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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Apprentice star fires up NI women
Margaret Mountford
Margaret Mountford is originally from County Down
She's best known for helping Sir Alan Sugar decide who gets fired from TV's The Apprentice, but Margaret Mountford now has Northern Ireland businesswomen in her sights.

Ms Mountford, originally from Holywood in County Down, is giving the keynote address at the 'Women in Business 07' conference in Templepatrick.

She has spent more than 20 years working with Sir Alan Sugar and is one of his most trusted advisors.

On the hit TV show The Apprentice, Ms Mountford is one of two judges who help Sir Alan make up his mind who is going to hear the dreaded words "you're fired".

She said her Northern Ireland background had helped her career.

The basic message to give is that women have to believe in their own ability - no-one else is going to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself
Margaret Mountford

"I think coming from Northern Ireland gives you a lot of common sense and a basic level-headedness that stands you in very good stead," Ms Mountford said.

"A lot of what's required is a common sense approach, much of business depends on that actually."

She said she was looking forward to giving some tips on getting ahead in business to women from Northern Ireland.

"I think the basic message to give is that women have to believe in their own ability - no-one else is going to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself," she said.

Sir Alan Sugar
Ms Mountford is a key advisor to Sir Alan Sugar

"Though it's not the only answer to say 'just go for it', if you don't go for it it you're never going to get it and I think people need to be able to stand on their own feet a lot more and have more confidence in their ability."

Ms Mountford was educated in Belfast before going to university in England where she became a solicitor.

She met Sir Alan Sugar while doing legal work for Amstrad's flotation on the Stock Exchange. She is a now a non-executive director of the company.

She said working on the TV show had been a complete change.

"I accepted the invitation to do this because I thought it's something different I've never had anything to do with television, it was a world I knew nothing about.

"I had no idea it would become so popular."


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