Most Australian backpackers who wind up in London use it as a base to visit nearby European cities, with cheap airfares and part-time jobs aplenty. But born and Bred Armidale lad Mark Wright was not your typical Australian backpacker. After a stint travelling the world, he entered the BBC show The Apprentice – and went on to win it at the end of last year.
An Armidale local, why are you so passionate about Armidale?
I will always have a special place in my heart for Armidale; it’s where I have grown up and gone to school, as well as the town where all my family lives and works. I have travelled and worked in most major cities around the world, but still get excited going home.
Tell us about your family …
My family own a local business in Armidale, Cliff Wright Motors … make sure you buy and service your car there! Ha ha!
I’m so lucky to have been brought up in a hard working family business; I believe it has given me the foundations to go on and win The Apprentice.
My parents, Mary and Gary, have always supported all the crazy things I have wanted to do and have really backed me. They did not force me to go to university, instead, encouraged me to find my own passion. My two brothers, Jason and Nick, have also this year moved away from Armidale to chase business ambitions. My goal is to make my business in the UK so successful, I can afford to retire my hardworking mum and dad in the next 10 years.
Tell us about your journey in England …
I came to the UK as a tour leader for an Australian travel company; I lived and worked in Europe for a year taking summer trips – it was amazing! After spending all my savings and coming into the winter, I had to move to London and find work. I was lucky to find work with a large internet marketing company, where I had a very successful two years living and working in London.
After my second year, I was looking for the next big challenge. One of my colleagues at the time suggested trying out for a TV show called The Apprentice; I had no idea what it was, but figured I would go along to the auditions. There were 75,000 people auditioning from all over the world. It was the most intense few days – the hardest thing I have done. After being selected into the top thousand then into the top one hundred, I was so close! Then in February 2014, I received a call from the producer of the show to inform me I would be the first Australian ever to go onto the 10th series of The Apprentice. It was an amazing feeling.
I was selected as 1 of 20 entrepreneurs from all around the world.
To enter, I had to give up my flat and quit my job. You ran the risk of being fired by business magnate Lord Alan Sugar in one day, or go all the way in 14 weeks. Being the optimistic bloke that I am, I was confident I would go a fair way, so I happily gave it all up.
Over 14 gruelling weeks the candidates were thinned out from 20 to two. It came down to Bianca Miller, a 25 year old lady from South London proposing a luxury tights business, and myself proposing an internet marketing business. The final is filmed over three days, and the final day is live in a studio, where I was lucky enough to have my parents and family over from Armidale.
It was a close and challenging final; however, I triumphed as the winner of the show. It was the best moment of my life and was so special to win, as I lost my grandfather, Cliff Wright, while the show was in production, and he has always been my best friend and inspiration. I felt he would have been happy with the win.
What has happened since your win on The Apprentice?
Since winning The Apprentice, I have gone on to become Lord Sugar’s business partner. He has invested £250,000 ($480,000) into my business Climb Online, and we are now in our fourth month of trading. We have just invested in a new office, 10 staff, as well as other other start up items. We have over 85 customers, including Be Wiser insurance and Groupon, two of the biggest companies in the UK. Climb Online has turned a profit since our second trading month and has been named the most successful business to emerge from The Apprentice series.
Plans for the future?
While my personal and business life in the UK is doing extremely well, I still want to return to Australia in the next five years. My goal is to open Climb Online in Melbourne or Sydney and stay with the company and remain part of The Apprentice family. The UK is great, but nothing beats home.