Established back in 2005, The Apprentice has impressive longevity under its belt. But with the new season under way many are questioning what impact reality TV has on young Brits hoping to succeed into the world of entrepreneurship.
Given The Apprentice has made it to a 13th season, there’s evidence of the public’s engagement with the business community. But has reality TV done much for entrepreneurship? It’s been a subject of much debate, spanning the likes of Dragons’ Den and Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen.
While the two shows couldn’t be more different, they both proved potentially transformative and generative of entrepreneurial ideology – especially among those of young ages. It’s a concept conjured up by Janine Swail of Nottingham University, not to mention Simon Down and Teemu Kautonen from Anglia Ruskin.
When viewers value what they watch, each became more receptive to its content, the academics claimed. Think of it as “learning by osmosis”, whereby even reality TV can impart on people a sense of expectation – whether something would be easy or hard to accomplish.
“They perceive that when they view Dragons’ Den, for example, they are learning something of value, even though they don’t know what,” Down explained. “Through their ‘reality’ format, such programmes essentially become etiquette guides, about how to be and behave in particular social and even corporate contexts.”
Keeping Up With The Kardashians, one may argue, is too extreme an example. Not for Forbes’ Jenna Goudreau, who pointed out that the celebrity “leveraged her television success into entrepreneurial gold”. No one can argue that she is business-minded, and it’s the concept of seeing her transformation to brand powerhouse that Goudreau believes leaves an impression.
Another entrepreneur praising the results of reality TV is Danny Curran, founder of Finders International, the company featured on BBC’s Heir Hunters.
Now in its 11th season, Curran believes it has brought transparency to formerly secretive industries: “The result? Public trust. In our case, the success of the programme has provided good exposure for our brand – but, more importantly, an understanding about our intricate and sensitive industry.
“Certain industries can seem secretive and sometimes beyond the understanding of the wider public which is exactly why reality TV chooses to focus on them, and because of their intriguing nature.”
A point Goudreau also makes is that the trend of appearing on reality TV has shaped views around what it takes to be an entrepreneur. After all, we appear on shows like The Apprentice or Hell’s Kitchen because we believe it will cement our success – that it will bolster our profile or lead to investment help from the likes of Lord Sugar or the Dragons.
That was the case for fashion designer Christian Siriano, another example of Goudreau’s. Having won Project Runway in 2008, “he realised how marketable his name had become”.
Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing went on to create sweet enterprise Candy Kittens and the vast majority of The Only Way is Essex ensemble have businesses of their own. Those glued to the screen are in part viewing the world of business at its grittiest and best.
This article has been first published in real business