After a gruelling 12-week process featuring everything from multimillion pound property transactions to a children’s book called Snottydink, Joseph Valente has been crowned winner of The Apprentice. In tonight’s final episode, Lord Sugar decided to invest £250,000 in expanding Valente’s already successful Peterborough-based plumbing firm instead of taking a punt on Vana Koutsomitis’s risky dating app. As the 25-year-old prepares to go into business with one of the UK’s best-known entrepreneurs, NME gave him a call to find out how he’s feeling.
Congratulations on winning. When did you find out exactly?
“Um… I think all I can say is it was very recently. But I think I proved to Lord Sugar that I’m an all-rounder, you know, that I can adapt to any situation. I passed all the tests and I think he can see a lot of potential in me.”
At what stage in the process did you think you could actually win?
“Day one. Yeah, the day that I applied. I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t think I was going to win. I take myself very seriously in business and I’m very confident in what I can achieve.”
Were you still confident as you were carrying out the final task?
“It was a very, very tough time because you’re under strict time constraints: nobody builds a business that they’re planning to take forward into the future in two days. That just doesn’t happen, so obviously you’re under a lot of pressure. But at the same time, what was created [in the final task] isn’t set in stone and it’s all there to be developed.”
What did you think of the advert for PrimeTime Plumbers that Brett, Elle and Mergim created?
“I thought it was great!”
Even in the final cut, you san see Elle desperately trying to suppress a smirk.
“Yeah… I mean, look, Mergim’s a very funny guy. Just being around him, it’s hard not to laugh. But they’re all great people and I’m glad they had fun doing it because at the end of the day, they did actually create a great advert. I was very impressed. I mean, let’s face it, they’re not actors, so I thought they did a really good job.”
What did you learn about yourself from taking part in this 12-week process?
“I’ve learned that I can walk the talk: when I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I’ve proved to myself that I’ve turned my life around. This is a platform for me now to go onto much bigger and better things in business and in life. Hopefully I can inspire a lot of young people who might be thinking about getting into business. I really want to work with young people and give something back; I want to show them that there’s a lot of opportunity out there if you know where to look and how to act.”
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What advice would you give to next year’s Apprentice candidates?
“Going into the process, you need to be yourself. Don’t play any games or lie. If you’ve made a mistake, put your hands up and explain how you’re going to improve and not be that person next time. Talk clearly, talk quickly, don’t waffle, get the key points across and only speak when necessary. Remain calm and keep your composure. And never lose sight of why you’re there and what you want to get from the process.”
Obviously going into business with Lord Sugar is incredibly exciting, but is any part of it daunting too?
“I mean, it’s absolutely amazing, isn’t it? It’s actually not daunting in any shape or form. To know that I’m going into business with someone like Lord Sugar is just absolutely brilliant. I’ll always be able to ask him questions and run decisions by him, but ultimately it’s my industry and I’m going to be running the business. I’m not going to be bothering Lord Sugar every time I need to make a decision. I’m very, very confident in what I do and I know what’s best for the business. Lord Sugar is there to advise.”
In the final, we saw you taking business cards from some of the industry leaders that you met for advice. Are you already setting up meetings with those people?
“I think we’ll hopefully be meeting in the early part of the New Year. They know me and they know what I’m about, but when I met them [in the episode] obviously they didn’t know that I’d won the show. But now I’ve got an amazing business partner that people want to be associated with, so hopefully they’ll want to work with the new business that me and Lord Sugar are now creating.”
Finally, how did you feel when Lord Sugar told you had “more cheek than Kim Kardashian”?
“Ha! I loved it, it was great. I mean, I’ve never been described as Kim Kardashian’s bum before.”