A “marketing whizz, young at heart and passionate about growing businesses” is how Lewis Ellis describes himself on his CV. Perfect Apprentice material, on paper.
And Lewis has proved himself capable, getting through to the final five on the hit BBC show, despite a few mishaps along the way (last week’s ‘parfam’ design wasn’t a high point).
He’s relishing the limelight, even the unexpected Twitter attention his tattoos have generated: “It’s weird having people have an opinion on your body. I think I dealt with it quite well”.
But how has the 29-year-old from Rochdale really found the gruelling process? Ahead of the dreaded interviews episode, we caught up with him for a chat to find out all about it.
Back to rule #1 fuck what people think about you!
Thank you everyone that took the time to show some support for my “horrific” tattoos and pointing out no one has the right to judge you or your body.#theapprentice #tattoos #inked #inkedlife pic.twitter.com/G7RsfoZJ22
— Lewis Ellis (@ImLewisEllis) November 15, 2019
“It would be hard to find a contestant with more passion than Lewis and he puts his all into everything,” said Claude Littner about the only northerner left in the competition. “I think it stems from a hunger to succeed.”
Where has that hunger come from?
“I was from quite a poor background,” says Lewis about his upbringing in Shawclough. “I was one of four kids, and we had two cousins living with us as well, so there were six kids. So humble beginnings, really.”
His first foray into business was in the schoolyard, selling “Pokémon trading cards in year three,” he says. But as a teenager, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a career, and worked in a nightclub before becoming a holiday rep.
“When I was 18 years old I went to work abroad, and actually I dropped out of three colleges,” he admits.
“Business only became apparent to me as an option when I was working at a ski resort. There were a lot of successful entrepreneurs and CEOs and people in circles that I’d never had any experience of previously. Those guys were like idols. I was like, how do you afford this holiday and those cars?
“They all said the same thing. Go back to university and get a degree. Get a job, get some capital and start a business.”
What made Lewis, who works for a big Manchester marketing agency, apply to be a contestant on the show?
“I’d watched the show many times, and I thought, I’ve got a shot here. I’m the sort of person that throws myself into things. I thought going on The Apprentice would test my mettle. I thought, why not chase my dreams?”
— BBC One (@BBCOne) December 4, 2019
What has he learnt during his time filming the TV series?
“I’ve learnt never to go on The Apprentice,” he laughs. “Only joking. But it’s very difficult, it’s a very hard process.
“The one thing I’ve learnt is that you can prepare as much as possible, but realistically, it’s your skills that are going to get you through.
“I always worried that I wasn’t the right person, that I wasn’t supposed to start a business as a poor kid. But I’ve learnt that my skills are suited to starting a business. And who I am as a person is suited to it, too.
“I definitely recommend other people to go on the show. It’s been invaluable in terms of the exposure, and a real learning experience. I’ve been around people that are very successful, and having that as an atmosphere, just to be in it, it’s really good.
“It pushes you to challenge yourself more than you have ever challenged yourself before. You have to deal with situations you’ve never had experience of before.
“I think that’s everything that life’s about.”
One of the main challenges must surely be living in a shared house with all the other contestants? So what’s it really like?
“It’s hard in the house, because obviously you’re stuck in there 24/7. You get woken up very early and you go to sleep very late.
“I found it very stressful, to be honest. I actually lost hair. I have alopecia, which gets triggered in stressful situations, and that was one that triggered it.”
Being the last man in the process alongside four women has its perks, though.
“It’s great. You have the whole floor to yourself. No one singing, no one waking you up in the morning. Just really nice.”
And what about the daunting interviews with Lord Sugar’s business pals, which airs on TV tonight? That must be stressful, too?
“It is very, very hard,” says Lewis.
“It’s a whole day dedicated to pulling apart your dream and your vision. So it’s quite hard to deal with, you have to learn a lot of things. And obviously you can’t take notes so you have to remember everything.”
I’ve never seen a globe before honest https://t.co/3sWobO3IEn
— Lewis Ellis (@ImLewisEllis) December 11, 2019
The north has shaped the person Lewis has become, he believes.
“Most of us aren’t privileged up north. We have to work our arses off. The majority of us are just grafters.
“That’s one of the differences I noticed being down south, people aren’t like that, because that’s where the money is. I think that’s something that people forget about the north. And now I feel like I’m representing not just Manchester but all of the north.”
We’ll have to watch tonight to see how he gets on. But whatever the future holds for Lewis, his heart is definitely in Manchester.
“I love the fact that we have a sense of belonging in Manchester. If something happens we all come together. You don’t really see that in any other city.
“I like the fact that if you’re walking through Manchester, there can be someone playing an instrument and people will just start dancing.
“Recently I was in Barcelona and someone started playing Oasis. About 10 Mancs came out of nowhere and started singing as loud as they could. It’s that type of belonging.”
The Apprentice interviews episode airs Wednesday 11th December at 9pm on BBC One.