Onyeka Nweze on life after The Apprentice

At the start of this year’s series of The Apprentice, Onyeka shared her motivations for appearing on the show, and aspirations for the future. While she wasn’t selected as Lord Sugar’s next business partner, that hasn’t deterred Onyeka from pursuing her business idea. In advance of speaking at Governance 2024 next week, she told me what it’s really like to be a candidate on the programme.

Of course, not everything that happens in each task will make the final cut. Is there anything that you did or said that you wish they had (or hadn’t) included?

There were so many things that were not aired, especially when your team had lost. There was a lot of emphasis on what wasn’t done well rather than what was, so I wish they had shown all the best bits amid the chaos!

You have to remember, we did around 100 hours of filming that had to be condensed into one-hour episodes, so it’s always going to be a snapshot. However, I felt that my character and personality came through and I was portrayed in a positive light.

 What’s life like in The Apprentice house?

Considering we didn’t have access to our phones or outside life, I found the house experience very pleasant. I had a lot of time to catch up on sleep on the days we didn’t have any tasks!

Candidates are only allowed to have one 10-minute call each week to keep family updated. You nominate a ‘circle of trust’ – three people who know that you’re on the show that you can call during the process. They’re only allowed to ask about your health and wellbeing − nothing task related.

Who were you rooting for to win the show after you left?

I’m girls’ girl so was of course rooting for my girls to win. Though the guys were great, the calibre of the female contestants on the show this year was really amazing.

I include myself in this, I feel I had a lot to bring to the show and was among the strongest. However, when your team loses, everyone is at risk and sometimes people who are entertaining are prioritised. It’s important to remember that it’s a TV show at the end of the day and the priority is to make it entertaining for the viewers.

Since appearing on the show, have you been recognised?

Funnily I have! People on the train say they recognise me, or people on the street or in shops sometimes do a double take to make sure it’s really me. I was a bit shy at first but have started to enjoy it.

I think being on the show as a company secretary has definitely created a buzz around what we do and what it entails. I think I have brought some exposure for the profession − I’ve been getting a lot of messages from people on social media interested in what I do and asking for tips and tricks on how to get into the industry.

You’ve soft launched your business now, what skills do you think governance professionals can bring to being an entrepreneur?

I still have so much to learn − nothing prepares you when starting your own business!

I would say resilience is everything, not everything will go your way but it’s about finding a solution and how you turn problems around. Being creative and thinking outside the box are also important.  

Other skills that governance professionals can transfer include being able to multitask, attention to detail, being able to influence, being strong minded and having tenacity and will power.

As an entrepreneur, during these early stages I have had to do finance, admin, marketing, sales and strategy. Having the mindset to get stuck in is key – as an entrepreneur you are the face of your brand so ensuring you are ready to get your hands dirty for the good of the business is everything.

I could probably write a whole book based on everything I have learnt so far, but I think that all the skills a company secretary or governance professional acquire through their training and workplace experiences add value when starting a business.

How do you think having appeared on the show might influence your future career?

The show has definitely given me a huge platform as well as the credibility I need as an industry expert. It also gave me the confidence to make changes and be brave and bold enough to make an impact within the governance profession.

Where can people go to follow your journey from now on?

Follow me on LinkedIn and Instagram. My startup is called Unikorrn, and we are a risk meeting management platform leveraging the use of AI for more effective and productive meetings for fintech businesses.

I still offer my services as a company secretary on a consulting basis and complete contracts which I think is still extremely important as part of my CPD. Plus, I love being a company secretary!

Unikorrn is active on LinkedIn and will be regularly providing updates on our progress.

Hear more from Onyeka at Governance 2024 where she will be participating in a panel session on the board’s role in crisis management and reputation.

To find out more about Onyeka and her motivation for appearing on the show, read our previous blog.

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