She was the favourite to win the last series of The Apprentice and always seemed to do consistently well, regardless of the task set by Lord Sugar. We were lucky enough to have a quick catch up with Roisin Hogan to discover what she’s been up to since the show ended…

Hi Roisin! How’re you?
Hi! I’m very well thanks.

Previously, before going on The Apprentice, you had a well-respected job as an accountant at ‘Ernst and Young Accounting.’ What made you decide to leave your successful career?
Y’know, it’s funny, it’s kind of one of these fateful stories. I loved working at ‘Ernst and Young.’ I was doing really well there and I was on a great career path. I had been there for seven years, I’d learnt so much and basically, as a New Year’s resolution, I gave up smoking. It kind of opened my eyes to health and nutrition because sometimes when you give up cigarettes, you can replace cigarettes with snacks. It really opened my eyes to what was out there and available for me as a consumer. I was working long hours at Ernst and Young – 14 hour days and weekends. I’d go into supermarkets, say, late on a Tuesday night and I felt, ‘there’s nothing here that’s low carbohydrate and low calorie, but still good for me, healthy and nutritious and convenient as well. I didn’t want to be cooking from scratch at that time of night, so I thought, ‘I’m going to make my own product!’ I did a lot of research, I came up with a great product and that’s basically what led me to giving up my great, safe, secure job and packing it all in to get into the food industry.

What did your family think?
My parents thought I was crazy! It’s a parent thing, they were like, ‘You’re a great accountant in a big firm, that’s brilliant’, but it wasn’t a foolhardy thing to do. I had sat down, worked out the numbers and spoke to my husband about it. We got our calculators out and thankfully he was very supportive, so yeah, it’s all worked out for the best in the end!

There’s a bit of a stigma and you’ve said yourself about accountants being labelled as ‘boring.’
[laughs] I know!

You certainly showed a very creative side during your time on the show. Were you surprised at how many good ideas you managed to come up with?
Yes! I actually really surprised myself. Y’know, in the context of my old job, there obviously isn’t huge scope to be very creative, so this side of me – designing brands, coming up with names, making cheese cakes, board games… everything. It was just something that I’d never really tapped into before and it really excited me. I was really energised by it, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Obviously The Apprentice is a very ruthless process. Was it hard being friends with your competitors?
It’s such a surreal experience because you are living in a house with people who are your competition, but also your team mates. You’re human as well, so if you’ve had a bad day you wanna talk to people about it. You wanna confine in people and maybe have a bit of a cry. I found it difficult, but I just left any grief in the boardroom.  Shake it off, let it go and then go back to the house because it’s the only way you can really survive and do your best in a situation like that. You’ve gotta leave it in the boardroom.

Do you think the show conveyed a fair representation of all the candidates?
D’yknow what? I think that’s a really good question. Prior to going into the process, my parents were like, ‘Are you sure you wanna do this? It could be heavily edited and you don’t know how you’re going to come across, so you’re risking quite a lot.’ I have to say now, having been through the processes, it actually is incredibly fair. It is really representative of people, how they’re what they’re like and how people react in situations. Obviously, they do show the funny parts and fights and everything, but I think it is a really fair representation of what went on and everybody’s characters.

What was it like working with Nick, Karren and Lord Sugar himself? Were they hard to read? Could you tell whether they liked you or not?
It’s so weird because they have to kind of stay neutral and be unbiased. Nick would have the odd joke here and there, but I found Karen so hard to read – she had such a great pokerface! I was like, ‘oh my goodness am I doing this right?’, ‘Am I doing this wrong?’, but when I watched the show back she really had my back, so I was thrilled!

You managed to buy a diamond for £50 and created a cheese take which received an order of £20,000 units, but what’s your personal highlight from being on the show?
Oh wow, oh my goodness, there are so many. D’yknow what? I think people probably remember be most for the diamond, but for me, it has to be The Teapot (the cheesecake) and bringing that brand to life. It’s so close to what I’m doing now. It was such an amazing result for me and I felt we created something in such a short period of time that was really great and I’m really proud of that. It kind of gave me the confidence to go on to what I’m doing now as well.

