Martha Stewart's Winning Apprentice Dawna Stone beat out 15 other people for a top spot at Martha Stewart's company. Here's the inside scoop from Stone on her 13-week interview.

By Sara Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On December 21, millions of viewers tuned in to watch the live finale of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. It was the culmination of an intense 13-week interview process during which 16 candidates vied for a position at Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. In the end, it was 37-year-old Dawna Stone, a successful magazine publisher, who fit in best and was offered a position as development director of Body+Soul, a magazine that provides how-to information and inspiration for healthy, natural living. But before she gets wrapped up in her new responsibilities, which begin later this month, we wanted to talk to Stone about the whole experience--to find out the extent to which she pushed herself physically, what competing candidate Jim was really like, and how she was feeling during the final moments before being declared Stewart's new apprentice.

Entrepreneur: What was your goal going into the show?
Dawna Stone: My goal going into the show was to get the job. I know that, especially with reality TV, there are lots of reasons people go on a show. I went on the show because I'm involved with publishing and media. I started my magazine two years ago, and I've been trying to branch out the magazine into other areas within the media. I do a monthly segment on Good Day Tampa Bay, which is on a local Fox station here. We've done some merchandising. We have a training DVD, but of course nothing on the scale of what Martha does.

So going into this, I just really wanted to have the opportunity to learn from someone like Martha and be able to bring back to my magazine, Her Sports, everything I learned in that year and possibly turn what is currently a women's sports and fitness magazine into more of a media company that markets to active women. And I didn't think there was any better way to do it. Imagine how long it would take me to learn what I'm going to learn in one year's time.

Entrepreneur:In the article you wrote for the January issue of Entrepreneur, you said your husband advised you to "keep your eye on the ball" whenever things started to get out of control. What were some of the things that got out of control?
Stone: Throughout the entire process, there were always days when I was wondering, "Am I making the right decision?" or "How can I make it another night without sleep again after so many weeks in a row without sleep?" So it was literally just the little things. I think it was the sleep deprivation and the unique personalities, and instead of getting frustrated or thinking I'm too exhausted to go on, I thought about how the whole goal here is to get the job, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get the job. And if that meant another night of not sleeping or another day of not eating or another day of dealing with some unique personalities like Jim, I was going to forge forward.

Entrepreneur: Speaking of Jim, was he really as unpredictable and crazy as he was portrayed on the show?
Stone: Yes. Absolutely. However, I will say that I've gotten to know Jim, and he's a really good guy, a great husband and a great father, from what I've seen. But, yeah, he was probably 10 times worse than what you get to see on TV, because I don't think they could show it all.

Entrepreneur: So how were you able to stay so calm when he was like that?
Stone: I honestly ignored Jim when I wasn't on a team with him. The first seven tasks, I did not work with him, so although he was always in the loft and just being crazy and loud and obnoxious, I tried really hard to focus on other things and not let it get to me. When he was on my team, the very first time we were together, Martha sent me over to his team and we lost. Before the next task, I sat down with Jim and I said, "Listen, there's no way we're ever going to win now that I see why you guys have been losing. You need to focus. You need to knock off what you're doing. I don't care what you do in the loft outside of the task, but when we're on a task, you need to stop."

After we lost the QVC task and we started on the other three tasks, Jim actually really pulled it together. There were times where I had to say, "Jim, you promised," and I literally made him promise me that he would stay focused, and we won. We won three in a row after that. I will say for Jim that, although I had to tell him to stay focused and stop with all the crazy antics, he is a really hard worker.

Final Answer
Entrepreneur: What was the hardest task and why?
Stone: The hardest task by far was the final task, which was the fashion show, for a couple of reasons. First, I had never been to a fashion show before. I don't think the circus would have been any easier in terms of putting it together. I think they were comparable tasks, but I've been to a circus. I've been to Cirque du Soleil. I've been to Barnum & Bailey. I've just never been to a fashion show before. It was definitely a learning process. For me, it was all about bringing back the team that was so supportive of me. It was, by far, the most difficult task that we had. But it was phenomenal.

