Nine people have been fired and now the winner of Fish on Toast’s student Apprentice competition has been announced.


The Judges: Phill McGowan, Debbie McGowan and AbdulRahman Badwan kicked off the final by briefly explain their businesses and illustrious careers. This was especially interesting for Phill, the head judge who is offering a £3000 summer internship for the winner of the final.


The finalists were asked to create a presentation for what business they would create if they had £5000 of financing, followed by a detailed interview between them and the judges about their performance and their ideas.

Gabriela PalmaGabriella was the first finalist to present. She began with a strong overview of her experience and her love of travel. Gabriella is studying for a Masters in logistics and has a profound interest in education and human knowledge which easily flowed into her business idea.

Gabriella took the approach of looking in detail at New Media Software (Phill and Debbie’s company), seeing that there was the possibility improve part of their business model. Gabriella saw that there was the potential to use the data that is generated through the existing services offered and to sell this data to clients to add value to their businesses. Her idea was very detailed however it was conveyed in a muddled and rather confusing manner.

The questions were centred around the implementation of Gabriella’s idea and how it would work in practice, as well as the query about whether the business would work on it’s own or would need to be an addition to another.

Marta BakerGabriella left the platform so that Marta could display her business idea. After Marta’s overview of her experience and history she described her passion for language and how she believes there is a crucial gap in the market for a business which situates students into families in foreign countries so that they can learn another language. Marta is a Spanish native who has had to learn English to study at Southampton. From personal experience she believes that it would be beneficial to learn new languages in this manner. Marta gave a very detailed description of the implementation of her idea, however very rushed due to nerves.

The judges interview questions were mainly centred about much competition there was already in this market. Would the business be viable?

Caio Swan de FreitasCaio, who had been one of the strongest contestants so far was up next. Caio, a Brazilian exchange student here on a year abroad, is aiming to use careers fairs in Brazilian schools aimed at 15-18 year olds to help students make better careers choices. Caio wants to get university students to talk about their experience to help students decide on their future. Caio wants to have three university students as business partners who are all university students. This requires £0 initial investment.  The money would be used on websites and to help himself fund living costs to create the business. Caio believes he can make £1000 per event at each school, very profitable.

The judges questions were aimed to determine how risky this was and how much real demand there is.

Laura VarneyThe last finalist was Laura, who was widely considered the favourite to win as she has been on the winning team for every task.  Laura, a student at Southampton, who was team leader in last weeks event, won with the coming home for Christmas video.

Laura’s idea was to create an events company specialising in events for company team building. Laura wanted to work with the autistic society, teaching people about autism as a social goal.

Laura believes that her events company idea would be targeted at small businesses and Laura backs her business idea up with detailed research. There are lots of different team building exercises involved in communicating with autistics.

Laura created a detailed profile of the costs, basic maintenance fees, training, students, websites and travel are the main cost areas. However Laura believes there to be a lost of potential in growth as there are plenty of businesses, especially large corporates.

The judges were concerned with Laura’s lack of understanding about business and the insinuation the SMEs might be less interested in quality than large corporates.

The judges leave the room and the finalists nerves are building, they know that they could soon be the winner of a £500 cash prize and a summer internship.

The finalists are brought back in and lined up in front of the judges. After a round of questions Phill, describes his decision between “a non-business, a risky venture, a lot of competition and a lack of understanding about SMEs”. The first to be fired is Marta. The judges believe that the amount of competition would make her idea too difficult to implement.  Laura is next to go, as Phill finds it insulting that she believes SMEs will settle for less quality than large corporations.

In the end, the judges chose Gabriella as the winner of the competition. This was due to the fact that Phill was impressed by her level of research into his own company, and believed her when she told him that she would be capable of doing it with any business.


Congratulations Gabriella! You can read about the semi-finals here

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