Longridge’s Rebecca Slater on life after The Apprentice
PUBLISHED: 11:00 05 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:00 05 February 2014
Being sacked is harrowing. Being sacked in front of millions is not an experience Rebecca Slater wants to repeat. She spoke to Roger Borrell
You couldn’t call Rebecca Slater a bitter woman – she’s far too busy with her new career for that. And you wouldn’t call her a shrinking violet.
But being fired by Lord Sugar in front of a TV audience of several millions was not an experience she would wish on her worst enemy. Unless, perhaps, that enemy was one of her former colleagues on The Apprentice.
Rebecca is a statuesque former actress, model and personal trainer who describes herself as ‘an unglamorous Lancashire lass.’ She gave up a good sales job with a big drugs company to fulfil a long-held ambition of appearing in the BBC-TV programme which made an art form of shrill business-speak and faux corporate cruelty.
‘My bosses said it was the job or The Apprentice. You choose,’ she says, sipping tea in the lounge of her home overlooking the dramatic fells around Longridge. ‘I was a little taken aback, but I’d tried and failed several times to be on the programme so I decided to go for it.’
The prize, as always, was a year working with Lord Sugar and an opportunity to learn at the feet of one of Britain’s most famous if irascible entrepreneurs. Viewers will know it didn’t quite work out for the lady.
Rebecca, who recently moved from Standish, is not one to dish the dirt – overall she enjoyed being on the programme. ‘I was never anxious about being on and did think I stood a chance of winning it.
‘I am 36 and have worked in business for some time. I think I was calm, confident and reasonably self-assured. But the other people on the programme were much younger and had, shall we say, different ways of behaving.’
The penny soon dropped that The Apprentice is almost entirely about entertaining a mass audience and little to do with the reality of modern business.
‘Things are engineered to create conflict. You feel like you are on shifting sands and people are put together because they are combustible combinations.’
Rebecca, who went to school at Broughton High and Preston College, was surprised how little time they spent with Lord Sugar. ‘I went in without any preconceived ideas about him and came away not much the wiser.
‘None of us spent any time with him off-camera. The only time we met was in the boardroom so it was all very formal and detached. On occasions he could be very funny but at other times he seemed to encourage bad behaviour.
‘I believe there are ways to treat people at work and have views about how you speak to colleagues but as far as the team was concerned, it was no holds barred.’ When they were called into the boardroom for an inquest on a less than successful corporate training day, colleagues agreed that Rebecca was certain to survive. Perhaps their kind words should have set her radar twitching.
‘I was absolutely astonished. He told me I was fired and he seemed annoyed with me because I hadn’t been sufficiently involved. I felt overlooked because I wasn’t playing the game. I know that real business life is about working together and contributing when you have something useful to say. It’s not about saying the first thing that comes into your head just to get noticed.
‘At the beginning of the programme we were put into teams based on our sex. I think it would have had a positive effect if they had been mixed. I’m a feminist, but putting the women together meant their behaviour was awful. And the more badly they behaved, the more airtime they got.
‘Two-faced, underhand, bitchy, bad-mouthing, completely overbearing and jostling to be on camera. They are all words you might use to describe it. It didn’t seem to matter what was coming out of their mouths.
‘I couldn’t bring myself to watch the programme after that. Personally, I don’t feel that anything I experienced bears any resemblance to what goes on in the business world and I can’t say I learned anything.’
Rebecca’s world now revolves around her partner Tim Leibe, an electrical inspector, and her new business All Mein, a web-based company selling moissanite jewellery.
‘If I didn’t win it, I did have a Plan B which was to use it as a springboard for my new jewellery business,’ she says. She is very excited by moissanite, which she says has more ‘fire’ than a diamond but is significantly cheaper. ‘It’s a substance that isn’t terribly well know in Britain. But we are aiming at a global market for what I believe is a top-notch synthetic gemstone,’ she says.
Rebecca is appearing regularly on a shopping channel between building up All Mein by designing new pieces.
She started our interview by offering slices of much admired home made fruit cake. So would she try another TV reality competition – the Great British Bake Off, perhaps? She wrinkles her nose and replies in the forthright manner even Lord Sugar might admire: ‘Not a chance.’