Behind the scenes of Young Apprentice

One of last year's contestants chats to Hannah Langworth about the award-winning show

Harry Maxwell reached the semi-final of Young Apprentice 2011, losing out on a closely-fought popcorn making and selling task. Harry started his first enterprise - selling tickets on the internet - at the age of ten, and is currently developing a five-star hotel review website.

What preparation did you do before going on the show?

I did a lot of rewatching of old series and that came in handy because from watching you can take things away and learn from them - if you've seen someone make a mistake and it hasn't gone down well, you think to yourself "I won't do that".

Everyone on Young Apprentice always looks very smart. Do contestants get a lot of help with their appearance before filming starts?

Not at all. The biggest nightmare is that you're not allowed anything with a logo on and when you go into Top Man or Next, everything's got logos on! But before you go into the boardroom, there's a make-up artist there.

What was it like living in the house with the other candidates?

It's intense and you really do get to know people. It got a bit surreal because you're living in a house togther and everyone is so different outside the process. But by the end of it we all got on really well. On our days off, we'd do things like going to Hyde Park and hiring a pedalo, going bowling or making pizzas.

How much contact did you have with the outside world?

You're not allowed access to your phone, apart from a ten minute phone call once a week. You can't even speak to your parents - they can send letters to you, but you can't reply.

You're not allowed internet access or access to newspapers and you're not allowed to watch TV - even the news.

Did you go into the tasks with a strategy?

At the end of the day, one of you will have to go - do you want that to be you, or are you going to do everything you can do to ensure it won't be you? If you're the best salesperson in a company, they're not going to fire you. So the tactic I took was to think about what was important to each task and focus on that.

What's it like not being able to use Google?

It's frustrating because I think sometimes people think, "That's a rubbish idea", but you don't have anything to go off - it's just you all sitting there putting your heads together.

What were Nick and ike?

In the breaks between filming - say on your lunch break - you would get some interaction, but all on a social rather than a business level. I got on really, really well with Karren - she was so nice, such a genuine person, very straightforward, but actually a lot more bubbly than I would have thought. Nick is pretty much the same guy [that you see on the show] - what you see is what you get. He has some of the best one-liners you could imagine and so many stories to tell. I really enjoyed working with both of them.

What was it like being filmed?

You grow to be comfortable - you always have some awareness that the cameras are there, but it never influences your behaviour that much. I got on really well with the production crew. It's so funny because sometimes you say something and they struggle to hold back their reaction and you see them smiling in a corner and you think "Oh no, what's going wrong?"

How much preparation would you do before going into the boardroom?

We'd finish the task one day and then next morning we'd have the boardroom. Straight after every task, everyone is separated and called to do an interview on camera. Back in the house on the night before the boardroom, I could never sleep. I'd be thinking, "It's the boardroom tomorrow - I need to know what I'm going to say." I'd be reaffirming what I did, why that meant I should stay, and thinking about the other candidates. Just before we went into the boardroom, we'd have to wait in a little room and they'd ask us to sit in silence and think about what we were going to do.

What was the boardroom process like?

The process is quite long - it's a three hour stint each time. [What you see on TV] is pretty authentic. There is the odd occasion when something needs to be rephrased, but it generally is how you see it. I found it quite comfortable - you're just going through the task and talking about every single detail. If you're confident in what you've done, it's a relatively straightforward process.

How much interaction did you have with Lord Sugar?

I was actually able to get quite a rapport going with Lord Sugar, just because I saw him so frequently as I kept losing! Lord Sugar probably comes across as a bit more direct on screen than he is. He genuinely wants to see people do well - he wants to help you to become the best that you can be.

I have been in touch with him. I haven't quite braved giving him a phone call yet, but I've had a few emails - kind of concise because he probably gets a huge number, but he does always send a nice reply, signed "Lord Sugar".

What advice would you give other young people interested in entrepreneurship on the basis of your experience on the show?

I was given some advice by a friend and it really helped me: step back - it's very easy to get caught up in an idea, but think "Does this idea work and make sense?" By taking those steps back, you generally tend to find you have a product that's more pleasing to your customer.

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