Entrepreneur: How were you feeling during the finale?
Stone: I was actually really nervous during the finale. Bethenny and I were sitting in the back in the greenroom, and we were able to watch what was going on live, of course, but we weren't out on the stage yet. And about 20 to 30 minutes into it, I was very nervous, because they were showing all the little things that went wrong with my task, but they weren't showing any of the big, huge things that were going so well. I really thought that, although we had bumps in the road like you do with every task, it was a phenomenal fashion show and everyone came up to us afterward and told us what a great job we did. But seeing that they were showing all the little bumps along the way and none of the positive feedback that we were getting, I was just sitting there saying, "I guess I didn't get the job."

Entrepreneur: They definitely made the program for the fashion show look like a huge downfall. Did you feel that it was?
Stone: I wasn't happy with the program. It was supposed to be just a listing of what the models were wearing, but, unlike the circus, we didn't have access to a graphic designer. The other team had access to a graphic designer because the program was a big portion of their task, whereas I think a bigger portion of ours was actually dressing the models, getting the clothing all ready in time, all the little things that you don't see. I think we had a 12-hour period to have all the seamstresses and everybody fitting the women, so there were a lot of different things.

Our charity was phenomenal, and they never even showed Safe Horizon, the charity, or the president of the charity and how excited he was about what we did for him. They never even showed our VIP party. There was just so much that wasn't shown that it kind of made me nervous. Even at the end, when Martha said I had the job, it was such a surprise to me. I wasn't conscious really of the timing of the show. I was just so excited to be there. Your mind is running in a million different directions, so when she said that I had the job, I almost had to do a double take. I was, like, "Wait, did she just say I have the job? Did I get this?" I was so excited. It was even better than I ever expected it could be.

Entrepreneur: So when you were sitting in the greenroom, you kind of doubted you would win. But how were you feeling before you went into the finale show? Did you feel as though you were going to win?
Stone: It was hard with this one. I wouldn't say that I was extremely confident, just because Bethenny and I are so, so different. Everything about us is different. Our personalities are different. The way we manage, the way we lead, the way we talk with our clients are different, so I wasn't sure what Martha was looking for. I knew that if she was looking for someone who was extremely professional and calm under pressure and who earned the respect of her team, she would pick me. But maybe she wanted that person who was a little bit more out of control. I don't even know how to describe Bethenny, because she's so opposite me, but we are so different that it could have gone either way, and that's the way I looked at it.

The one thing that made me a little more comfortable was basically, out of all the other 14 contestants, almost every single one of them was on my side in believing that I deserved to be the Apprentice, so that made me feel really good. I'm not sure if they could find anyone other than Jim to say anything to support Bethenny, so at that point, my feeling was, no matter what, I won. Whether or not I got the job, I was leaving with the respect of everyone I met, and I think I did a great job on all the tasks. Actually, in terms of all the finalists for any {Apprentice} show, including Donald Trump's shows, no finalist has ever had a higher winning percentage than me, and no two finalists ever had a larger gap between someone winning so much and another person losing so much. So that made me feel good about where I was at, but again, it didn't make me feel confident. I really was surprised. A lot of my friends were like, "You're crazy. You couldn't have been surprised." But I really was. Honestly, I thought it could go either way.

Entrepreneur: Why do you think Bethenny lost?
Stone: Before I joined teams with Bethenny, Bethenny had a one and six record. She won once and lost six times, and I had a six and one record--I won six times and only lost once. It wasn't until I came on the team with Bethenny that she then won the other three of the four that she won total. I won't say it's all me, because it's not. It's always a team effort. I couldn't have done it without Jim and without Bethenny and without Howie, but I don't think that Bethenny would have won those three, had I not come on the team and gotten the team to focus.

The hardest part is looking back to who I think should have been in the final two or who I think should have been sitting next to me in the end--I would pick almost every single person on the show. I really thought that Amanda, Ryan, Sarah, even Jim, deserved to be there. I did this as an interview process, but if you want to talk about someone playing it as a game, Jim's a much harder worker, and walking out of it, I think he probably made more friends. It was a tough situation for me to be in. Jim and I were talking, and his goal was to be left with the weakest person, while my goal was to be with the strongest person. If you're beating someone who is a phenomenal person that everybody else respects and you win the race, you feel really good about that win. I'm not saying I don't feel great about the win. I do. I just would have loved to see Amanda or Sarah or Ryan up there with me.

I do wish Bethenny well though. She figured out a way, in the end, to make it happen and to stay around. And she did work hard. Hopefully, she'll take something from this and it will be able to help her with her business. She does have a lot of that fight and that energy, and I just wish her the best.

