The Apprentice: Chorley hopeful Aaron Willis is doing it for Lancashire as he bids to impress Lord Sugar
The Apprentice is entering its fourth week, and amongst those still battling out is Chorley hopeful Aaron Willis, who says his business plan began right here in Lancashire.
Although the 38 year old RAF Pilot is originally from Bolton, Aaron moved to Buckshaw Village nearly four years ago with his family and says "they've adopted me now which is nice- it feels like home already".
Whilst his wife, Vicky, owns 'Kidsology' a baby massage and sensory company covering Buckshaw Village and Euxton, and his two step-sons and two daughters attend the local school, Buckshaw is also the birth place of Aaron's business plan for Lord Sugar- Vulcan Security, which has its head office in Wigan.
Aaron explained: "I've always wanted to set my own business up. I used to work as a milkman as a kid, and I'd buy the milk at cost, and then sell it for double, so I always wanted to make money and do a bit of entrepreneurship, but I knew I had other things to do, like learn and grow up first.
"So last year, I set my security company up, and initially, I wanted to provide overnight home patrols around Buckshaw and Chorley, so people would basically sleep safe at night, but then it started to grow and I had people ringing me asking can I do door supervision, and the council asked if I could supervise the local sports area. From being just a little idea of patrolling homes, I’m now doing event security and looking to do construction, retail, any aspects of security really, so that’s what brought me into the process.
"My whole plan is to make sure that, especially in Chorley and Preston, but everywhere in Lancashire, my business is a well known security firm around here initially.
"But if Lord Sugar hopefully invests in my security firm then I can branch it nationally, and have an academy as well, where I can train security advisors, so the investment would give me massive national coverage as opposed to just being a security firm in Lancashire."
Whilst Aaron believes his company is worth investing in, we asked him why he was as well, and Aaron replied: "My business plan is strong, but I knew that I had the attributes to be a good candidate as well, in terms of how I listen, but, as you might have seen, I'm not scared to put my point across. I've got a good sense of leadership, a good sense of direction, I communicate well, I have good vision, I love working in a team, and I'm very competitive, so I thought what better thing to go on than the most competitive business show on TV."
Although the first entrepreneurial signs began when he was a young milkman, Aaron's determination can be seen throughout his entire career, as he successfully climbed up the ladders of various internet sales companies, before joining the RAF in 2010, aged 26, which sent him to Afghanistan two years later.
Aaron explained: "I ended up being the area sales manager, so financially it was really good, but I had a gut feeling that I needed more job stability and Afghanistan was really, really hot at the time, and I really felt that I wanted to do my part. To think that these brave people were going out there, and I was just sat here, I thought I want to at least contribute, so as soon as I went in, I just knew I wanted to go to Afghanistan."
When asked whether the Apprentice was a "doddle" compared to his time in Afghanistan, Aaron laughed before explaining: "They all have different pressures. In the military, you're trained to go to Afghanistan. In this process, you're not given any pre-training, you are put into a house with 16 other candidates with different personalities, and you're given tasks that you never knew before, for instance I’ve never made a toothbrush, or a non alcoholic drink, or ran a cruise. So these are well out of my comfort zone, which yes seems like a doddle, but realistically, it has its own pressures."
So far on the show, Aaron has managed to survive three tasks, but it was the second week's toothbrush challenge, where Aaron got through by the skin of his teeth, being the project manager of the losing side.
Speaking about his experience, Aaron said: "As PM, I tried to give a bit more empowerment to people, so I'd say say this is what my idea is, don't go away from it, but have a bit of freedom, so I found it okay, because I had a really good group of lads who were receptive, and we all got on really well.
"The highs definitely outweigh any lows about being in this process, I'm loving every single minute of it. The low obviously was losing the task that I led. I had a vision, which in hindsight didn't work out but I went with it, so that was my low, and it’s sad when you see people go."
And what does Aaron think about those who have left, does he feel lucky to have been saved?
"At the end of the day, Lord Sugar’s a successful billionaire, he makes the decisions based on his business intuition and acumen and whatever decision he makes is the right decision.
"I just fought for what I believed in, the boardroom is there to showcase why you should stay, I gave my point across, and other people put their point across, and only Lord Sugar can give you a reason of why he chose me but I fought the best I could."
Speaking of fighting spirit, when asked if he could provide any advice for budding entrepreneurs in Chorley, Aaron replied: "The only thing I would say is that negativity is huge. I had so much negativity, people thinking that I couldn't do it, but I just didn't listen. I really believed I could do it, and there was no way on earth that was going to stop me, so wherever you're from, your social background, race, ethnicity, anything, just do it. It's easy, if you just proper work hard. I get up at 4:45 every morning, just to work hard, and Chorley is a hard working town, so the northern working ethic definitely shines through for me."
And finally, Aaron ended is thankful for the support he's had in Lancashire.
"I did pick up the LEP the other week for my mum, and my picture was on the front page, and it was just the most awkward thing, the lady who took my money was looking at the paper then looking at me, but I'm just really grateful for everyone in Lancashire. No word of a lie, everyone who comes up to me says really, really positive things so thanks, especially to the Lancashire Post, for coming behind me and supporting me because it really does mean a lot to me and my family."
You can see how Aaron gets on throughout the rest of the series by tuning into BBC 1 at 9pm every Thursday evening.