A headstrong woman from Chipperfield will be among the line-up of business brains hoping to secure investment from multi-millionaire tycoon Lord Sugar in the BBC’s Apprentice.
Natalie Panayi and her family will gather at her parents’ village home, where she grew up, on Tuesday night to watch the first episode of the hit series.
Sister Lexi said: “It’s really exciting. We can’t wait to watch it. We have got a few of the family coming round. Obviously Natalie will be there with her fiancé.”
The sisters come from a family headed up by their business founder father Panicos, who owns clothing manufacturer Creations London Ltd, which supplies to high street stores.
“We both get our drive and ambition from him,” said Lexi, who still lives at home with her dad, mum Angela and brother Chris.
After leaving school Natalie - who will admit herself that she was not the most academic student - secured a place at London theatre school The Italia Conti Academy where she trained as a jazz singer and dancer. But the 31-year-old, due to get married in September, never went into the performance industry instead taking up a job at a recruitment agency. “One of her friend’s boyfriends had a Porsche and he worked in recruitment and I think that is what attracted her,” said Lexi. Natalie, who like the other show contestants is currently banned from speaking to the press by programme bosses, is up against 15 others hoping to bag the £250,000 investment prize up for grabs.
Over the course of 12 tough tasks, the 16 candidates will be whittled down until just one victor remains.
Although Lexi cannot say how Natalie got on in the competition, she said: “I think she thought it was a great opportunity that she couldn’t turn down.
“It was a real achievement just to get on the show.
“I think she found it hard and challenging at times. She made a few friends along the way and I think she enjoyed the process as a whole.”
Now the sisters are launching their own fashion brand called Panya London, which is aimed at women aged 18 to 35. Their first collection is made up of 12 going out and weekend dresses.
>The Apprentice will be screened on BBC1 on Tuesday at 9pm.