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"I Didn't Want to Be A Reality TV Star" Shannon Martin Reveals Why She Left the Apprentice

We caught up with bridal shop owner and Apprentice candidate Shannon Martin to find out why she left, and what's next for her...

Apprentice Candidate Shannon Martin

Apprentice Candidate Shannon Martin

Here at Hitched, we can’t get enough of The Apprentice - our yearly sweepstake is a team highlight. So we were super excited to learn that a bridal shop owner, Shannon Martin, would be part of this year’s team of hopeful candidates - but her journey was much more short-lived that we anticipated. 

Wedding dress shops provide a key experience in your wedding planning journey so to have the owner of Dotty Bridal, Shannon Martin, on the BBC reality show shone a spotlight on this part of the industry. 

The West Yorkshire based wedding entrepreneur set out seeking Alan Sugar’s investment for her new wedding dress brand, Nori Ivy. We interviewed Apprentice candidate Shannon Martin to find out everything we can about her, her bridal shop Dotty Bridal and her brand Nori Ivy - plus, the lowdown on her shock exit from the process. 

Interview with Apprentice Candidate Shannon Martin

What made you apply to be on the Apprentice?

“I actually applied eight years ago, so back before I had my businesses. I went on with my business partner for Evelyn Taylor Bridal, which was a pre-loved and sample boutique.

“The team on The Apprentice interviewed me and said, ‘Oh, it’s a great idea that you’ve got here but unfortunately we don’t want you on the show this year. We would like you to come back, once you’ve set up the business though.’

“So I always had it in the back of my head, thought I would definitely do it one day, and then once you set up a business it’s just absolutely impossible to come away from it. But I got to the point, last year, where I thought ‘Do you know what, I can come away from this now’, so away I came!

“And I applied, but I didn’t send the application off until a few days before the entries closed, and then quickly found out I was down to the first stage of interviews - then it was just a whirlwind from that point!

“I went on with my idea for Nori Ivy - I didn’t know anything about manufacturing, so I needed Lord Sugar’s investment to help me with the manufacturing side of things. That is exactly why I applied, and I absolutely idolise The Apprentice since it started. It's been a lifelong goal of mine to get on the Apprentice. My team call me Lord Sugar, that’s my nickname!”

How did you feel when you found out you'd got through?

“Overwhelmed! I remember waiting for the phone call and they told me they were going to ring me at four o’clock, so I remember I was sat outside Marks & Spencer and they didn’t ring.

“I thought, do you know what, I haven’t got on then. A few hours went by, I went to my mum’s to pick my little girl up and as I was leaving my phone rang - it was the producer. She told me that I’d got on and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I don’t think it felt real.

“I really don’t think it felt real until the minute I was sat outside the boardroom to go in. I was over the moon. Lifelong goal achieved.”

What's been your biggest career highlight to date?

Bridalwear shop owner Shannon Martin wearing a pink suit sitting in her bridal shop

“This is a really hard one! I think I’m quite a humble person - there have been big moments, we’ve obviously won awards, we’ve opened multiple stores, but a career highlight for me (and this will sound so pathetic), is in a recent full team meeting, having them all in and chatting about the business. 

It was before I went on the show, at Christmas, seeing all their faces and talking about the business, talking about their jobs and how much they love it, and seeing how passionate the team is about their role and this business, and that was a career highlight for me.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted - it makes me happy to know my team are happy, and that I’ve been able to give amazing opportunities to 13 women, making their dreams come true as well as making all our brides’ dreams come true."

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go Dress Shopping

And your biggest challenge? 

“The biggest challenge was obviously covid. When we went into the first lockdown, I remember sitting and listening Rishi talking about everyone stopping working, and me sitting there and thinking, ‘oh my god, my staff. What am I going to do, how am I going to pay them?’ 

“The sheer terror of, ‘what are we going to do?’ That was a few days before the furlough scheme I think. That was my biggest challenge.

“Then just manoeuvring out of covid as well, because we worked harder during covid - longer hours than we do when we’re open, because then we have a team. Whereas at that point it was just me and Beth, doing everything. And it was really, really difficult. 

“We didn’t know whether we were doing right or wrong or if the brides were happy, but when we came out of it so many brides said how supportive we were, and how they wouldn’t have got through it without us, because not many people were able to support the brides - it was like they were forgotten.

“Obviously terrible things were happening, people were dying, it wasn’t a nice situation, but at the end of the day, these brides who thought they were going to get married, they could no longer get married and ultimately their lives were on hold. Some wanted children and had to put it on hold and it changed people's lives. That was the biggest challenge - I don’t think we’ll ever face a bigger challenge than that.”

What was it like to meet your idol, Lord Sugar?

“Scary! Lord Sugar, being my idol, it was absolutely terrifying meeting him for the first time. I remember walking into the boardroom on that first episode for the first time and thinking ‘oh my god, this is not real. Karren looked like a waxwork! Like, they just didn’t look real.

“He was there, and he spoke, it was literally like being sat inside of the TV. People ask if my opinion has changed of him, and no it hasn’t!