Strategic Thinking
Entrepreneur: How important were alliances to winning?
Stone: I think this is very different from [a show] like Survivor. I wouldn't call anything we did an alliance. Jim and Bethenny may have done it that way, but most of the people there were really not playing a game. For most of us, it truly was about an interview process, and it was about accomplishing a task the best that you could. This is a little different from Survivor, where you're voting each other off. Here, it was all about whom Martha, Charles and Alexis wanted, so it didn't matter all that much if you were trying to build alliances. I, at no point, was doing that. I was just the same way I went in from the very beginning.

Entrepreneur: Even though there weren't alliances, do you think it helped that you were able to work really well with so many of the candidates and that you had that advantage?
Stone: I think that's real life. If you work well with others, people are willing to support you throughout your career or personal life. I loved my team, but there were so many people I could have chosen that I think would have supported me and would have worked just as hard for me. I know for a fact that Ryan and Carrie, who were on Bethenny's team, worked as hard as they could for Bethenny, but at the same time, if you asked them who was a better leader, they outright said it was me. And if you asked them whom they preferred to work with, it was me. And that, for me, was kind of like, either way, I won. Getting the respect of everyone there means a lot. Bethenny stepped on a lot of toes and didn't make very many friends, and in something like this, that's just a really tough situation to be in.

I have so many people supporting me. Even when I decided to launch Her Sports magazine, I was able to go back to people I worked with 10 years ago and talk to them and get their thoughts and their opinions. There isn't anybody I've worked with throughout my entire career who wouldn't be willing to help me out, but I would do the same for all of them. I actually kind of feel bad for Bethenny, in a way--that she's walking away and she really didn't make any friends and not very many people wanted to work with her. That's a tough situation to be in, but those are situations you bring on yourself.

Entrepreneur: What was your strategy for winning?
Stone: My goal was to never end up in the conference room, because if I never ended up in the conference room, then I could never get fired. Of the 11 tasks, I won all but two, and the two that I did not win, I did not get called back into the final conference room, so at no time during the entire show was there a point that I was called back with the possibility of getting asked to leave. That was the goal going in, and I was just happy that I could make it happen, because I did not think it was going to be an easy goal to have at all. Mark Burnett had told all of us before the show started that this would be the hardest thing you've ever done. I kind of just looked at him like he was crazy. In terms of sports, I used to wake up at 3:45 a.m. and swim five to eight hours a day. I've done the Hawaii IronMan, I do marathons and I was like, "No way. This will not be the hardest thing I've ever done." This was by far the hardest thing I've ever done. By far.

It's so funny, because when I watch the show, it almost doesn't seem like it came across just how exhausted we were and just how little we slept. I was so worn out. Before ever going to the show, I used to think that if you had to pull an all-nighter and you had the opportunity to sleep for 45 minutes, that it would be better to not sleep and just stay up. After the show, you give me 20 minutes and I'd be happy, because there were nights where that's all we had, just 20 minutes, and it was the best 20 minutes ever. You wake up and you do feel kind of refreshed.

But there were more nights than not that literally we would just not go to bed. We'd come back to the loft, shower and change our clothes and go back out again, with the stress, the no sleep and the not eating well because you're running around constantly-I definitely wouldn't say it was the healthiest thing I've ever done. I lost a ton of weight, and I can see it in my face when I watch the show. I thought I looked so much better coming back for the finale, after being able to eat healthy again and being able to exercise and get some sleep. There was still a lot of stress involved, wondering what was going to happen with your life going forward, but I was down to something ridiculous like 99 pounds while I was on the show. I'm a thin person to begin with, but I felt like I looked sick, I felt sick, it definitely wasn't healthy. But I put that on myself. The very first task that we did, I pulled an all-nighter with Amanda. The next task we did, I pulled an all-nighter. I never, ever went to bed before anybody else on our team went to bed.

Entrepreneur: Were you surprised by anything? For example, were there people you thought at first would win, and they shot themselves in the foot?
Stone: I don't think so. Possibly just seeing some people go earlier than I thought they would go. I brought back Sarah to the final task, because I worked with her five or six times, and I was really impressed with her. To see her go before Bethenny or Jim was hard, but in the end, there wasn't anything that was too shocking. The most shocking thing was Jim telling Susan and Charles over dinner that he was just playing a game. You just don't do that. If he was playing a game, then he should just have kept the game to himself, because that's a much better way to play it. That was shocking to me, because I honestly did think that, for him, it was about a game, and I do think he did a phenomenal job playing a game up until that point.