I remember when your team had to pitch your cheesecake to the retailers. You asked Solomon to holdback sometimes and not to speak unless something needed to be said, but bless him, he just couldn’t quite resist chipping in…
I know, I know! At that point in the competition, it was like the last task until the interviews. Everybody was so hungry to get to the interview stage, but I can’t stand when people say things just for the sake of saying it. Only say something if you’re adding value. The guys were driving me nuts that day [laughs].  I understand, because they were so eager – they just wanted to say they’d done something, but you just had to keep a tight rein on them.

I think you tried to tell them in a really nice way…
Yeah! State what you mean, but don’t say it mean.

How did you feel going from someone unknown to someone that’s well-recognised?
It’s amazing actually. Before I was on The Apprentice, I’m such a nerd, but I didn’t have Facebook or Twitter or anything like that, so I was totally anonymous.  Now people want to talk to me. I was nervous, I was like, ‘What if people hate me?’, ‘What if I’m one of those annoying people?’, but people have been super-duper nice and really supportive, so please God may it continue!

Unfortunately, you didn’t end up winning the show. Are you glad you didn’t end up winning; do you think things have worked out for the best?
I’m kind of living the dream at the moment. It’s been phenomenal. It’s definitely worked out the best for me. I went into the process with a great business idea and a lot of passion for my business, but there were definitely gaps in my knowledge – I’m not a food industry expert. Now, I have partnered with one of the biggest manufacturers in Ireland, he’s invested in me and invested in the business. I have my office here in the factory and I’m working with the new product development team and we’re actually bringing our product to market next month! It couldn’t have worked out better for me. My new business partner has 30 years of experience in producing hundreds and hundreds of fresher products here in Ireland and hopefully we’ll be over to the UK really soon.

Mark Wright and Bianca Miller were picked as Lord Sugar’s finalists. Who would you’ve hired?
It’s funny; I didn’t get to work with Mark that much during the process. I worked with Bianca I think on every single task. I really think the two of them were really worthy finalists, but I would definitely have gone with Bianca. I thought her business idea was brilliant.

I think there’s definitely a market for her skin coloured tights!
Absolutely! When she was talking about her business idea in the boardroom, I was nodding my head. I was like, ‘This is brilliant, it’s genius!’, but I understand why he invested in Mark. Mark, I think, delivered a proposition to Lord Sugar where he could go straight into an office with a computer and a phone and start immediately. I get why he did it, but I would’ve gone with Bianca.

The interview process looked incredibly tough. We certainly wouldn’t want to be face-to-face with Claude! How difficult did you find it?
Well, I’m a fan of the show myself and I’ve watched the show for years. I’ve watched people go through that interview process. I thought I was prepared – I was not! It’s much worse than it looks on TV, It is so so frightening. You’re walking towards this person and you know that they and a team of people have been scrutinising your business plan and all of your behaviour for the past number of weeks. You just don’t know what angle they’re gunna take. Your mind is just rushing. Your nervous, your mouths dry and then they just hit you with these questions, so I have to say, it is definitely the worst job interview you could ever do!

When you’re watching it, you almost get second hand awkwardness. You feel so sorry the person that’s being interviewed!
Oh it’s unbelievable! Then you’ve got to go and do it again and again and again. You just have to shake off the previous interview – it is like torture!

You have no idea how the other candidates are doing either, so I guess you naturally wonder how there’s are going…
That’s so true! People are coming down and you don’t know if what they’re saying is the truth or not. I’m an open book; I was just like, ‘This is going terrible!’ With the others, like with Daniel, I was like, ‘I don’t know whether I believe what you’re saying here man!’ [laughs] It can be hard to read other people, especially when you’re on such a rollercoaster – you’re almost paranoid.

