Catching up with Khadija from BBC's The Apprentice
Entrepreneur Khadija Kalifa has come a long way since millions of TV viewers saw her reach the final five of BBC1's The Apprentice last December.
Life has been non-stop for the 30-year-old Bourne businesswoman since she left the show around this time last year - and she's loving every minute.
Khadija has now closed her eco-cleaning business and has created a brand called 'Keep it Real', through which she runs a podcast, mentors people and helps businesses grow. She also works with a property company in Peterborough and is looking to open up a coffee shop with soft play area in Bourne.
Meeting up with Spalding Today editor Jeremy Ransome before her guest speaking slot at University Academy Long Sutton last week, she said: ""I knew The Apprentice was going to be a huge platform and it really has been - it has changed my life. Instead of dealing with the stress of 30-odd staff I now have a small team of four and make a really good wage for myself. We're really busy and life's good.
"For me it feels as if it was a business rehab. I went away and learnt loads about business and now I've been able to use it.
"I get recognised quite a bit and if anything it makes me proud. Immediately after the show it was crazy and my kids think I'm a superstar because I've been on TV. I do like it, it's amazing. I enjoy the celeb life!"
Khadija originally applied for The Apprentice in 2017 but missed the email where they invited her for an interview. "Then I applied for the Stamford Mercury Business awards and I won Business Person of the Year 2017 and that gave me the confidence to reapply for The Apprentice."
Some 60,000 people applied and there were frequent trips back to London until she was told she had made the 16 for the show. "It was crazy, I was so excited. From the beginning I always wanted to win because I am so competitive."
She said filming actually happens from April until June so the whole process has been over for three months when the show hits our TV screens - but much of what you see on TV is as it really happens. They do all stay in the big house together and tasks usually take two to three days, leaving as early as 5am and getting back as late as 11pm. But the boardroom saga which takes up around 20 minutes on the box actually lasts a whole day.
Then contestants get one day off before they start the process all over again. Khadija was there for eight weeks and says it was pretty intense. "I didn't get to speak to my kids much. When you had a day off you could have a five minute video call which was hard as at the time as they were three and one."
Her favourite project was the comic book task in week two when she led the girls to victory and was hailed by Lord Sugar as ruling with the iron fist of a Vladimir Putin or a Kim Jong un."We won, the comic was awesome, I was so proud."
Although she went into the last show with a chance of winning, Khadija admits: "At that point I was really tired. It was really full on and I'd been away from my kids for two months when I'd never been away from them for more than two nights so I just wanted to go home.
"Although it would have been great to reach the final I was just happy to be in the final five - that's where I wanted to get to."
Khadija on Lord Sugar, Claude and Karren
Claude Vittner and Karren Brady are with you throughout all the tasks. You obviously get more time with them than you see on the TV as you're with them for full days. But Lord Sugar you only really see in the boardroom - but he's exactly as he is on TV.
"Claude and Karren are not allowed to say much to you during the tasks but they're both lovely, they really are. You can tell in some situations they want to help you but they can't. It's nice to just be around people like that. I've had several phone chats with Claude in the last year."
Khadija on 2018's candidates
Khadija's best friends in the house were eventual winner Sian (Gabbidon), Camilla (Ainsworth), Sarah Ann (Magson), Jasmine (Kundra) and Rick (Monk).
She famously didn't get on with sponsorship consultant Jackie Fast and the two had a blazing row during the gardening task, on the show where viewers' favourite Kayode Damali was controversially fired.
"I think it was quite obvious that me and Jackie didn't really see eye to eye. Obviously after the show we're all civil and fine but me and her just had very different personalities."
The 2018 contestants have a WhatsApp group and are all meeting up in December.
Khadija on 2019's candidates
"I think the girls are strong this year and one of them will win."
Khadija did really like Tommy and (US-born risk management consultant) Marianne (Rawlins) who lives in Stamford, but they were both voted out this week.
"I do like Scarlett (Allen-Horton) and Pamela ( Laird). I think Lottie (Lion) is a strong personality and we probably wouldn't have got on if I was on the show but I've got to admit I do like watching her."
More by this authorJeremy Ransome