Harrogate business owner Rachel Woolford wins The Apprentice
Last updated Apr 19, 2024
Rachel Woolford. Pic: BBC Pictures.

The brains behind Harrogate’s North Studio, Rachel Woolford, was tonight named as the winner of The Apprentice on BBC.

Rachel, who began the 12-week process alongside 17 other hopefuls, has landed herself a £250,000 investment from Lord Alan Sugar.

The lucky winner, who set up her Cold Bath Road fitness business just last year, went head-to-head with Bognor Regis pie shop owner Phil Turner in tonight’s episode.

The investment will go towards expanding her business, which started in Leeds, across northern England. It offers small group fitness classes, including running, boxing, HIIT and reformer pilates.

For their last task, the two finalists had to launch their businesses.

The Apprentice finalists. Pic: BBC Pictures

Rachel Woolford and Phil Turner in the final. Pic: BBC Pictures.

Rachel’s team created a digital billboard and a virtual reality tour around one of her proposed gyms. She also pitched her business plan to Lord Sugar, aides Baroness Brady and Tim Campbell, as well as a room of industry experts.

In her presentation, Rachel said she planned to open five gyms in “bustling locations” in the north, including York, Manchester and Newcastle.

The Leeds woman, who called her company Studio Build in the episode, said her actual business — North Studio — focusses on “high energy and inclusive group fitness classes, which cost a little less than a personal trainer, but still offering that personal feel”.

But her success was not without hurdles, as she faced tough questions from fitness moguls, such as representatives from Barry’s, F45 and Rumble UK.

They questioned how Rachel could replicate the “personal and community” feel she said her business centres around, as well how she will ensure client and staff retention.

North Studio Harrogate

Once pitches were over, the candidates faced the infamous boardroom for the final time.

As Lord Sugar deliberated on his decision, Baroness Brady said about Rachel:

“This business is her life and her passion for it really comes across. The issue really is just how expensive it is to open gyms, and she’ll burn through your investment pretty quickly.”

Tim Campbell, the first ever winner of The Apprentice, added:

“I think the thing with Rachel is that she’s going into a great industry sector and she’s a great advocate for her product and service. It’s about the scalability of that. Can she systemise what she’s done very well at two gyms over at many, many more?”

The Apprentice final. Pic: BBC Pictures

Former contestants joined Rachel for the final episode. Pic: BBC Pictures.

After one last hit at persuasion from the two finalists, Lord Sugar made his final decision.

He said:

“Let me conclude here. This is a very tough decision, I’ve got to say because I’ve got two very, very credible people in front of me.”

“I’ve got Rachel who claims she’s making money and that she’s going to make even more when she gets the second gym up and running but gyms are with all due respect, two-a-penny.

“Specialist pies are not and it’s a market that I’m very interested in, but how can I be interested in it if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel? There’s a loss-making business at the moment which you tell me is going to turn around and be okay and that’s my dilemma.”

But it was northerner Rachel who took home the crown, and the money.

Lord Sugar concluded:

“It’s very, very hard for me. I’m having trouble here.

“But my gut feeling is telling me that, Rachel, you’re going to be my business partner.”

Now £250,000 richer and Lord Sugar’s newest business partner, Rachel Woolford is one-step-closer to expanding North Studio across the region.

Rachel said in the episode:

“To take part in the process has been incredible and to come out a winner is just something beyond my wildest dreams.

“I was 24-years-old when I started my business. I was just a girl from Leeds and now I cannot believe it, I’m going into business with Lord Sugar and he’s investing in me.”

For now, Lord Sugar’s search for his next business partner is over.

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