The BBC Apprentice winners: interview with Sian Gabbidon

If I’m being honest, my forever favourite candidate from the BBC Apprentice 2018 was tree surgeon Tom Bunday: quiet, reassuring and still sightly terrifying, he looked like the kind of dude you would appoint to sort things out with your landlord.

As today I interview her about Sian Marie, the online swimwear business she owns with Lord Sugar, she confirms herself as a credible and strong business owner who knows the fashion industry inside out and is madly passionate about affordable luxury swimwear.

Hey Sian, thank you for the interview opportunity.

No problem! And you thank you for calling!

What was your dream job as a child?

Ouhhhh…. my dream job… that’s tricky. I don’t know if I had a dream job… I think that when I was younger I just wanted to do something fun and that I enjoyed. I just wanted to be successful, really… boredom is terrible for a child… I just wanted – to know… I had a look at my parents and I wanted to be an adult like them. So, I didn’t have a particular dream job that I wanted to do… I just wanted to be successful.

At some point in your audition you said that you were playing football and that you were “really really good at it”; why did you stop?

Mmm… to be honest, I’ve always been into fashion, and I was kind of playing football as a sport, for fitness, and I enjoyed playing as well. And then I kind of started high-school and I kind of grew up a little bit, and my dad was really pro-football… but then, yes, I went to high-school and I switched to fashion. You know, back in the day, we learned about everything, about textiles, pieces of art and fabrics – not only clothes.

Why did you get so passionate about swimwear? I mean, you don’t come from a warm country like Spain or Italy when you’ve got sunny beaches all around you…

Hahaha… well, I think it was probably just because I felt like – on a personal level – that with swimwear and things like that, it was difficult to find stuff that fits well. So I was going to the high-street in the old days to try to find something but it didn’t really fit well. Or like I needed a different-size top but you couldn’t swap it… so, for me, it was like: OK, there is probably a market here for this. And probably, you know, today everyone wants to look different, so I think there’s where this swimwear brand come from.

What was your plan B if you didn’t win The Apprentice?

If I had not won, I would have continued doing what I’m doing now, I would have just – you know – worked my way up to looking for an investor hopefully… but there wouldn’t have been a plan B any different from what I’m doing now.

What would you suggest to someone struggling to decide whether they want to be employed, self-employed or businesspeople?

I would just tell people to go for it and do whatever they really want to do. I think, especially now there are many more platforms and things like social media open up to encourage people to start their own business or to be self-employed or to do whatever they want to do. So I think back in the day there was always a bit of… well, when you think about my parents and the way they have worked their whole life and then… But now for me, it is that if you really have a passion about something, just go out and do it, and if it doesn’t work, you can find something else… you know, it’s all about confidence.

Really wise advice from you.

Thank you!

Do you think people could ever go back to employment after having been in business?

Mmmm… I think you can… but I imagine if you ask entrepreneurs they’ll probably say they would find it difficult to do…

You know, not quite really. Not all of them would agree – at least not everyone I have interviewed – it’s why I’m always asking this question.

Ahhhh, really? OK, well, I personally would struggle because I like to be in control and to be making decisions and you know, I like doing things the way I want to do it… So, yeah, I personally would struggle with it, but, well… some people may not.

And do you think people could be “born” employees just like others are born businessmen and businesswomen – so that some people should just stick to their employment?

I think it’s all about the character, and it all depends. You know, some people are born entrepreneurs I think – because if I look at myself or at my boyfriend – who is a massive entrepreneur and I think he has always been his whole life – he is entrepreneurial in the way that he can make money out of whatever he decides to – and I think this is kind of what a true entrepreneur is.

Is there anything else at also you want to say? I don’t know… your new projects, how the business is going and things like that?

Yes, sure, definitely! I think it’d be great to talk about the fact that we’ve got a new collection launching online. That’s a tropical range, we’ve been working on the background in that, it’s going to be really nice, brightly-coloured rich print swimwear – just showing the public a little bit more of my character. And then we’ve got loads of things coming up, we’ve got collaborations with brands, we’ve got retailers on board now, so yeah, we’ve got a lot going on… I’m just very busy at the moment!

★ If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in our other interviews with all the BBC Apprentice winners from 2011 to 2018: Tom Pellereau (2011)  Ricky Martin (2012), Dr Leah Totton (2013), Mark Wright (2014), Joseph Valente (2015), Alana Spencer (2016), James White and Sarah Lynn (2017)

★ Want to know why we called it quits in 2019? Read this

Sian Gabbidon Apprentice winner Leeds supporter

Sian Gabbidon

About The Author

Founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

The one behind the wheel.