One of this year’s candidates in the new series of popular BBC TV show The Apprentice has paid an emotional tribute to one of her biggest influences - a late former lecturer at Brooksby Melton College.
Elizabeth McKenna, who owns two flower shops, made a big impression on viewers with her eccentric personality during the first episode last week when the girls’ team beat the boys in a task challenging them to make burgers and sell them for the biggest profit.
She attended the Brooksby College campus between 1995 and 1997 and remains indebted to the mentorship of Naomi Strachan, who ran the floristry school back then.
“One of the questions they ask you when you apply for The Apprentice is about your role models and I told them about Naomi,” Elizabeth told the Melton Times this week.
“I am going to cry in a minute, thinking about her, because she passed away three years ago due to skin cancer.
“She had such a love of flowers and a love of Brooskby College and what she gave me is helping to drive me on in business.”
Elizabeth, who has just turned 40, is unable to reveal too much about her experiences facing up to Sir Alan Sugar in his intimidating boardroom for fear of spoiling it for viewers.
As a dedicated fan of the series, which is now in its 13th season, she is still pinching herself that she is involved.
“When I got a phone call from the producers I was jumping up and down - I was on cloud nine,” said Elizabeth, who has family in Somerby and Knossington.
“I have learned such a lot through the experience of being on The Apprentice, about running a business and also about myself.
“It has been the most exciting and most exhilarating experience of my life.”
Elizabeth has had to keep everything about the programme to herself, other than a couple of close family members.
“I’ve got a big gob,” she said, “I want to tell the world about it and what went on so it has been very difficult keeping it all a secret.
“It was surreal watching the first episode - I thought I looked quite serious. It was interesting to see what the other team were doing during the task.
“It was a really lovely house we lived in which helped us switch off between tasks and I have a lot of time for the people I was in the programme with.”
Elizabeth is one of 18 candidates in the current 12-week series who are all competing for a life-changing £250,000 investment in their business with Lord Sugar as their business partner.
Her competitors include a variety of business owners, entrepreneurs and high-powered professionals but Elizaeth says she sees herself as a champion for small rural businesses in the show.
She said: “Business shouldn’t be just about what happens in the city of London,” added Elizabeth.
“There are some fantastic rural businesses in rural areas like Melton and in Nottinghamshire and I am really proud of myself that I was able to get on The Apprentice to represent them.”
The second episode of the show is at 9pm tomorrow (Wednesday) where the teams will be tasked to make over a room in a five-star hotel.
Go online at www.flowersbs.com to find out more about Elizabeth’s floristry business and you can follow her on Twitter on @Lizzie_McKenna1