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Apprentice wannabes form financial firm

Troy McClain and Jessie Connors, two ousted hopefuls from "The Apprentice," hope their fame will help in their new venture,
Troy McClain and Jessie Connors, two ousted hopefuls from "The Apprentice," hope their fame will help in their new venture,
/ Source: Forbes

What does an aspiring apprentice do when "The Apprentice" is over? The hit reality-television show is coming to an end on Thursday, but two fired candidates are forming a company that puts them in the Donald Trump role.

Troy McClain, who made it to week 12 in the 16-week competition, and Jessie Conners, who was fired in the sixth week, are forming The company, which is in the early development stage, aims to educate people on how to obtain credit and boost their credit rating, as well as understand credit risk, loans, mortgages and, to some degree, entrepreneurship.

McClain and Conners spoke to exclusively about their new venture.

"Jessie came up with the idea, and we figured, 'why don't we be the [entrepreneurs] we're supposed to be?'" said McClain, the popular candidate who, on several occasions, single-handedly propelled his team to victory on "The Apprentice."

Conners, 21, said she intends to use her background in marketing — she runs a small management company and is a realtor — to educate others on becoming marketing-savvy.

The business plan is still sketchy, but the pair will eventually sign up subscribers, who will pay $20 to $40 per month — for DVDs, newsletters, seminars and the like — to learn what The Donald's former apprentices know. Their target is 1,000 subscribers.

"We're teaching people to put action behind their dreams," says Conners.

McClain, 32, said people get discouraged when they're young, and believe that they can't buy a first house or improve their credit rating or start a business. He owns eight properties in his home state of Idaho, along with working as a mortgage lender and in the insurance business. McClain claims he bought his first piece of real estate for $24,000, with no money down, and later sold it for $100,000.

His plan is to eventually devote all his time to and make our list of The World's Richest People by 2009.

Though the pair wouldn't seem to have amassed enough experience to give advice, and certainly there are other people selling similar services — infomercials, anyone? — McClain and Conners are hoping to capitalize on their celebrity to create opportunity for themselves.

McClain knows they have to strike while the iron is hot. "We've used up ten minutes of fame. We have about five left."

In a little bit of behind-the-scenes dish, Conners said several of the women, particularly Tammy Lee and Kristi Frank and the recently fired Amy Henry, may have joined the competition not to pursue a business career, but a career in show biz. Henry, she noted, had taken acting lessons before coming on the show.

"The Apprentice" has been a runaway hit for NBC. (MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC, which is a GE company.) The episode that ran April 8 was the second-most watched show in the U.S. for the week, attracting 22 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. For the season to date, it ranks seventh in viewership.

The show has become so popular that other billionaires want in on the action, and other networks are rushing to produce their own copycat series. Sir Richard Branson will have his own reality series on News Corp.'s Fox network, while Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban will have a program on ABC, a unit of The Walt Disney Co.