Entrepreneur: What did you learn from the firings?
Stone: I was never in any of the conference rooms to see the actual firings, so even when they were talking about what Martha's phrase was going to be, I was like, "I haven't even heard it. I don't even know if she has a phrase." It wasn't something that I even asked anyone about. I was just so fortunate that I never witnessed anyone getting fired until I saw it on TV with everybody else.

On the Air
Entrepreneur: So you were able to watch the show when it aired on TV?
Stone: We filmed all May and June, and the show didn't start until September. As of June, all 16 of us knew that Bethenny and I were the final two, but none of us knew who was going to win because that part was live. I watched every show with family and friends. You really don't know what they're going to show. They're taping usually 48 to 72 hours worth of film, and then they're bringing that into about 38 minutes. So to watch the show was a new experience, especially because you don't know what's going on with the other team, so half of the hour was brand-new for me. You may have heard how it went, but you never saw it. For example, when we did the Buick display, we heard about the other team's display, but we never got to see it. We had no idea what it looked like or how they did or what kind of trouble they had going through the process. So it was very fun to watch.

Entrepreneur: How do you feel about the way they portrayed you on TV? Did you feel they edited the footage to make you look a certain way?
Stone: I know a lot of people talk about reality TV and say you never really know what they're going to do when they edit the show, but they really can't [show] anything that you didn't do. They can't portray you in a way that's really new, because where are they going to get that footage? I was just myself. I tend to be more conservative. I tend to be somewhat shy in the beginning, which maybe benefits me when it comes to reality TV. I try to be really nice to people. I try to give credit where credit is due, and I think that was the one thing that was probably more shocking to people on the show--that I wasn't the person who was saying I did this and I did that and it was all me. That was in front of the rest of the team. That was in front of Martha. That was in front of Charles and Alexis, because that's how I run my business now, so I don't think there was any other way I could have been portrayed.

There wasn't anything terrible I did that was left out. Bethenny said I was a bore, and maybe that's true. Maybe I don't have the kind of manic energy that she has. I really took this as a job interview. I do not regret it, but I do look back when I watch the show, and I realize that my true personality didn't come out. My business and how serious and focused I was, that all came out, but what didn't come out is that I do smile a lot and I am a lot of fun. Watching the show, I can count on one hand how many times I smiled. The whole group went out after the show was over, and Bethenny came up to me and said, "I never knew you were this much fun." And I was like, "I was in a job interview." I was interviewing for a job, and there's a difference between how I act when I'm interviewing for a job and when I'm going out to dinner with 16 people that I really like.

Entrepreneur: Do you still keep in touch with everyone?
Stone: I keep in touch with a lot of people. I have made some friends that I truly believe I will still be talking to when I'm 60 years old. I'm pretty confident that, for the rest of my life, I will be good friends with Amanda, Ryan and Sarah. And there are so many other people I am friendly with and I enjoy talking with. On Martha's daytime show, the day after, a woman from the audience asked, "Would you hire anybody else from the show?" I would. I was so impressed with the people there. Marcela was not ready for an executive position, but I think Martha should hire her to do a cooking segment. I think Martha should hire David for her internet division. Sarah has the energy and the creativity to be a great asset. Ryan and Amanda are two people who I worked very closely with and was so impressed with. No matter what the media said, after working so closely with these people, I was truly impressed with them.

Something Old, Something New
Entrepreneur: What do you know about your new position at Body+Soul?
Stone: I don't know a lot yet. I'll probably find out in the next couple of weeks. I know I'm going to be helping them grow the magazine, but I really don't know any other details right now. I think it's due to the fact that the finale was shot literally days before the holidays. I talked to Martha quite a bit that night, but I will probably be talking with her and the team and the Boston team and the New York team in a week and a half.

Entrepreneur: From what you do know about it, is it the type of position you were hoping for?
Stone: I'm just so excited. Anytime you get a position in a company like Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, it's what you make of it. My goal going into this is twofold: to make the biggest positive impact that I can on Body+Soul and the company in general, and also to walk away knowing that I'm learning so much every day, every week and that I'm growing personally. I started my magazine two years ago, and publishing was really new to me. My background is a corporate background--marketing and finance--so I feel I still have so much to learn in this area, and I can't imagine a better place to learn it.

