Two of the Cumbrian candidates on tonight’s The Apprentice have revealed what it was like taking part in the fiercely competitive show.

Both Rebecca Jeffery, of Asby, near Lamplugh, and Oliver Nohl-Oser, from Milburn, near Penrith, think they have what it takes to win the show and secure Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment in their business idea.

The two were whittled down from thousands of candidates to appear on the show – and both were surprised to be picked.

Rebecca, 31, said: “I honestly didn’t expect to get through to the final 18 candidates, mostly because I consider myself to be a pretty normal person. On the auditions I wasn’t saying things like ‘I will walk over anyone to win’, I was being my real – admittedly, slightly giddy – self saying: ‘I believe that nice people can do well in business’, which isn’t what you tend to see with candidates on The Apprentice.”

Oliver, 33, who now lives in Wiltshire, said: “I was completely flabbergasted to gain a place on the show, especially as I sent the application with 15 minutes left until the deadline was due on my last night on holiday with my wife in Barbados.”

Rebecca, who lives in Manchester, loves doing things that make her feel nervous so The Apprentice with its tasks, pitches and tense meetings in Lord Sugar’s famous boardroom were perfect for her.

“I was even excited to sit in front of Lord Sugar and speak to him,” she said, “I didn’t find that scary – but I was shaking from the adrenaline. I wanted to see how well I would do and whether I could cope with the pressure.”

Oliver admitted The Apprentice was more tough than he was expecting.

He said: “I learnt a lot about myself, my business skills that I already possess, such as sales and marketing. What was fascinating was visiting all the different types of industries during my time on the show.”

Rebecca and her sister started their business, Fi & Becs Design & Marketing, nearly three years ago. It has grown quickly and now has more than 120 clients all over the UK, Ireland, China, Germany, Canada and the USA.

She said: “I’m ambitious and I want my business to keep growing, so I decided that I would apply to The Apprentice because I truly believe that my unique business model could work in a bigger capacity. And working with Lord Sugar would be amazing.

“I also wanted to prove that two friendly mums who have built their business around their children (we have alternative working hours, 9am to 3pm when we pick up the kids, then 7pm-10pm after they are in bed) can be ambitious, very successful and impress Lord Sugar.”

Rebecca is very proud of being from west Cumbria, having attended Lamplugh and Keswick schools. Her mum, dad and stepmum still live in the county and she regularly returns to visit them. She thinks the high number of successful family-run businesses in the county was part of the reason why she started the business with her sister.

But why does she think she should win?

Lord Sugar Rebecca said: “I am a down-to-earth, hardworking and friendly businesswoman who has already proven that I can star my own very successful business with no funding, financial grants or loans.

“I am adaptable, likable, business-minded and ambitious. I know that I could make my business plan a success because I am already doing it very successfully on a smaller scale.

"My business Fi & Becs has grown so rapidly because of the relentless energy, enthusiasm and ambition that I pump into every moment of my working day. I am positive that I can build a business that Lord Sugar will be pleased to have invested in and I know I will be great to work with.”

Oliver thinks he is an equally deserving winner.

He said: “I should win because of where I’ve taken my business today from just an idea generated around the kitchen table 10 years ago with major listings in Tesco, Ocado, and an international listing with Waitrose in Dubai, and interest from Buckingham Palace too.

“I should win because of my sheer determination and patience I’ve given my business so far.”

Oliver also loves Cumbria and said he misses the slow pace of life, hills, locals and the peace and tranquility. He grew up in London and Milburn and still comes back every month for work – his company has a factory in Maryport.

Oliver runs two award-winning companies, The Cumbrian Sausage Co Ltd and James Alexander Fine Foods.

The Apprentice returns to BBC One tonight at 9pm.