Entrepreneur Paul Sullivan talks mentoring and crushing stigma in MilliOnAir Magazine
Exclusive by Steven Smith MilliOnAir Celebrity Editor
REALITY STAR AND SELF PROCLAIMED MAN’S MAN, 39 YEAR OLD PAUL SULLIVAN BURST ON TO OUR TV SCREENS IN SEASON 12 OF THE APPRENTICE. THE ENTREPRENEUR RECENTLY HIT THE HEADLINES WHEN HE MENTORED TEENAGE BUSINESSMAN JOHN BATISTE.
PAUL TELLS STEVEN SMITH ABOUT HIS PLANS TO MENTOR OTHER YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS AND WORK WITH THE LBGTQ COMMUNITY TO CRUSH STIGMA IN THE BUSINESS WORLD – AND HE REVEALS WHY HE’S BARING ALL FOR CHARITY LATER THIS YEAR.
IT IS HARD TO IGNORE Paul Sullivan. He’s 6ft 4 inches tall, but it’s not just his stature that commands attention – with steely, Paul Newman-blue eyes, his boundless energy seems to enter the room even before he does. My two female companions are extremely excited about meeting him, as am I. Paul’s good looks brought him an army of female fans when he appeared in the BBC show The Apprentice – and after spending only a few minutes with him, it’s easy to see how he’s become such a successful businessman. If anyone could sell snow to the Eskimos, it would be Paul. Today, however, he is keen to chat about his latest project, educating the young.
You come from a similar background to Lord Sugar? Well, I was born in London, in the district of Bow, and I sure didn’t have a silver-spoon in my mouth. Both my parents both worked in a bank and I went to the local school. From an early age I had a flair math’s – they used to come test me on mental arithmetic and couldn’t believe how advanced I was. That all stopped when I was moved to Bow Church Primary school though. I won’t go on about it; it was interesting, let’s say that. I was even an altar boy if you can imagine.
What was the first thing you sold as a kid? Gosh, I was keen on money from an early age – my mum bought me a Charlie Chaplin piggy bank and I was rather obsessive on how things worked. My mum always had sideline businesses, such as soft furniture and so was kind of an inspiration to me. I went to work on Saturdays at the age of 11, selling electrical goods in the local market. It gave me a good grounding. Do you think the contestants are a bit elitist on the show The Apprentice? Not on my series. To be honest, I think they were more publicity-seekers, as they wanted their 15 minutes of fame. I watched past series before I went in and it struck me that there weren’t many contestants that had come from Lord Sugar’s background. But I wouldn’t necessarily describe them as elitist.
Would you like to see business studies taught at an early age in schools? More than that, I would like to see politics, finance and business all taught from an early age, as they give children skills that can really benefit them in later life. It’s important to get kids thinking outside the box and to prepare them for life as part of the community. Kids are not being made accountable for their actions these days.
You mentored Nathan John-Baptiste. How did you come across him and will you be mentoring other youngsters? Well, I mentored two boys, Nathan and Kovalan. Nathan seemed to get the most publicity, as the story of his “tuck shop empire” was probably more appealing to the press. Kovalan’s business was IT-related – and he’s a brilliant kid too. One of the reasons I went in to The Apprentice was to prove certain things to myself but I also wanted to use it as a platform to help others. I read about both boys and wanted to become a mentor. I am also going to be teaching business at the local college in September. Despite being a self-proclaimed man’s mans and heterosexual, you’re looking to help young LGBTQ people who struggle in life. How has your empathy come about? A realisation about how guilty I had been of using derogative sayings for gay people, even though I have gay family members. The awaking was when my uncle came out as gay at the age of 53. I was mortified when I thought about how he’d had to stand in the pub with me and others as we went on about “shirt-lifters” and the like. He was not able to be himself and it must have been really painful to witness the prejudice of others. I have never regarded myself as anti-gay but I have joined in the banter and that is wrong. As a human being I want to help stamp this out, not just for young people but anyone struggling to feel part of the mainstream in the face of the ignorance of others. I am well aware that many young LGBTQ people are still not accepted by their families and it can affect their further education. I’ll be setting a mentor scheme up for that too.
‘Wolf of Walthamstow’: Nathan John-Baptiste, 15, who made thousands from his teenage business
Your own childhood had some chequered parts that could have led you down the wrong path – how did you avoid this? By luck, to be honest. I was in a prison cell and could have been given an eight-year sentence. The person pressing the charges never turned up and the case was dismissed but I had a long think about what I had done. I am not making any excuses, but I was badly bullied as a kid and through my teenage years and my reaction was to hit back. It was the only way I knew how to deal with the aggression towards me. Since then I have managed it through therapy and self-reflection. I am not that person today.
Are you still in touch with the any of The Apprentice contestants? I never went in to make pals but I still talk to a few – J.D and Samuel Boateng. I have loads of friends though and you can’t spread yourself too thin.
Would you like to do more television – for instance, can you hear the jungle calling? I never went in to the show to become a reality star but I would be mad not to take up new experiences. I would still like to do some other shows, political debate and the likes. Part of me would love to do the jungle – it would give everyone a great laugh because, despite how I look, I am scared of everything, even flies!
You belong to a charity football team. Would you have liked to be a professional footballer? The charity is called CelebFC and we play to raise funds for disabled and underprivileged kids. The team mum who heads it is Karin Flower, who is amazing. I played semi-pro at one point but I liked the business world more. I understand you’re doing a calendar for them? Lol! Yes, well it’s for the charity and I hear it’s going to be nude…all very tasteful though. I am always up for a good cause – and let’s hope I am holding a big enough football! What would you say are the best attributes to be successful in business? Make sure you get your education. Stay current, stay focused and be happy.
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