The youngest contestant ever to win a place on The Apprentice tells us about her life, ambitions and what it takes to succeed
Despite being dyslexic and considered a lost cause at school, Lindi Mngaza managed to achieve NINE GCSEs, start her own business at 17 and was chosen out of OVER 20,000 applicants to take part in the award winning series: The Apprentice. Once Sir Alan Sugar says his legendary phrase: ‘You’re fired’, what happens once you’re booted out the boardroom and the camera stops rolling? Flavour caught up with the vivacious 23-year-old from Birmingham to find out.
What are you doing now?
At the moment I am a business and development director for an advertising and marketing full-service agency in Windsor called Effective Marketing Systems. I’m building up a field sales team and bringing in a lot of big business. I’m also doing a BBC documentary on young money and how people make money. I’m doing one episode of the series and they follow me around. I’m doing lot of magazine and radio, so I’m very busy at the moment and running around like a mad person.
You had your own business at 17. What kind of business was it?
An internet dating agency.
How much money did you make?
I don’t want to shout about figures, but for a 17-year-old I made enough to buy a few designer handbags and I went to college in a brand new Fiesta and, at the time, that was really cool.
Do you regret not going to uni?
Am I sad that I never went to uni? No! All my friends that went to uni are coming out of uni now and they don’t own a house or a nice car and they start jobs on 15 grand a year so I feel really sorry for them. I think if you’re going to be a brain surgeon or a doctor then you need to go to university, but if all you care about is making money then university is not a good move.If you’re competent and good at what you do and if you’re sure of yourself then you can be successful at anything.
Where does the drive to do something like that come from?
When I was at school I was really naughty and my mum was a teacher so I always had a lot of pressure to be successful at school – but I was dyslexic so I really struggled and I was always the class clown. I also used to go and emcee on pirate radio stations as Lethal Lindi. I was really bad, but at the time I thought it was really cool. Because I was so preoccupied with my personal life, business and going on radio, all my teachers predicted that I’d get Es and Us because my school work was the last thing on my mind.
I’ve always been focused on money and keeping myself busy. My mum was like ‘Oh my God what am I going to tell my friends’ but I managed to get an A* and Cs and Bs. I got nine GCSEs and to this day I don’t know how I did it. I think they must have marked the wrong papers (laughs). I guess I knew I had to do well because I couldn’t let my mum or my family down by failing and I just focused.
I think with vision and focus you can achieve nearly anything.
It seems like your life has continued that way since.
Yes, most definitely. My first job when I was 19, the job description was that you had to be over 25 and you had to have a degree. I went to the interview at Caudwell Communications. It’s owned by John Caudwell’s Phones 4 U Group.I went into that meeting and I wouldn’t leave until I got the job. At that age I managed to get a company car, a decent salary and in my first three months I had to prove myself because I was the youngest person that they had ever employed in the fields sales role.
In three months I smacked my targets, I was promoted and I was managing a team of sales people some who were twice my age. So when you achieve things like that, you realise that the word realistic is the worst word in the dictionary ‘cos I think people who tell others to be realistic are people who will never be extreme achievers. I think if you want to do anything in this world you need to be unrealistic, and you need to aim ridiculously high and if you fall short, at least you’ve still got somewhere.
Do you think it is harder for you to succeed in business because you’re black and a woman?
I think the race argument is tired. I think it helps me so much. As a black person I stand out. People don’t forget me. If you’re black and you’re articulate and you prove your point and you make friends with people they’ll never forget you.
Did you realise that your appearance on the show would attract negative media attention?
The Apprentice isn’t a get-famous show, it’s a business show and you’re competing for a job so it
really is quite a serious concept and you don’t realise when you’re doing it that people are going to watch. You’re doing your tasks and you don’t realise what’s going to happen after, so it is a shock when journalists are knocking your door, my mum’s door, my ex boyfriends door and it’s really bizarre. I think it’s so character building.
How was your time on the show?
It was a lot harder than I expected. I have watched it in previous years, and thought ‘what a load of
Muppets’. I’m going to go on there and smash those idiots but when you get there you work a lot harder.
Were you disappointed to leave so early?
No not really. I think week five is reasonable and I look on the bright side. I got picked out of 20,000 people to be in the show, I was the youngest contestant ever. I think I was meant to go when I did.
What’s Sir Alan Sugar like?
I don’t know him anymore than you do. You really don’t get to talk to him. What you see on TV is what you get. He never spoke to me or said: ‘Lindi can I have a word’. He only talks to you when he’s telling you how bad you were or when he’s telling you you’re fired, so you don’t get to build up a relationship. He’s a cool guy. His achievements speak for themselves.
Are your parents supportive?
They’re very supportive of me. I’m somebody that always shocks them. I’m like the devil child who is always doing something pretty whacky. So if I go home and say: ‘Mum, I’m moving to Dubai for six months,’ she’ll say okay ‘cos she knows I’m a free spirit. I like to live in the moment and make my dreams become a reality and I’ve realised that I’m really the only person that can do that.
Interview by Annika Allen
Photographer Azza, www.myspace.com/azzaphotographer
Make-up, Pandemonium Make-up Artistry, www.myspace.com/cr8pandemonium
Hair, Nibras Alwasiti, www.myspace.com/nibras_themakeupartist
Styling, Neesha Sharma, www.myspace.com/luminary_london