FOR local lad Ricky Martin, life changed in 2012.
Though he spent months grafting as a contestant on BBC’s The Apprentice, like the rest of the nation, he had no idea he had won until the television final loomed.
Hailing from Stubbington, he now reaps the spoils of a £250,000 investment from show host Lord Alan Sugar – but six years ago his fate could have gone either way.
‘I can say all this now because it’s all in Lord Sugar’s book, but fundamentally, the producers have all possible outcomes of the final filmed,’ he told The News.
‘Then, when Lord Sugar has made up his mind, the correct version is released.
‘I knew I was in the final, but until it happened I didn’t have any idea I had won.’
When the now 33-year-old learned of his victory, he was enjoying a three-week stint in Mexico – marking his marriage and honeymoon with his partner Gemma.
And when he got that call, life ‘absolutely changed’.
He said: ‘It became so real. I was always confident, but to get the confirmation that someone believes in me enough to invest £250,000 – especially Lord Sugar – was huge.’
When Ricky’s series of The Apprentice – the show’s eighth – went to air in March of 2012, the biochemistry graduate was a recruitment team leader at Whiteley firm Matchtech Group PLC.
He was even a professional wrestler, an amateur bodybuilder and a paperboy for The News as a teen.
But more than half a decade after Lord Sugar’s vote of confidence, he now heads up Essex-based Hyper Recruitment Solutions – a firm specialising in getting candidates into firms pioneering life-saving scientific research and treatment.
His £250,000 investment has grown to five bases, including three around Essex and London and two in Manchester and Edinburgh.
Ricky said: ‘If I sold up tomorrow Lord Sugar would get a big return on his investment, but this company is about so much more than value.
‘Whether he chose me to win or not, I was always going to follow this dream – and I’m proud to say it’s growing in terms of revenue and head count every year.’
Despite ‘not getting home as much as [I] would like’, he has not ruled out a branch at home.
‘I would never say never, but it would need to be built around someone with a track record of excellence,’ he said.
But before business grows, his own family soon will – as he and Gemma expect their first child on November 2.
He said: ‘We know the gender, but we’re keeping it a surprise.
‘If it’s early, we’ve got Halloween to celebrate – and if it’s late we’ve got bonfire night! I can’t wait to become a dad.’