‘I didn’t walk into The Apprentice thinking I would win but I did’

Rachel Woolford is named The Apprentice's 2024 winner

Rachel Woolford wins Lord Sugar's The Apprentice 2024. (BBC)
Rachel Woolford wins Lord Sugar's The Apprentice 2024. (BBC)
  • The Apprentice 2024’s winner Rachel Woolford has won Lord Sugar's £250,000 investment for her gym business North Studio after the gruelling process. She went head to head with Phil Turner in the final who was looking for an investor in his family business Turner's Pies.

  • However, the winner told Yahoo that she didn’t walk into the boardroom thinking she would be victorious. And after the final pitches, Woolford knew it was a difficult decision for Lord Sugar.

Winning The Apprentice has been crazy.

After weeks of being in the process, how hard it has been and how tough it was being away from home to come out not just in the final but to win the show is the most amazing feeling.

I wasn't confident I was going to win the process from day one. There were 18 great candidates. There was a lot of talk about this being one of the best years in terms of the level and the calibre of candidates on the show. From week one, I knew I had to put some hard work in to get to where I am.

You look amongst you and you hear about what the other candidates were doing. We'd speak off camera about what we do outside of the show and what business you have and what line of work you're in. There were some amazing people on this series so no I didn't walk into the boardroom thinking I've got this in the bag. Absolutely not. I'm confident in my business but walking into that room, there was a lot of competition.

My biggest learning curve was making sure I do have confidence in myself. Don't let other people make you think you're not good enough. Lord Sugar is straight talking. He has a no nonsense attitude and I'm like that. I always have been since I was a kid. And I think continue to use that trait and always be myself. I made a promise to myself when I went on the show that I wouldn't be anyone but myself and it took me to the final - and to finally win.

Rachel and Phil go head to head in The Apprentice final. (BBC)
Rachel and Phil go head to head in The Apprentice final. (BBC)

Phil Turner is such a credible candidate to go up against. He's got a brilliant business and he's got great business acumen. So being up against someone like that, it's amazing because I really feel like it was two worthy candidates in the final. For Lord Sugar to choose me out of the two of us, wow!

The final pitch was really nerve wracking. There's around 100 and 150 people in the room, including: Lord Sugar, Tim Campbell, Karren Brady and then a load of industry experts. But I also felt at ease because I was speaking about something that I was passionate about and I can never run out of things to say about it. So I felt, this is now my time to show them why I'm here and what my passion is and what I've spent the last five years doing.

It was an amazing moment and it was 100% one of the highlights, if not the highlight of my career, because there were people in that crowd that I look up to massively. There were some really big industry players in the room and for them to be asking me about my business, my little business in Leeds, that nobody had heard of was just an amazing feeling. It was an honour to be in that room.

There was more pressure in the final because there is only two of you left. While you're pitching, you want proof that you're serious and why you deserve to be there. You don't want to slip up or say anything wrong. You want to make it as competitive as possible. I think Phil and I made it as competitive as possible in a nice way. We both did a very good job in the pitch. Neither one of us slipped up or messed up. I think both of us actually did extremely well but it probably made it hard for Lord Sugar.

Lord Sugar had to make a tough decision in The Apprentice final
Lord Sugar had to make a tough decision in The Apprentice final. (BBC)

Phil and I were always friends. There's no bad blood between us. We got on very well. But when we were filming, it was about us. It was about me and it was about Phil. Filming two different endings, it was a bit awkward for Phil and I to be like you've won and then the other one's won. But it was the only part of the show that's like that. I don't want anyone to think that the whole show is like that because it's not. Everything else is real, it's raw. People think it's scripted and I've seen a lot of comments on social media but it's not scripted at all.

I would definitely do TV again. Not that TV work is easy but I think once you've done something like The Apprentice you'd find it a little bit easier. The Apprentice is unscripted so you can't prepare for it and it is so intense. It's so high pressure. The odds are against you. I'd love to do something like SAS: Who Dares Wins. Anything like jumping in water from a height. I'm up for it. A crazy hike, a crazy challenge. Sign me up!

Before The Apprentice, I had never been on TV. Then there's cameras everywhere. I was nervous for a number of reasons. I was very nervous about meeting Lord Sugar for the first time in the boardroom. There's all these candidates, it was the first time you see each other. So everything is new. When he addresses you in the boardroom, saying: 'Rachel what are you all about?' I was starstruck in the moment. I've watched the show for a long time now and Lord Sugar is asking me about me. It was an absolute honour to be a part of the process, especially in this year's cohort of candidates.

Lord Sugar is going to help Rachel Woolford expand her gym business.
Lord Sugar is going to help Rachel Woolford expand her gym business. (BBC)

Being away from my family and my business was the toughest part of The Apprentice. I've been on holiday when I've had my business but I've always worked remotely. I always take my laptop with me and I check in. Whereas there was no checking in while filming, I couldn't just see what the numbers were like in work yesterday or have we got any new clients this week? How's that site doing? There was none of that, so it was almost quite good for me. When you own a business, I don't care what anyone says, you are a control freak and I was out of control. So it probably did me some good, taking a step back and realising that the business can run. It needs me, don't get me wrong. But now I'm a bit more chilled about having a weekend away.

There are so many things to be excited about working with Lord Sugar. First having his expertise, his advice on hand. Plus, being able to use his resources and ask him what he thinks on particular things will be amazing. Yes, the capital which he's putting into the business is incredible and it will enable me to open another site. But it's not just about the money. There's also his skill set, his expertise and his ideas along with mine. I'm the one with the industry experience and he's the one that's got years and years of business experience.

I'm just getting started on our amazing partnership together. Everyone's experience is different and I respect the past winners that have split from Lord Sugar but for me this is just the beginning of our journey. I'm really excited to see where it takes us now.

Rachel Woolford told her story to Lily Waddell.

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