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ME & MY MONEY: Apprentice winner’s life changed

Savvy: Sian Gabbidon bought her first home, a flat in Leeds, when she was 21

Sian Gabbidon, winner of The Apprentice in 2018, bought her first property when she was 21, using a £13,000 deposit from savings she had accumulated as a teenager. 

In the wake of her win, Gabbidon, 28, expanded her swimwear and fashion brand, Sian Marie, with the financial backing of Lord Sugar. That year was the best of her life financially, she told DONNA FERGUSON. 

Her latest collection of hand-designed clothing can be viewed at sianmarie.com. 

What did your parents teach you about money? 

Quite a lot – to be savvy, sensible and save. I’m from a humble working-class background. My mother is a homecare nurse for the NHS while my dad is a factory manager for Unilever who worked his way up through the business. My mum used to work in the factory too – they met on the production line. 

I wouldn’t say we struggled when I was growing up or that money was tight. My parents have always been financially sensible – they never borrowed any money so did not get into debt – and they worked every hour God sent to provide for me. Often, my dad worked nights and my mum days. 

They instilled in me that you have to work hard for money and save for a rainy day. As a result, I have always been sensible with money. 

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 

No. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be able to earn money and be self-sufficient. I got my first job when I was 14 and I’ve worked ever since. 

I couldn’t afford to pay myself a wage when I was setting up my Sian Marie fashion brand in 2016, so I did it in my spare time while working full-time in marketing. 

I ended up working pretty much every hour I possibly could and reined in my spending as well so that I could invest in my business. But I always covered my bills – and I was always comfortable. 

Have you ever been paid silly money? 

Yes. When The Apprentice finished, I had opportunities left, right and centre – and it was all a little bizarre. 

As a normal person, I wasn’t used to being offered money to do things. I was used to grafting nine to five every day. 

I was recently paid thousands of pounds to judge a business competition for half an hour over Zoom. 

It was crazy to earn what some people get paid in a month to sit in front of a camera and give my opinion. 

What was the best year of your financial life? 

Without a doubt 2018, the year I won The Apprentice. Having a quarter of a million pounds transferred to your bank account is mind-blowing. For me, it was also life-changing. I could afford then to leave my job and take a salary from the business using Lord Sugar’s investment, without worrying about how I would pay the bills every month. 

What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun? 

It was a Mercedes C class that cost £25,000. I bought it five years ago because I wanted to treat myself. It was white with black wheels and had a panoramic roof. I absolutely loved that car. 

What is your biggest money mistake? 

Buying that car. I probably had it for two years and then I sold it for about £12,000. The value of a new car just goes down so quickly. 

The best money decision you have made? 

Buying property when I was young. I was 21 when I bought my first home – a two-bedroom new-build apartment in Leeds, with a £13,000 deposit. 

I rented it out for most of the time that I owned it and when I sold it recently, I made about four times what I had initially paid. 

The £13,000 deposit was all my money. I got it together by saving up the money I earned working part-time after school and during university, and investing it in some Unilever shares. 

It was an investment scheme my dad could participate in through his work – he could get his children involved. I paid in a little bit every month and it proved lucrative.

Do you save into a pension? 

Yes, I do. I started when I won The Apprentice. Before then, my plan was to invest in property and sell it when I was old. But now that I’ve got my own business, I save into a pension through the business. It’s tax efficient. 

Do you invest directly in the stock market? 

Not at the moment. My main focus is my business. I think investing in the stock market is also a bit of a gamble right now, when everything is a bit up in the air due to Covid. But investing in stocks such as Unilever has worked well for me in the past and I want to do it again soon.

Do you own any property? 

Yes, I own a three-bedroom apartment in a converted mill in Leeds with my boyfriend Clint, who is a builder. We bought it recently and renovated it during last year’s lockdown. I’d rather not say how much it is worth but I reckon we added about £20,000 of value to it in just four months. 

What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to? 

Prada bags that cost £1,500 and designer shoes that cost between £800 and £1,000. My shoe and handbag collection is worth between £20,000 and £30,000 and it’s growing because I definitely need more shoes – always. I probably buy a new pair every couple of months depending on the events I have got coming up. 

If you were Chancellor what is the first thing you would do? 

I would give more support to small businesses and the self-employed. Some people who have been running small businesses and paying their taxes throughout their lives have been wiped out by this pandemic. 

The amount of financial support on offer has not been enough to get some of them through it and I think we will probably see a lot more businesses crumble in the future as the economy opens up. 

What is your number one financial priority? 

When my boyfriend and I eventually have children, I want to be in a position where I am able to provide for them. 

I would still want to ensure they were humble and worked hard, rather than being given everything on a plate. 

But I’d like to make sure they have a nice life.

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