Peterborough businesswoman Khadija Kalifa is closing in on a place in the final of The Apprentice after making it into the penultimate episode of the show.
The boss of eco-friendly cleaning business Opal and Pearl secured her place in the final five of the BBC reality show tonight (Wednesday) in the last task before the dreaded interview stage.
The mum of two who grew up in Hampton and attended Bushfield Community College has seen off 11 other candidates so far and narrowly escaped the dreaded ‘You’re Fired’ from Lord Sugar as she seeks to become his next business partner.
Khadija has been criticised during the show for being too aggressive at times, but she remains on course to follow in the footsteps of fellow Peterborough entrepreneur Joseph Valente who was hired by Lord Sugar three years ago.
Speaking before tonight’s episode aired, Khadija said: “I’m pretty proud of myself. I’m glad I stayed in this long for people to really see the true Khadija and not the Khadija they saw in week two.
“Last week was quite difficult for me to watch as I knew the boardroom was quite emotional. Nobody wants to watch themselves cry and 8.9 million people watching me cry.
“I’ve learnt so much about business. One thing I wish I had done a long time ago is pay for a mentor or coach - I have made some mistakes in the last four years as I had nobody to guide me.
“Being in a process like The Apprentice, and having gained knowledge from Lord Sugar, Karren (Brady) and Claude (Littner), now I have more confidence.” Last week’s task saw Khadija selling items live on a shopping channel, but in the end she was glad to escape a firing in the boardroom after being left in the bottom three.
She said: “It’s so difficult when you have someone talking in your ear and you don’t know much about the product you’re selling.
“I did not really know what the inflatable pink chair was for but I had so much fun. I thought I had done so much better than what was shown on TV!”
The confidence of making it so far in The Apprentice has helped Khadija expand her business, which has included moving out of the Allia Future Business Centre at the Peterborough United stadium in London Road to next to Royal Mail in Orton Southgate.
She is also hoping to next week launch a new product, with customers able to order a 200ml ‘home mist’ which smells of rhubarb, as well as a handwash, both of which when delivered will fit through the letterbox.
Khadija is also looking to focus more on commercial instead of house cleaning and she has even begun coaching as well.
“I’m looking at the business with fresh eyes - it’s exciting,” she said.
As for gaining celebrity status in her home city, Khadija added: “I’m really enjoying it. The experience has been great and it was really nice I was asked to turn on the Christmas lights in Peterborough and at Ortongate Shopping Centre.
“People have also been asking me for selfies - it’s been surreal!”
Tonight’s task saw the candidates tasked with producing a brand new chocolate range for them to cash in on over the Christmas period.
Having survived that Khadija will be in the firing line next Wednesday when her business plan and CV are pored over during the gruelling interview stage.
Should she make the final two, the episode will air a week on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1.
Viewers can also enjoy an in-depth look on Khadija and all of the final five candidates on BBC1 on Tuesday at 10.45pm.