What do you think of Claude Littner replacing Nick Hewer on the show?
I think it’s brilliant! When I heard that Nick was retiring I thought, ‘You’ll never be able to replace him’, but I think Claude will be fantastic. I think he’s going to bring a whole other dimension to the show. I can’t wait to see how candidates react to him being around and I can’t wait to hear is cutting remarks!

Very entertaining for viewers as well I think!
Very… and very scary for candidates!

Are you pleased he wasn’t Lord Sugar’s right-hand man when you were on the show?
D’yknow what? It’s funny, I’d love to see what Claude’s going to be like before I answer that, because I think he could be up for a bit of a laugh on the tasks, you never know! One thing I will say about Claude is he is really hard – he’s a really difficult interviewer, but he’s very fair.

Some people wondered whether you were going to be doing it. Would you have done it if you were asked to?
Oh my goodness! Actually a few people have asked me about that. I think there was a couple of articles floating around – I was so incredibly flattered. I would’ve done it in a heartbeat; it would be an amazing experience, but I don’t think I’m quite qualified for that just yet!

Despite some of the reservations aired by Lord Sugar and his associates, you decided to still pursue your business plan idea. Did you make any adjustments to your business plan based on their feedback?
Yeah, definitely, I think I would’ve been so foolish not to listen to people of the calibre of Nick, Karen, Lord Sugar and Lord Sugar’s aids. You can’t pay for that sort of advice, so I definitely made some tweeks to the business plan, but fundamentally, the product hasn’t changed, it’s just the scale of it initially has changed.

You mentioned earlier that you’ve now teamed up with Nature’s Best Ltd and your business partners Paddy Callaghan. What’s it like working with him?
It’s fantastic! I think we are just really well suited. First of all, he’s a total gentleman, which is lovely. I’m bringing my brand idea, my recipes and the whole concept to the table, but Paddy is bringing this amazing manufacturing facility, a huge team, a distribution network and retailer relationships. It’s a really nice marriage between the brand and the manufacturing capability – hopefully we can grow it together.

We’re a student magazine and we all know students love a ready meal! Tell us about ‘Nudels by Roisin.’
I came across these great noodles.  They look like noodles, they taste like noodles, but they only have 7 calories and no carbohydrates in them. They’re also made from a vegetable fibre and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness – these things are amazing!’, so I developed these great recipes around them that really enhanced the flavour and it just kind of evolved from there. I thought, ‘Why aren’t these bigger?’, so I’m hoping to make them mainstream.

We love the products branding – the packaging is great. Were you involved in every stage of the process?
Absolutely! 100% hands-on in every single stage of the process, so I’m turning my hand to everything, which is really exciting. I’m working with the brand designers, the new product development team, the manufacturing team on the floor, the retailers, the lawyers… everything!

You’re launching a healthy ready meal range at the moment. Would you like to create other food products in the future? Or perhaps non-food products?
Definitely, I think we’ve got a great brand here. We’ve got lots of new products in development and in the pipeline. I can see food and non-food products coming hopefully in my future!

Do you have any other projects currently-lined up?
Yeah, so, ‘Nudles by Roisin’ is kind of taking up all of my time at the moment, but we do have some exciting things hopefully coming up over the summer. I can’t say too much, but I’m going to be a busy girl, that’s for sure!

As we are a student publication, we were wondering… have you been to University?
I went to University in Dublin – UCD (University College Dublin). I studied Commerce and I loved it – I had an absolute blast.

What would your advice be for anyone wishing to start up their own business?
My little sister is actually in her finally year at University. I see how different it is from when I was at Uni. It wasn’t nearly as competitive I think as it is now. From working at ‘Ernst and Young’ as well, I would advise people to try and get an internship over the summer. Try to make sure your CV is as broad as it can be because it’s a really competitive landscape out there when you’re looking for a job. Obviously doing well in your exams is a given, but if you can go that extra mile, if you can have that great internship on your CV, that great work experience or being a member of great clubs or societies – that kind of stuff adds strings to your bow.

Thank you so much for talking to me Roisin!
Thank you so much – it was so lovely to talk to you.  Chat to you soon.