‘Not trusting my gut instinct got me the sack’, says BBC Apprentice contestant Natalie

Programme Name: The Apprentice - TX: 07/05/2013 - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Embargoed for publication until: 30/04/2013 - Picture Shows: The Apprentice: Series 9 - Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady'' Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady - (C) Boundless - Photographer: Jim Marks
Programme Name: The Apprentice - TX: 07/05/2013 - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Embargoed for publication until: 30/04/2013 - Picture Shows: The Apprentice: Series 9 - Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady'' Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady - (C) Boundless - Photographer: Jim Marks

Fired BBC Apprentice contestant Natalie Panayi says the television competition has taught her to trust her gut instincts more.

The 31-year-old, who used exposure from the popular show to give her fledgling dress business a boost by launching the label as she was booted off, said nothing could have prepared her for the fiercely competitive programme which comes to a climax tonight.

Programme Name: The Apprentice - TX: 07/05/2013 - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Embargoed for publication until: 30/04/2013 - Picture Shows: The Apprentice: Series 9 Natalie Panayi''***to go live to long lead press Monday 22nd April*** Natalie Panayi - (C) Boundless - Photographer: Jim Marks

Programme Name: The Apprentice - TX: 07/05/2013 - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Embargoed for publication until: 30/04/2013 - Picture Shows: The Apprentice: Series 9 Natalie Panayi''***to go live to long lead press Monday 22nd April*** Natalie Panayi - (C) Boundless - Photographer: Jim Marks

She said: “I don’t think anyone can really be prepared for it. It was a lot more difficult that I first thought.

“You get thrown into a house with another 15 really strong people and that in itself is a challenge.”

She revealed that she was labelled ‘Miss Hindsight’ by fellow contestants.

“I was questioning myself a lot and a lot of the time I knew the right answer and I knew what to say but I was too scared to say it,” said Natalie, now back in her ‘day job’ at a recruitment agency after taking a sabbatical to take part in the show.

“I learned lots of stuff – one of the big things was to back myself and go with my gut instinct because anyone who watches it will realise I didn’t do that very much, and as a result I got fired.”

Although Natalie, who says the show also forced her to brush up on her maths skills as quick number crunching was often required, does not think she should have been fired for her performance in the episode’s caravans and sales task, she admitted: “I think my time had kind of come.

“It was a great experience – one of the best experiences of my life.”

She describes straight talking business boss Lord Sugar as ‘lovely.’

“I really liked him,” she said. “You don’t get much time without the cameras. I felt he liked me. He saved me from being fired a couple of times.”

The publicity that comes with an Apprentice appearance gave Natalie the perfect opportunity to launch her online fashion label Panya London with younger sister Lexi, who still lives at the family home in Chipperfield. Lexi runs the business full time, while Natalie dedicates evenings and weekends to the job.

She said: “It has only been going a few weeks and already people are revisiting and coming back.”

But recruitment is still her first love.

“I’m really passionate about recruitment,” she said. “It pays really well and it is a sales job so you have to be very motivated.

“I recruit sales people, putting them in better jobs where they are going to earn more money and be more successful.

“The feelgood factor of finding someone a job is the most rewarding thing.”