I think I've nailed it! Last year’s Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau on the invention that could make him (and Lord Sugar) millions
21:30 GMT, 30 March 2012
There are still times Tom Pellereau wakes up in a cold sweat thinking he’s in The Apprentice house. It’s been almost a year since he won the competition and became business partners with Lord Sugar, who invested 250,000 in his new company, but at night his mind still wanders back to the reality show.
‘I still wake up thinking the crew are about to film and I haven’t done enough preparation,’ he says. ‘It was such a harrowing experience. Completely relentless.’
Having come out the other side Tom, 32, has a big grin on his face. Self-effacing, posh and on the losing team almost every week, he was the surprise winner of last year’s show.
I've always needed one of them!
Tom Pellereau unveils his new curved 'S' nail file product
But while he didn’t have the experience or killer sales pitch of his competitors, Lord Sugar saw in him someone with good ideas that could actually work.
And the proof is on the table in front of us. Inspired by watching his sister Harriet struggle to do her nails with a straight file, he came up with a curved one.
It comes in three variations – normal, a small emergency one, and one with a buffer – and has now hit the shops (Sainsbury’s has a deal to sell it exclusively before it’s rolled out to other stores).
‘I can’t believe how fortunate I am,’ he says. ‘Although I’m running round like a lunatic, and have been for the last four months, it’s been amazing. I know it’s not rocket science but it’s a start.’
Just another day at the office: Tom and Lord Sugar indulge in some champagne
Before the glory: Tom had to battle his way to the top on the BBC One series
Previous incumbents have won 100,000-a-year jobs with Lord Sugar, but Tom is paying himself less than that although the rewards could end up being much greater. Lord Sugar has a 50 per cent stake in Tom’s company and has been instrumental in making it succeed. Much of that appears to have involved getting Tom to be less like Tom and more like Lord Sugar.
‘Until now I’ve never really been able to focus on just one thing,’ he says.
‘And when it comes to negotiating I’m a bit soft, so I had to learn to play tougher. Does he shout at me A little bit. Do I still call him Lord Sugar Yes, he’s never asked me to call him Alan. He’s exactly as he is on the programme. He’s not into team building though and we haven’t been out to lunch.’
Does he shout at me A little bit. Do I still call him Lord Sugar Yes, he’s never asked me to call him Alan.
Tom started inventing in his grandfather’s shed. ‘He was a surgeon and designed some hip replacements that are still used today. I’ve always had that medical background and I’d love to do more with it.’
He actually tried out his curved nail file several years before he went onto The Apprentice. ‘It was a good product but I was naive. I had this arty packaging but no one knew what it was; people thought it was a shoehorn.’
This time the packaging includes a picture of a smiling Tom. ‘There’s an enormous amount of goodwill towards me,’ he says. ‘So many people want me to do well.’ But Tom, who’s due to marry his engineer fiance Sarah in May, knows if the business fails there’ll be no second chances with Lord Sugar.
‘If this doesn’t work out I’ll have to find something else,’ he says. He has a notebook full of ideas and he and Lord Sugar have talked about a full range of health and beauty products. He’s also been looking at a new ski invention on the side, ‘but I haven’t told Lord Sugar about that. I’m supposed to be focusing…’
The Apprentice is on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC1, followed by You’re Fired on BBC2. The Stylfile collection is available from Sainsbury’s from 4.49. Visit www.stylfile.com