In the exciting final, the pair went head-to-head in a task which saw them each launch their businesses and pitch them to industry experts.
Lord Sugar was so impressed by what he saw that he hired the pair of them – a first in the show’s 13-year run.
We caught up with both candidates following their win to discuss sharing the glory, production secrets and what is was really like living with Elizabeth…
Congratulations! Has it sunk in yet?
James: No, it hasn’t. I don’t know when it will!
Sarah: It’s slowly been sinking in the last day or two. It’s been tough because none of our friends and family knew.
How does it feel to have made ‘Apprentice’ history?
S: It’s incredible. So nice to be part of something and to know Lord Sugar felt so strongly that one wasn’t enough. We bond during the show – no matter what people might think – so you want other people to do well.
J: It’s the 13th season, so for me and Sarah, it means the world. She was an amazing person to go up against and I can see why it was a hard decision to make.
Do you think viewers will see having two winners as a cop out on Lord Sugar’s part?
J: I think not. I think we’re both going to be very successful and it’s nice to have someone to do it with. I hope people will see it as how competitive this year has been. It’s a credit to the show for getting such good candidates.
S: We had really different businesses and we’re different people at different stages, so I think it’s great he mixed it up.
Was there a small part of you that wanted all the glory?
S: Genuinely, no. You might expect that because we’re all competitive people. Maybe if had there been other factors like the investment was cut in half or limitations around it, but there was none of that. It is a great feeling and we get to do the journey together.
How did you find keeping the secret? Did you trip up?
J: When something means a lot to you, you just keep it close because you don’t want to jeopardise anything.
S: We’ve only just found out ourselves. It’s been hard to keep it from people, but also really exciting, especially with the shock twist.
You’ve only found out in the last few days – did you shoot different endings?
S: I’m not allowed to give too much away about the show’s secrets or I’ll be in trouble, but it’s all kept under wraps. It’s all very interesting and clever the way it’s all done, but myself and James haven’t known very long at all, so that helped keep the secret.
What happens in between filming the final and it going out on TV then?
J: I went back to Birmingham and have been working on my recruitment business. I’ve just been concentrating on work but I’ve had a few breaks too.
At the start of the process, did you see yourself making it to the end?
J: I knew I wanted to be there at the end, and when I was saying goodbye to my family, I said I would be seeing them in 12 weeks. I completely backed myself, and I knew if I was true to myself and worked hard, I’d be there.
S: I really felt going into it like a strong candidate, but obviously throughout the process, it’s so different to how you imagine with all the characters and the things around you. Dealing with all of that is hard, so there are moments where you doubt yourself, but if you have enough faith and belief.
Was there every a point in the final where you thought the other person had a better business option Lord Sugar would go with?
J: I had no doubt in my mind that they though my business would work and that it was scaleable. I already have a recruitment business and he knows how much money I make on it. It was more a question more of who he wanted to win.
S: I’d heard a bit about James’s business from the previous boardroom and from talking about it, so I had a good idea of why he might go with him, but I knew why he might go for me too.
The interviews episode was a bit of a disaster for you James – did you think it could have been ‘game over’ then?
No, not at all. If someone calls me out on something and there has been a mistake made, I’m the first to hold my hands up. I still went into the boardroom afterwards thinking I was going to make the final and you can still fight for it as well when you get in there.
You were certainly still fighting in the final boardroom too…
Throughout the whole 12 weeks, I never really went in too hard, apart from a couple of comments, but at that point, it was the end, and I wasn’t scared to make a comment or pull someone up.
Were you shocked by his comments about you, Sarah?
It’s a bit of a blur when you go in there, but knowing James, I expected him to fight his corner. I saw how tough and ambitious he is, but we’re old enough and ugly enough to realise that’s what we had to do. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and we both really wanted to win.
Why do you think you earned a reputation of being steady and not taking risks?
I think from the outside as a viewer, on paper it looks like a long time to have had a business and not cracked on and done more. There were a number of factors alongside that – I worked full time for the first couple of years, I had my son and was paying my mortgage – but I felt good about all the ground work I’d done, and now we’re ready to go.
Elizabeth has been the stand-out star of the series – how was it living and working with her?
J: I absolutely love her – she’s fantastic. She’s an incredible person, a good businesswoman, and she’s just very kind. I know on air you’ve seen a lot of the bossy side – which she is – but she’s got a heart of gold. I’ve been watching the series back as well and she’s just made it really enjoyable. Everyone has been talking about her. When she turned up to the auditions, they must have thought they’d hit the jackpot. I don’t think that will be the last we see of Elizabeth.
S: She is an absolute joy. From that moment when I first project managed, she just offered to help and had my back and I always respected that. She’s going to go on to do great things.
Who did you find the most difficult to live with?
J: Some people did have their issues, but I’m a relatively laid-back person to live with. I shared a room with Charles and he was a bit of a snorer, but apart from that, I got on with everyone.
S: In terms of living, no one! You get up so early and come back so late, and on a social level, I got on really well with everyone. That’s a cliché, but if you can see the good and bad in someone, you can work with it. In a business sense, I think it was obvious who I struggled with but nothing you wouldn’t expect from such an intense process.
What changes have you made to the businesses we saw pitched on the final?
S: I’m very much going to be doing the business plan I put in, so I’ve just been getting on with everything I’ve been doing prior to going on the show. Thankfully, since filming ended, we’re going from strength-to-strength.
J: The one you saw pitched was a concept. The actual business is called Right Time Recruitment. There was one of us in the company when I finished the series – there’s now eight of us, so we’ve grown quickly. We’re going to stick with the name because we’ve got a bit of brand identity, but that’s where we’re up to.
How hands on has Lord Sugar been? Or is he more a silent partner?
J: He’s definitely not a silent partner! We have regular meetings and we have a good team around us, and I think it’s going to be fantastic going into the new year.
S: He’s given us so much support. It’s more than just the monetary investment. We’re so lucky.