Artisan bakery boss Carina Lepore has said she is in “euphoric relief” after winning The Apprentice’s all-female final.
The south London businesswoman, 30, secured a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar, who told her across the boardroom: “You’re hired.”
She faced recruitment company owner Scarlett Allen-Horton, 32, after the pair were whittled down from 16 entrepreneurs.
Lepore told the PA news agency: “It’s like this euphoric relief. I was so overwhelmed and so happy. It’s a feeling that I haven’t really felt. It was overwhelming happiness.
“Me and Scarlett said it the whole way through – we have got massive respect for each other.
“She is a great businesswoman and she was tough competition for me. I knew that.
“To get told ‘You’re hired’ by Lord Sugar, it was an incredible feeling.”
Wednesday’s final on BBC One saw the candidates fired earlier in the series return to help the two remaining contestants bring their business plans to life.
Allen-Horton and Lepore were summoned to London’s Sky Garden skyscraper and told they would need to produce a digital screen and a TV advert for their businesses.
They would both then pitch their ideas to Lord Sugar and 250 experts at City Hall.
Lepore wanted a family feel for her bakery and opted for the name Lepore’s Artisan Bakehouse.
The tagline was “too good to share” while the business’s slogan was “the finest in family baking”.
Meanwhile, Allen-Horton and her team were working away on her recruitment business, which had the aim of “promoting female, minority and diverse talent through the ranks”.
They decided on the name Stanton Lily while the logo was the profile of a woman’s face with cogs where the brain should be.
Following the challenge Lord Sugar invited the pair into the boardroom for their final reckoning.
Announcing Lepore as the winner, he quipped: “I’m trying to think of the scaling up of your business, but I like the idea of more bread – so Carina, you’re going to be my business partner.”
Following her win, Lepore told the PA news agency she was an “inside-out fan” and had watched every one of the previous 14 series before applying.
She added: “I watched last year. I know who won last year, the year before, the year before, the year before. I watched them all with my family every year. It’s a routine.”
“The show has always been to my interest – business mixed with entertainment.
“It’s an incredible show and it’s been an incredible process to be part of. The whole journey has been amazing.”
Lepore also addressed rumours that former contestant Lottie Lion had been involved in bullying, after it was alleged that Lion told on-screen rival Lubna Farhan, of Asian heritage, to “Shut up, Gandhi” in a WhatsApp chat group.
Asked whether she had seen any bullying on the show, Lepore replied: “No, I am a different steer on this whole topic. I got on with everyone, Lottie included.
“I literally got on with everyone in that house. I thought it was a great dynamic. We bounced off each other.
“We supported each other if someone was going through a hard time. We were all there to pull each other through – whoever it was.”
Runner-up Allen-Horton said she was “delighted” to be in the final but that missing out on the crown had been her “lowest point”.
“I was so delighted to be in the final. It was everything that I had worked for,” she said.
“Of course, I was really disappointed I didn’t win – I still am – but I am really grateful for the opportunity. I think Carina will go on to do great things.
“There were definitely challenging times, specifically the interviews with Lord Sugar were difficult.
“But losing has to be the lowest point of the process because, of course, I wanted to win.”
Last year’s series was won by swimwear fashion brand owner Sian Gabbidon.