first taste of business. Looking after the guests on the site gave her valuable experience before her first professional job as a club rep, which meant having to relate to many different people and always being enthusiastic. Now a top salesperson and earner in a direct marketing company, she says: "I think the reason that money is so important to me is because my dad came from pretty much having nothing and he built his own business up, and that inspires me."
Ricky has been a professional wrestler for eight years. He grew up in Hampshire, the second of three sons. He says: "I owe everything I’ve got, everything I’ve done in life, to my mum.” After his parents’ divorce, the family faced financial hardship. His partner Gemma Lovejoy says: “Everything Ricky does, I think he has his mum in mind as well as himself. He always wanted to prove himself and be successful and that is to look after his mum.”
Ricky was the first in his family to go to university and after graduating with a degree in biochemistry, he joined a scientific recruitment company. He is now one of the company’s youngest team leaders.
Nick was born in Switzerland and initially showed little sign of the budding businessman he would become. His mother, Corina Holzherr, says: "He was a very dreamy child. He was not really interested in academic work or school work. He was interested in play."
But when Nick was 18 and saving up money to go travelling, his father Paul Holzherr suffered a serious paragliding accident. As the only family member old enough or responsible enough, Nick spent a couple of months helping his father get back to England and rehabilitate.
Nick did then manage to go on his round-the-world trip, attributing the many different ways he saw that you could do business on his travels as to what got him really interested in it. Following this, he set up his first business venture while at university in Birmingham; a coffee-to-go stand based on the university campus aimed at his fellow students. As he came closer to finishing university, although he had numerous job offers, Nick decided to sell the coffee-stand operation and set up his own business, a phone-based business card company.
Adam grew up with two brothers in Glossop, Derbyshire. When he was younger, there was no sign of the confident, mouthy market-trader. His mother, Karen Sadler, says: "When he went to nursery and school, he’d cling to me and I’d sort of have to rip him off me to take him into school.” When Adam was eight, his parents divorced and his life changed. His mother raised the siblings as a single parent for a couple of years, working long hours in the face of financial difficulty.
At secondary school, Adam received poor grades and decided to leave full-time education at 16. Three years later, Adam set up a fruit and veg stall in Glossop Market. Working long hours, forgoing holidays and with uncertain profits, Adam worked hard to make his business a success. With his profits, Adam has invested in a million-pound property portfolio and now owns eight houses that he rents out.
Meet this year's contestants in the slideshow below... who's our winner?
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