Mothers rule The Apprentice: Lord Sugar set to pick a winner between four women and one man - and three of them are working mums

Working mothers make up three of the five semi-finalists on The Apprentice, which reaches the gruelling interview stage on Thursday night.

Such has been the march of the female contestants this year that there is just one man left in the running for Alan Sugar’s £250,000 investment.

Although the interviews often prove the most intense task, the three mothers, Grainne McCoy, Frances Bishop and Jessica Cunningham, the most challenging aspect of the competition is likely to have been the separation from their children.

Scroll down for video 

Women: Jessica Cunningham is just one of the four women to have reached this year's Final Five in The Apprentice

The strict rules state that contestants must hand over their phones at the beginning of the process, and they are then given little contact with their families.

These restrictions are likely to be have been particularly demanding for Miss Cunningham, 29, who has single-handedly raised her three young daughters.

Mrs Bishop, who is married to Notts County footballer Neil Bishop has been separated from her son, Oscar, and Miss McCoy, who had her son, Ryan, while still at school, has hardly seen him.

They are joined in the final by 24-year-old Alana King, who owns her own cake company, and the last man standing, novelty gift company owner Courtney King.

Single mum: Jessica is a single mother with three daughters, Poppy, Olive and Hattie

The impact of contestants being separated from their families was illustrated by former contestant Aleksandra King, who quit in week four due to what she described as ?brutal’ working conditions.

She blasted Lord Sugar’s BBC show, saying: ??I have found the process overwhelming, stressful and really intense. And I just want to go home to my kids and my husband now.

?The amount of contact was not acceptable. There was no way I was going to work like that, not being able to pick up the phone and see if my kids are OK. I thought, “What is the point?”

?The work, life balance was off. Since when is that an admirable business skill? It is not on any level.

Proud parent: Grainne McCoy, seen here with son Ryan, is the owner of a make-up studio

?I want to be able to have regular and consistent contact with my family. That doesn’t make me bad at business.’

Her decision was not received well by some of the other contestants, including Miss McCoy, who said that she was ?clearly not strong enough’.

However, the lengthy period of separation appears to have affected Mrs Bishop.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s interview round, which will see three contestants get fired, the 25-year-old said: ?I sure as hell didn’t leave my boy for ten weeks to come here and be a loser’.

Happy families: Frances is pictured with Neal, her husband, and her son Oscar

The current crop of contestants have been described by many viewers as the worst in the show’s history, with many fans of the show claiming that they have little business experience.

Tonight, four of Lord Sugar’s closest advisers will interview each of the five contestants and pick apart their business plans.

Embarrassing moments include Claude Littner saying that Mrs Bishop’s business plan is ?appalling’ and ?looks like it’s been thrown together’.

And Miss McCoy was torn apart by Mike Soutar, the Scottish CEO of Shortlist Media, when she tried to claim in her pitch that five out of six is equivalent to 90 per cent.   

Model mum: Fashionista Jessica is the one to watch after revealing she thinks she's already winning


Jessica Cunningham

Age: 29

Job: Online fashion entrepreneur

Quote: ?A motto I live by is: there is no competition if you’re already winning’

Background: Jessica is a single mother with three daughters, Poppy, Olive and Hattie. She founded Famous Frocks when she was 25, and had her three children with her business partner. She raises the children alone, and has since set up her own women’s fashion brand, Prodigal Fox, with her children.

She said on the show that having children has motivated her to do better, saying: ?I have always had the drive to do well, but since having children, the drive is definitely maximised. It’s always hard being the breadwinner, because you have got three people who rely on you.’

How she has fared: Despite struggling as project manager of an early task, which asked the contestants to create an advertising campaign for jeans, she has impressed Lord Sugar with her skills making sales.

Make-up queen: Grainne impressed Lord Sugar early on by taking over as project manager in the corporate candy task


Grainne McCoy

Age: 31

Occupation: Owner of a make-up studio

Quote: ?I need guidance and a little bit of mentoring to help me make that first million’

Background: Grainne grew up in Northern Ireland with four siblings, and had a child when she was 16 years old. She went back to school a month after having her baby, and got a degree in make-up. She does make-up for feature films and video shoots, and runs her own make-up studio near her parent’s home.

How she has fared: She impressed Lord Sugar early on by taking over as project manager in the corporate candy task, but struggled to make decisions when project manager of a task based at the Liberty department store, and appeared to get drunk on a gin-making task.

Pocket Rocket: Frances Bishop admits she is fiery and live by the rule 'kill them with kindness’


Frances Bishop

Age: 25

Job: Owns children’s clothing company

Quote: ?I’m a pocket rocket. I’m quite fiery and live by the rule “kill them with kindness”’

Background: As a child, Frances was world karate champion and a competitive Irish dancer. Her life took an unexpected turn when she was 14, when she discovered that her father figure was not her biological father, and was her step-father. Despite being a straight-A student, she struggled to fit in at Durham University and dropped out. After working as a barmaid at Notts County FC, she met footballer Neil Bishop, and they got married and had a baby. She went on to found a children’s clothing company, The Pud, and is attempting to be an unconventional ?WAG’.

How she has fared: Her engagement with clients and research skills impressed Lord Sugar, but she lost her first six tasks. She then won one task, selling boats, but her disastrous record continued when she went back to losing. She has said that she is just ?waiting to win the big one’.

In the boardroom: (From left) Courtney Wood is the only male, standing up against Jessica and Alana Spencer


Alana Spencer

Age: 24

Occupation: Owner, Cake Company

Quote: ?All I’ve ever been interested in is having as much money and as much power as I can.’

Background: As a child, Alana was brought up in a family of ?hippy travellers’. She said that her upbringing drove her to want to make money, and she set up her first business at school, making cards. She sacked her best friend when they were 14, because she wasn’t fast enough. She started selling cakes as a teenager, and received a grant to start a small kitchen when she was 18, so left school. She now runs a company selling cakes to festivals and country shows, and employs her boyfriend as a salesman.

How she has fared: Alana is the youngest person in the competition, and her youth showed early on. She was taken into the boardroom after the first two tasks, and looked set to leave the competition when she struggled to speak in front of Lord Sugar. However, her confidence grew after winning the sweets task and Karren Brady has since described her as ?steely’.

Head-to-head: Alana (left) and Courtney (right) are the final two candidates to go head-to-head


Courtney Wood

Age: 29

Job: Owns a novelty gift company

Quote: ?How would I describe myself in one sentence? I’ll give you one word: awesome.’

Background: Courtney lives with his parents in, Linford, Essex, where he runs his own business designing and selling novelty gifts. He got a first class degree in industrial design technology at Brunel University and went on to work for a UK gift company as a designer. Eventually he decided to start his own business which he did after taking a year out in Australia.

He started the business with £20,000 of his own money and three years later he is selling to 17 different countries.

How he has fared: Judges have been consistently impressed with Courtney’s designs and in week six he guided his team to victory as project manager. But the following week, during the boat task, he did not fare so well and he showed himself to be a poor salesman. He shone in week nine helping his team with the virtual reality video game task and judge Karen Brady branded it his ?most impressive performance’. He has won eight out of ten tasks.

Last man standing: At 29, Courtney is the only man still in with a chance of winning


The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

By posting your comment you agree to our house rules.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now