“He is exactly what you see on the TV. There’s nothing different. Kudos to him for sticking to who he is and not changing for a TV show, because he certainly doesn’t.”

READ MORE: Everything We Know About Vicky Pattison's Wedding

Anything that you think is a big no-no when it comes to dress shopping?

“I’d say my biggest no when it comes to dress shopping is not allowing the stylist to advise on things that they think you should try. 

“Like, it’s absolutely fine to have an opinion of what you like and what suits you, because that really helps the stylist, but a big no for me is people coming in and treating it as though it’s just an appointment to try normal dresses on - because you’re never going to find the one. 

“You don’t know what a dress looks like until you try it, and if a consulting is recommending a dress, then nine times out of ten it’s something that actually they feel like you will look great in and will flatter you, because they know and they’ve seen it on before.

“So yeah, it’s a big no-no for me when people come in and don’t listen to their consultant.”

What five key trends do you think will be big in bridalwear over the year?

Owner of Dotty Bridal and former Apprentice candidate Shannon Martin laughing in her shop

The top five bridal trends for this year - and some of these were around last year but they’re continuing through and some that are making a comeback - for me, I would say sleeves. 

“We’ve seen in our previews and in buying from some designers, a lot of sleeves, which I absolutely love - love a sleeve! Sleeves are making a comeback.

“I also think high-backed dresses are making a comeback too. It’s all been about the low-cut dress, but we’ve seen a lot of that around. People are wanting something a bit different, so I think high-backed dresses are coming back.

“Simple styles are continuing this year, and bows - we’ve seen a low of bows again. And second dresses - so, evening dresses. We’ve been finding a lot of brides are buying two gowns now rather than just one, because they want to do a completely different look in the evening. 

“Lastly - over-skirts and second looks. Whether that might be a detachable sleeve - we’ve been finding that a lot, everything’s becoming detachable. We’ve got some Pronovias gowns where even like, the swoop across the neckline, that’s detachable, and then the little peplums on the sleeves are detachable. That’s big for this year.”

What was your inspiration when creating Nori Ivy?

“Our inspiration for creating Nori Ivy was really to ensure that the label was different to things that are out there. 

“We see so many gowns and we see so much cross-over across the designers - which of course, there always is naturally going to be, there’s only so many ways you can change up a wedding dress, you know?

“Our main focus was making sure that the Nori Ivy collection was like no other, but that it was commercial enough for a bride to be happy in that gown and say yes to that gown.

“We went for a lot of simplistic styles, we have got the sparkle there as well. With the sparkle, it was really key to us that we made sure we got a fabric that doesn’t shed.

“Also, just making sure the cuts of the gowns were perfect, that they would flatter the figure.”

What was the turning point that made you decide to leave?

Shannon Martin with her team in her bridal boutique

“What made me to decide to leave was, whilst we were out on the second task - I’d already been thinking about it when we came back from Antigua, because I just felt that I was wasting time.

“I felt like, ‘why am I here? I’m running around doing all these tasks and gosh, I’m tired because of the lack of sleep,’ it was incredible, crazy, and I’ve got two small children so that’s saying a lot.

“You were getting up at three in the morning, and it wasn’t like you could go to bed at nine, we weren’t going to bed until like, 11 o’clock at night, so yes, the sleep deprivation was a real issue.

“For me, I realised quite early on that, ‘I don’t think this is for me, I don’t think I want the investment, I don’t think I want a business partner.’

“I just wanted to get on with it, to get cracking, because I think if I put my mind to it, I can do this myself, so then I thought, I’d go into task two, the bao buns one, put my all in it, just crack on and after that I literally was there, doing that task thinking, ‘this is definitely not for me. My heart’s not in this.’

“For me, if my heart’s not in it, I won’t dedicate myself to it, I won’t commit to it. So I just thought, ‘no.’ I also felt a little bit like, I didn’t really want to be made a fool of, because there are certain situations where that does happen.

“I obviously knew that going into it, it is very much reality TV, and for me I thought it was a lot more business than reality TV, and I don’t want to be a reality TV star.

“If I did, I’d be going on different shows - but I don’t want that, and I didn’t want my life to change, I love my life. I knew that if I continued, there was a potential chance I could have won - any of us could have potentially won - and I thought, do I really want this? Do I want to be away from my children and my family for eight weeks? And my work?

“Ultimately, I didn’t want it enough. So that’s why I made my decision.”

How do you feel about the decision now?

“Amazing! I feel amazing about it. I never looked back. From the minute I walked out of that door, the sense of relief was overwhelming.

“Yeah, there were a couple of times when I got back home where I was thinking ‘What are they all doing?’ I had a bit of FOMO, to be honest. 

“I chat to the other contestants and I think, ‘oh gosh, maybe I should have stayed.’ I did enjoy it and I did have fun, but then I just think, ‘no, because you would have been staying for the wrong reasons.’

“If I’d have stayed, I’d have been staying to be part of a TV show, whereas I didn’t go into it to be part of a TV show, I went into it to win the investment. 

"Lots of people think that I left because of the girls, being really bitchy, but they are FAR from bitchy. They are fabulous - it wasn't anything to do with the other candidates why I left. They were actually the reason why I stayed for another task!

