Why Leeds The Apprentice star Sian Gabbidon says you CAN build a brand in Leeds - but can she win it?

Two young women are challenging stereotypes of race and gender in the business world as they fight for success on The Apprentice.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 16th December 2018, 10:42 am
Updated Sunday, 16th December 2018, 11:33 am
Can Sian Gabbidon really win?
Can Sian Gabbidon really win?

From cutting up jeans and making dresses in her bedroom at home with a sewing machine - to the final of The Apprentice.

It’s been quite a journey for 26-year-old businesswoman Sian Gabbidon from Leeds, and tonight viewers will see her battle to be in with a chance to win £250,000 and become Lord Alan Sugar’s next business partner.

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With her swimwear business, SianMarie, she will be up against fellow finalist Camilla Ainsworth, who has started a nut milk brand.

In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, Ms Gabbidon, of Alwoodley, says regardless of what happens tomorrow night, she has learned so much from the show, which she has watched avidly ever since it launched in 2005. She said: “It has been very challenging but I am enjoying it and as an experience I have grown as a person.

“I know my industry inside out but it has taught me things like to be more patient and other skills that I would never have expected to learn.

“I want to win for me as a person and a businesswoman and regardless of where I come in the process, it is nice to have had the exposure.”

Ms Gabbidon went to Corpus Christi School in Halton Moor and then Garforth Sixth Form where she studied textiles, art and English. She said: “I have always been into fashion and studied textiles at school, college and university and then fashion design with marketing.

“I would make all kinds of things in college and would be cutting up jeans and had a sewing machine in my bedroom and would be making dresses.

“I have never studied business and am self-taught, but every step I took, I did for a reason. I learned about fashion, marketing, how that worked and how to use it in a business.”

She started her brand two years ago after working for other people and wanting to be on her boss. She also struggled herself to buy good quality swimwear.

Ms Gabbidon said: “If someone said, ‘Where did you buy that (swimwear)?’ - I could not tell you a brand. It is hard to find some that fit well and that are unique; the bigger brands sell similar styles but I design and sample everything myself.

“I started an instagram business and it grew gradually from there. I realised I would rather work for myself, I am strong-willed, had opinions, ambition and wanted more.”

In last Wednesday’s episode - the dreaded interviews - she was moved to tears after receiving some words of advice from interior designer Linda Plant, who is also from Leeds.

In the episode it was revealed that someone once told Gabbidon: “You can’t build a brand if you live in Leeds.”

But Ms Plant told her: “Well I built one of the biggest knitwear brands in the country, living in Leeds. So you can [do it].”

Ms Gabbidon said the city’s business scene is definitely something she wants a piece of.

She added: “The independent business scene is definitely growing in Leeds, it is great and I want to be involved.

“When I was at university it was all about going to London for placements and they said you will only make it there.

“I am quite stubborn and thought, ‘Don’t tell me I can’t do it’. I want to prove I can do it from wherever I want, I love being from Leeds.”

Sian Gabbidon will be showcasing her Spring Summer 2019 collection at Dakota Deluxe in Leeds on Wednesday night at a VIP invite only showcase.