Interview with The Apprentice's Dean Ahmad (OB)

Dean meets new Headmaster Michael Bond

He may have just been fired, but former pupil Dean Ahmad came across very well and after surviving 10 weeks of a possible 12, even got a "Keep in Touch" from Lord Sugar. Development Officer, Jenni Barrett, talked to him just before the show was aired about why he applied, what he learnt, and what he plans to do in the future.

Why did you apply for The Apprentice and what did the application process involve?

I had applied for the 2018 series actually and got through the whole process but then I turned it down as it didn’t feel like the right time for me or my business. I asked if I could defer it for a year but that’s not allowed, so when the 2019 applications were open I decided to go for it again. 
It was a rigorous application process across all aspects of life, not just your career, but that’s what it has to be when 75,000 people apply for only 16 places. Once I got the phone call to say I was in the 2019 series, I knew I was ready and it’s hands-down the best thing I’ve ever done.

What made you want to start up your own business?

I started up my business while I was actually at Brentwood School and tried to get my sports merchandise into the School Shop. At 15 years old, I would say I was naive and very cheeky, but I’ve always been ambitious. Jump forward five years and I still work within the sports industry but I now run my own sports agency which focuses solely on cricket professionals at the moment. Cricket was a big part of my time at Brentwood and I was called up to play in the First XI squad when I was in 3rd year, so I was able to play a lot of it. I left Brentwood after my GCSEs, put in the graft and networked, and was able to set up my own agency not long after.

What is it like actually taking part in the tasks and the show generally?

Intense! We all stayed in the house for the entirety of our time on the show, no one got to go home in between tasks or anything. Don’t get me wrong, the house was lovely and we did get looked after, but it was complete isolation for 12 weeks (depending on how far you get) - no tv, mobile phones, internet, nothing. You’d get the chance to make one 5-minute phone call a week, so I faced the decision of checking in on how my business was doing without me or talking with my family for moral support, and that was tough. During the process, we worked 14-hour days most of the time and tasks were pretty much back-to-back with very few down days. Plus every day started off somewhat chaotically because of the ‘20-minute warning’ wake-up calls. They’re absolutely real and some of the girls went to bed with make-up on so they could get ready in time and just go! 

What can we expect to see from you during your time on the show? 

Well you can definitely expect to hear me singing on a tour bus in Episode 1! They hit the ground running this year as the first episode took place in South Africa, which was an amazing start to the process. None of us met until we walked round the corner one by one, after handing over our business plans, so we were all total strangers. I actually tripped over the first time and had to do it again! 

It’s also not until we got into the Boardroom that we met Lord Sugar, Karen and Claude properly for the first time, and from then it’s game on. The first two weeks were very tough and I had a steep learning curve which you’ll see. Lord Sugar really grilled me, quite savagely at times, as only he can. Claude surprised me as he was quite nice off camera but you don’t see much of him. They’re all really sharp and on the ball, especially Karen, so you’ve got to be on your A-game at all times around them. 

What would say are the most important things you learned at Brentwood School that have helped you since leaving?

Aside from the School values of ‘Virtue, Learning and Manners’, which I follow generally, I would say the best quality I learned was resilience. Brentwood School tries to produce well-rounded young adults that can survive in the real world, and I definitely needed all of my survival techniques for this experience. I faced ups and downs whilst at School (sometimes my cheeky nature got me into a bit of trouble) but I learned how to navigate through these from a young age and that really helped in this process.

What have you learnt from your time on The Apprentice?

I’d say I walked in as a typically cheeky, sometimes cocky, 20 year old Essex boy. I thought I’d love pitching and wouldn’t get nervous, but I was wrong. During one pitch, I think you can actually see my heart beating through my shirt! I found out was actually mediocre at pitches in comparison to some of the other candidates and so I came away with a bit more humility and maturity. I think I’m a lot more refined. 

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll see what happens, there’s always a couple of personalities from each series that end up going forwards with the entertainment industry. I’d be very open to that, and I actually went to the Reality TV awards recently which was exciting. I did have ‘Celebs Go Dating’ approach me, but my parents definitely wouldn’t talk to me if I followed that through. 

I’ve definitely got a lot of work to catch up on though as the cricket season has been exceptionally successful for both England and Essex. A couple of my Essex cricketers - Ravi Bopara and Dan Lawrence - just did the double, so I will be checking in with them for sure.