"I didn't want to leave Rochelle, being the main reason - I had a bond straight away with her, like I absolutely love her to bits. She'll be friend forever. I didn't want to leave her in there - I didn't want to let her down. But she told me I can't do it for her, I needed to do it for me.

“I haven’t got any regrets at all, I’m really glad I left, but then I am also really glad that I applied and I went through all of that.”

Why Did Shannon Martin Leave The Apprentice? 

Given that we're all about weddings here, Shannon was our clear favourite from the off, but a shock turn of events last night left viewers, and us, with plenty of questions! During the second episode of the Apprentice 2023, Shannon announced to the cast and Lord Sugar himself that she would be voluntarily leaving the process. 

Shannon made the announcement shortly after both teams entered the boardroom. Before Lord Sugar could even begin his usual mocking of the teams' performances (literally, the best bit!), Shannon addressed the room. 

To everyone's surprise, she said, "Lord Sugar, if I may. I have made the difficult decision to leave the process. Unfortunately, I just don't feel like this is the environment for me but I want to say a massive thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity." Shannon then exited both the boardroom and the competition.

In response to Shannon's withdrawal from the process, and effectively turn down a chance at his investment, Lord Sugar replied, "Well, that was a surprise for everybody, but I think it's a bit of an endorsement that this is a tough process."

Though her exit came as a surprise to viewers, Shannon wasn't entirely happy with the way she had been portrayed on the first episode of the show, a feeling which she shared with her followers on Instagram shortly after it was aired on Thursday 5th January. 

In the season's launch, Shannon was quoted saying that she runs, "a million-pound business that's close to reaching £2 million."

In response to the claim she'd made in episode one of The Apprentice, she said, "So I've pondered whether to post this or not since the @apprenticeuk aired on Thursday. I feel like during this clip I'm massively blowing my own trumpet and I find it so cringy! It's just not me, I've not been brought up to be 'showy' as some may call it. 

"But today I've woke up in a new week and having spoken to so many of my lovely friends, family, past and current brides, I've come to the realisation that it's not 'showy' to post this, it's something that I should be immensely proud of!"

Why Was Shannon Martin on The Apprentice?

Shannon Martin was on The Apprentice hoping to secure Lord Sugar's investment in her UK-based bridal business. 

Ahead of the show airing, she said, “There are not many other businesses that design, and manufacture wedding dresses made solely in the UK, which is exactly what my business plan is."

How Did Shannon Martin Start Her Business?

In an interview published on the website of her bridal shop, Dotty Bridal, Shannon revealed that she opened her first bridal shop following her own wedding.

She explained: “I really enjoyed the planning process leading up to the wedding and once it was over I felt at a bit of a loss. I’d been so busy planning and now it was over and I was left with all of this spare time. So I began researching into what brides did with their dresses after the wedding and into the preloved market, to find that there was a gap. 

“This was the start of our first store Evelyn Taylor selling preloved and designer sample dresses, which later evolved into Dotty with the introduction of new designer dresses.”

She went on to discuss the need for something ‘different’, stating that what they offer to brides at Dotty Bridal is nothing like what she experienced when she was looking for her own wedding dress.

READ MORE: What to Know Before You Go Wedding Dress Shopping

When Did The Apprentice Start?

Lord Sugar with the 2023 Apprentice candidates visible behind him

The Apprentice started on Thursday 5th January, airing on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm. 

The first episode saw the 18 hopeful candidates head to Antigua to complete their first task, which entails selling and running bespoke tours of the Island.

Episode two, where Shannon decided to leave the process, focussed on the manufacturing and selling of popular street food dish, bao buns.

Is Shannon Martin Married?

Shannon Martin is married and she shares two children, Nori and Elvie, with her husband James. Her bridal label, Nori Ivy, is named after her older daughter. 

Where is Shannon Martin’s Bridal Shop?

Shannon Martin’s bridal shop, Dotty Bridal, is in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. She also has another shop, 'Off the Peg', which offers more affordable dresses.

READ MORE: The Things You Should *Never* Do When Dress Shopping

Has Shannon Martin Been on the Apprentice Before?

Shannon Martin told the Huddersfield Hub that she'd applied to be on The Apprentice almost a decade ago and didn't make it past the interview stage.

What Has Shannon Martin Said About the Apprentice?

In the leadup to this year's Apprentice airing, Shannon Martin had been clear that she hoped to win Alan Sugar’s investment, to turn her million-pound bridal business into a multi-million pound bridal empire. She described Lord Sugar as ‘her idol’. 

She’d also been open about her ‘biggest weakness’, revealing that it’s “probably the fact that I want everything now, so I really struggle to prioritise. 

“When I come up with an idea, I want to just do it there and then and take everybody along with me on the ride. It can cause a bit of stress because I just want it today. I need to learn to be a bit more of a planner.”

Sadly, Lord Sugar won't be investing in the wedding industry any time soon - but we're sure Shannon will reach her business goals without his investment. Now, we're off to pick a new front-runner...

The Apprentice is currently showing on BBC One on Thursdays at 9pm. You can discover more wedding dress shops in Yorkshire here.