Bourne based businesswoman Khadija Kalifa made a cracking start to The Apprentice and showed everyone who’s boss (literally) to clinch a rampant win as PM in only the second episode. ESP’s Pep Cipriano chats to our third local contender on the hit BBC show…
Determined, focused and strong, Lord Sugar’s already labelled her ‘Mrs Putin’ and likened her to the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un but Khadija isn’t phased.
She has a business plan to present to Lord Sugar with ambition to scale up her eco-friendly cleaning business in Bourne and won’t be asking dumb questions along the way like (the boys team in episode one): “How stretchy is a octopus?”
I caught up with our latest star of BBC’s The Apprentice for the lowdown on what the process has been like for her until now.
Describe in three words your time on the show so far…
“Only three?! Exciting, scary and life changing.”
So, it’s early days but is being in the process meeting your expectations?
“Most definitely. I’d say it’s much harder than I thought it would be and the competition is tough but overall I think I’ve coped well so far and I’m learning very quickly.”
And what have you discovered about yourself?
“That I’m bossy! But I’ve also properly realised that I’m a natural leader. It’s also good to watch myself back and see where there are aspects of how I come across that I can improve on.”
We’re a handful of episodes in and already I’m cringing when I see how the girls are cat fighting. Can you please tell them to calm down!
“The boys are like that too but I guess the girls are naturally more vocal and expressive. I think us girls realised immediately that none of us will take any prisoners and it’s been intense competition between us from the very start. Anyway, I think I did a very good job of calming us all down when I was PM!”
You’ve been described as someone who loves an argument and is aggressive. What do you say to that?
“I’m aggressively determined. I’ve got lots of drive and can see the end goal. Sometimes I may come across not to everyone’s taste but I’m results driven and want to be judged on my achievements. However, I took on Lord Sugar’s comments and became very aware of my personality traits and how I appear to others and you see me adapting as early as the third episode.”
So when Lord Sugar called you Mrs Putin and someone who led with an iron fist, did you see take this as a compliment?
“I’d rather be criticised for being a strong leader and doing what I needed to do to get the team working together and enabling us to win, than for being wishy-washy – that’s not who I am.”
What did you like most and least about being PM when you won?
“I liked being in control – being the boss – I’m used to being the boss! Everyone was putting themselves forward to be sub-team leader but not PM and someone had to step up and take responsibility. What I liked least was my neck being on the line if something was all my fault. But it was worth the risk. I’m in the cleaning business and never thought I’d be PM and manage the creation of a comic (M.C. GOGO). What I demonstrated in that episode is when times are tough and nobody wants to step up to the plate, you can guarantee that I will.”
But Jackie said she was to thank for winning the task because of pitching for the big M.C. GOGO order. Do you agree?
“What do you think?! The comic sold itself and it was my idea! So, all I’ll say to that is well done Jackie…you had a great product. But it’s a competition and she took her opportunity to shine, so I guess she can have a little bit of credit!”
We didn’t see much of you in the doughnut episode but I take it you still had some responsibility?
“I was actually surprised by the final edit because I achieved quite a lot in this task, I did the majority of calculations and sold my fair share of doughnuts. But it’s true I had a quieter week than the first two where I made an instant impression. In this episode I proved I can work as part of a team and I took on Lord Sugar and Karen’s advice to take people’s opinion onboard.”
Everyone tares strips off one another in the boardroom in a bid to survive then we all see a friendly bunch back in the house. Is that a difficult transition to make?
“I’ve been in business for four years and yes, there’s a bunch of people I network with that I really don’t like but I’m civil and professional. As an adult I’m able to figure people out and determine who are good friends and who are acquaintances that I’m just civil around. And as housemates this is what we were good at. The majority of us got on but some of the dynamics between us were just civil. Jackie and I for example knew we weren’t going to be the best of friends but we were able to remain polite to one another and that’s what you see when we’re all in the house together.”
Something I’ve always wanted to know is when Lord Sugar’s PA calls at stupid o’clock in the morning and says the car will pick you up in 20 minutes, do you really only get 20 minutes?
“To be honest it’s more like 45 minutes. The car arrives but it hangs around while we have breakfast and get microphoned up. But we do only have the 20 minutes to get ready, so washing my hair the night before helped!”
Do you know previous Peterborough contestants Nurun and Joseph? Did you speak to them for any advice?
“I haven’t met Nurun but Joseph sent me his support on social media and we’ve arranged to have a coffee at some point.”
And tell me about your book that’s soon to be published…
“I’m hoping it’ll be ready before the end of the year and it’s called Diary of a Mumpreneur. It’s about what it’s like being a mum and running a business. It’s the journey of how I’ve got to where I have before the age of 30 and I hope it will inspire other mumpreneur and dadpreneurs that you can raise a family and operate a successful enterprise without compromising both. I’ll be giving a percentage of the book’s earnings to charities that are close to my heart including Sparks Children’s Medical Research, Peterborough City Hospital and University College London Hospitals. Read it and you’ll see I’m not just Mrs Putin and there’s more to me than being a boss!”
Photos: BBC/Boundless Taylor Herring Photographer: Jim Marks