Lord Alan Sugar crowns winner of The Apprentice 2024

Fitness studio owner Rachel Woolford has become Lord Alan Sugar’s latest business partner after winning this year’s series of The Apprentice.

Woolford, who launched her boutique gym business North Studio during Covid, went head-to-head with fellow finalist Phil Turner to secure Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment and form a partnership with the business mogul.

After she was declared the winner during Thursday’s finale, she said landing the investment was “something beyond my wildest dreams”.

The Apprentice
The Apprentice

Woolford, who helped her team secure a record-breaking £38.7 million in sponsorship during a task earlier in the series, added: “I was 24 years old when I started North Studio.

“I was just a girl from Leeds and now I cannot believe it, I’m going into business with Lord Sugar and he’s investing in me.”

The finale of the BBC reality show saw Woolford and pie company owner Tuner, from Bognor Regis, take on the most important business pitch of their careers so far and attempt to convince Lord Sugar and industry experts that they were worth the investment.

Turner, who bought his parents’ small bakery at the age of 21, was awarded Supreme Pie Champion in 2020 for the family-owned pie business, which dates back to the 1930s.

He was hoping to use Lord Sugar’s investment to scale his postal service venture “pies by post”.

They were supported by a number of candidates who had been fired earlier in the series who returned to help them bring their business plans to life.

During the final boardroom, Lord Sugar’s aides, Baroness Karren Brady and Tim Campbell, shared their thoughts on the two finalists.

Of Woolford, Baroness Brady said: “This business is her life and her passion for it really comes across.

“The issue really is just how expensive it is to open gyms, and she’ll burn through your investment pretty quickly.”

The Apprentice
Rachel Woolford and Phil Turner went head-to-head during The Apprentice finale (Ian West/PA)

And Campbell felt the fitness studio owner was a “great advocate” for her product and service, but questioned if she could scale her business beyond the gyms she had already done.

After the two finalists presented their final pitches to Lord Sugar, the business magnate came to his decision.

He said: “This is a very tough decision, I’ve got to say because I’ve got two very, very credible people in front of me.

“I’ve got Rachel who claims she’s making money and that she’s going to make even more when she gets the second gym up and running – but gyms are, with all due respect, two-a-penny.

“Specialist pies are not and it’s a market that I’m very interested in, but how can I be interested in it if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

The Apprentice
Rachel Woolford said landing the investment was ‘something beyond my wildest dreams’ (Ian West/PA)

“There’s a loss-making business at the moment which you tell me is going to turn around and be okay, and that’s my dilemma.”

Lord Sugar continued: “It’s very, very hard for me. I’m having trouble here. But my gut feeling is telling me that, Rachel, you’re going to be my business partner.”

On spin-off show You’re Hired!, hosted by comedian Tom Allen, Lord Sugar discussed the next step in his partnership with the business owner.

Speaking via video call he said: “I’m going to inject the money into the business and I say this on day one, I’m not going to do any work, you the winner is going to do the work, okay.

“I am just going to inject some money to help you and be your mentor and then she’s going to be telling me what she wants to do next.

“It’s her that is really going to drive this business. I don’t offer any yoga exercises or fitness exercises, the only fitness that I do is flicking the cheque book!”

Reflecting on her win, Woolford said: “I can’t quite believe it, especially after watching the process for all the years and now I’m sat as the winner it’s all just very strange but the most amazing feeling.”

The series started with 18 hopeful candidates and a first task which saw them sent to the Scottish Highlands, to host a corporate retreat.

Over the course of 12 weeks, the candidates were whittled down to the final two through competing in tense challenges, including one which saw them tasked with launching a new team for Formula-E, a motorsport championship for electric cars.

Team Nexus secured a record-breaking £38.7 million in sponsorship from the event, smashing the show’s previously held largest winning sales record of £1.2 million after Woolford spearheaded negotiations.

All episodes of The Apprentice series 18 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.