OTB Talks To Alex Epstein: “Lord Sugar Just Wants A ‘Yes’ Man”

The Apprentice’s answer to Adrian Mole was booted off by Lord Sugar last night after he made a mess of this week’s cleaning product task. We talked to The Germinator about his best mate Baggsy, his not so best mate Paloma and his new job as an Unemployed Apprentice..


You amassed quite a reputation and became quite popular with fans during your time on the show. But we’d like to ask about this week’s sales patter. What did you mean when you said: “If I was an apple pie, the apples inside would be orangesâ€??
What I mean by that is…you know, you should zig when other people are zagging. So I believe in being unconventional and I think there’s a lot of success to be had from doing things differently or taking an alternative approach.

Absolutely, so how do you think your unconventional approach went down on The Apprentice?
Well unfortunately, it was a very, very close call between the two teams this week. In fact, when summing up, Lord Sugar actually said to the other team: “technically you haven’t won but technically you haven’t lostâ€? and what he meant by that was that it wasn’t even a real victory for them because it was such a close call, so in that respect it was disappointing that he sided with them. A lot of people felt that what the others did – particularly the adverts – that it was quite dated and sexist…

How do you mean?
It was pretty old-fashioned, we had something a bit different, you know? The Whole Germ-O-Nator was meant to be a bit of fun! It was original, it was a bit silly and I think our radio ad was terrific, Stuart Baggs did a great job with the voices…

Yes, very imaginative. So what would your idea have been if nobody had come up with the Germ-O-Nator?
Well, I can’t think of any specific ideas we had, no. But before we were left with the whole Germ-O-Nator thing we did have various other ideas which we couldn’t really pursue because some of the names we came up with had already been registered as trademarks and hence we weren’t allowed to proceed. I think Germ-O-Nator was quite clever because some of the best ads these days tap into nostalgia…

Really? You didn’t seem too keen on the name at the time..
Erm…perhaps we tried too hard to piggyback on the Terminator movie but you had that line, “hasta la vista, gravyâ€? and we thought eventually that could spread virally through social media and you might have people going round in the office saying (thickens voice) ‘hasta la vista, gravy!’…

…It was very …we thought people might have latched on to it.

Well, it might still happen. What did you think of the other team’s product, Octi-Kleen? You called the advert dated and quite sexist.
Yeah! Octi-Kleen, it was quite a clever idea and I think the powerful message or the powerful lesson to be learned there is that some of the best ideas don’t come from within, they come from your customers. That idea actually came from a mum in a focus group which is terrific! I felt it was a bit unfair because Octi-Kleen’s slogan was that ‘8 hands are better than 2’. Now that all sounds very nice but really in that bottle, it’s just a bottle of regular cleaning liquid. You know, to me its misleading because somebody might think that by buying Octi-Kleen it’s gonna be 8 times more effective but in reality you’ve got it home and it’s just like ‘well, no, it’s just a regular cleaner’.

So you think they were parading something very ordinary around as something it wasn’t?
Yeah exactly, I think it was a bit misleading, they over-promised what that product could really deliver. Listen, I hold my hands up and say, from the off, I had a feeling that Lord Sugar wouldn’t like Germ-O-Nator and I said that and obviously I’m seen in the episode saying that. However it was an idea and we ran with it and we had a go and we took the risk. The packaging wasn’t brilliant and that was partially my own fault and also Laura’s fault. We only had 20 minutes to design the packaging; I’m not a designer and neither is Laura so it wasn’t great at all. But with the black and red, the idea there was to try and do something different that would stand out. Obviously in the end it did stand out for the wrong reasons, but there are products out there which show that if it is done properly, it can work very nicely.

There was a bit of a clash between yourself and Paloma last week. Could you tell us a bit about that?
I think – genuinely – the real cause for us losing that task was nothing to do with the promotional area, there was hundreds of thousands of people passing our store all the time. It quite simply boiled down to the products we had in the store. Paloma and her team went to pitch to Liquorice, that was the clothing brand we wanted. Their pitch was very poor and hence they lost it to the other team. We went after the recycled product range, it was very, very niche, unsuitable for Manchester or unsuitable for The Trafford Centre and really just too expensive and it didn’t sell. That was the real reason but obviously Paloma thought it would be clever to use me almost as a scapegoat and try and pin the whole thing on me because of the promotional area. But, putting all that aside, generally I got on very well with Paloma. You know, she’s a smart girl, business savvy and that was one of the very few times I ever had anything to do with her.

So do you think you were being set up as something of a ‘lackey’ – as Lord Sugar called it – from the very start when she highlighted very publicly what she thought was an error on your part?
Yeah absolutely, I think Paloma saw an easy way out, but quite clearly Lord Sugar saw right through that and hence Paloma went last week.

So, who do you think is going to now you’re out of the fold?
Well, a couple of people come to mind. I think Jamie Lester is a very, very credible contender. I know that Lord Sugar is all about sales and Jamie Lester is good at selling, so I think he’s a very good contender. The other one I’ll throw in there is Stuart Baggs, he has bags of confidence. And, yeah, he’s that kind of…what do you call it? Not an oddball…what’s that word?

Ermmm… We can think of a few words for Baggsy…
No, what I mean is Stuart’s not your most obvious choice. I think he’s a bit zany, maybe he’s a bit off-the-wall for Lord Sugar, but he’s got good business savvy, he’s got a real entrepreneurial streak, he thinks on his feet. Even if Baggs doesn’t get the job I can see him going on to be very successful in some way.

You’re describing Stuart in a similar way to how you describe yourself. Would you say you’re very similar people? Did you get on quite well?
Yeah, Stuart is very similar to me in many ways. He’s, like I say, a bit quirky in a way, likes to think of himself as a bit unconventional and yes, he’s a bit in-your-face. After losing the task this week I argued with Lord Sugar, I don’t think he likes that. He likes ’yes’ people who are not going to challenge him so I did myself no favours by arguing, but that’s just in my nature.

So you’ve learnt that you aren’t a ‘Yes’ man…
Yeah that’s why I’m not gutted about being fired because as I went through I thought long and hard about this and I realised that it really wasn’t my true destiny and that even if I did get the job, it wouldn’t be the best environment for me to be an innovator. So really, it was the right time for me to drop out of the process. It made me reconsider my aims in life and what I realised was that I want to be in a very innovative environment and now I’m very focused on trying to get my own venture off the ground and that’s what I’m working on now. There’s something I’ve been working on for a while now and I hope to launch it early in the new year.

Can you give us any details about it?
I can’t spill many beans now. When I can, of course I will let everybody know and it’ll be nice to tell you all about it…

Do you think the show is just a springboard to launch you out there with some of your own ideas then?
Erm…(pause)…In a way, you know it can only help in some ways…It’s not going to change that many things. At the end of the day, if I’ve got a good idea, the good idea needs to stand on its own two legs. Maybe Lord Sugar can even help me in some way..

So do you think you’ll be in touch with Lord Sugar after this?
Oh, absolutely! I have huge respect for Lord Sugar and what he’s achieved. I’d be stupid not to keep in contact with him because I think he can offer a lot of wisdom and experience and he’s wise well beyond my years.

Absolutely, so who else are you going to stay in touch with after the show? We’re assuming you’ll still be chatting to Baggs?
I wouldn’t say everyone but the great majority of the candidates I’d love to stay in contact with. They’re a great bunch, really, all very talented, very capable and good people so I’d love to stay in contact.

Are you going to stay in touch with Chris because some people might have got the feeling that he sort of tried to hijack Apollo in this last project?
I see what you’re saying. No, no hard feelings, trust me, I’d still keep in touch.