Entrepreneur: How are you going to keep your own magazine running at the same time?
Stone: My husband has been working on the magazine. He ran all the day-to-day operations for the two months I was gone filming, and he'll take over my role with the day-to-day operations and run the magazine while I'm gone. And, of course, since it's still in the family, I assume I'll still have that input. I also recently hired my sister a few months ago. Besides the two of them, I have a phenomenal team. I couldn't have asked for a better creative director, editor in chief, marketing manager. They've been supporting me since Day One, when they knew I was going to film the show, and they watched it every week because I couldn't tell them how I did. They were a huge support system for me, and they really wanted to see me get the job, because they know in the end, the only thing it could do is help {Her Sports} magazine grow and prosper.

Entrepreneur: That must have been incredibly difficult to not be able to tell your friends or family.
Stone: It was so hard. If someone puts a Christmas gift under the tree for me a few weeks early, I'm the type of person who's shaking it and just wants to open it. So it was really difficult. My sister was probably the worst of everybody. My parents and my husband just realized that I couldn't tell them, and although my sister knew that, she bugged me constantly. I did not tell her, but she was really cute. She said, "Dawna, I knew you were making it to the finals. I just knew it." But I teased everyone at my office. I travel to New York a lot for advertiser meetings and meetings with partners, so every time I'd have a meeting on a Wednesday or Thursday, I'd tell them I'm was going to New York, because I had to be there on Thursday for the Today Show when I got fired. They were really upset with me doing that every week and giving them a hard time about it.

Entrepreneur: What do you think the future holds for you and your magazine?
Stone: Who knows where it will take me? I don't know where I'll be a year from now or what my thoughts will be. Martha and I were walking down the red carpet after the show, which is something I've never done, by the way, and it's incredible--it was such a strange feeling. You walk down and just do interview after interview for the TV cameras and the different shows, and one of the questions was what happens now with Her Sports magazine. Before I could even answer, Martha had said, "Who knows? Maybe there's an acquisition in our future." So I had a smile ear from ear. You never know where this could take things. Who knows what the future brings--whether or not I stay for a year and I'm back to Her Sports or if I'm given such an opportunity there and I make such an impact that maybe somehow Her Sports comes into the fold at MSLO.

Entrepreneur: So you'd be happy if there's an acquisition in the future?
Stone: I would start discussions, let's put it that way. We're a small, independent magazine, and the one thing that's always difficult when you're a startup magazine is the funding to do the marketing you need to do. We're actually growing very fast, but we don't have the luxury of going out there and doing the type of marketing that most mainstream magazines do. We're really growing it grass roots, and it's working, but I just know that if we had the resources behind us, we could grow at such a faster rate and really get out there. I go to events where I'm talking to women who are extremely active individuals, and they've still never heard of Her Sports. That's slowly changing, but it will definitely take a while doing it the way we're doing it. [In any case,] the magazine will continue. We are getting hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from readers saying, "What's going to happen with Her Sports?" So we've been trying to get back to as many people as we can. The magazine isn't going anywhere. All we're going to do is continue to grow and continue to get better and better.

Entrepreneur: How do you and your husband feel about the distance, since he'll be in Florida and you'll be in Boston?
Stone: We're going to figure out a way to make sure we can see each other. When we first were together, we were both in consulting, so we ended up spending four years of our lives where we'd take off Monday morning, get on planes and travel in different directions, and then come back on Friday and have the weekend together. We don't want to do that again, so we are talking about ways that he can spend weeks at a time wherever I am.

The good thing about having a magazine like we do and having him run Her Sports is a lot of it is done via conference calls and videoconferencing. My editor in chief is in Minneapolis; my creative director is in San Diego. The majority of the people--about seven of us--are here in St. Petersburg, Florida, but we really do already have people all over the country, so it'll be easy for him to run the magazine from anywhere. We're going to try to find a way to make sure we're not spending a year apart.

Entrepreneur: What does it feel like to be the winner, and what's your life been like since the finale aired live?
Stone: It feels great, but part of me still doesn't believe it. I don't know when it will all sink in--maybe when it actually all starts, because with the holidays and everything, Martha just said, "Have a good holiday. Enjoy yourself." The night of the airing and the day after the finale were just overwhelming, between the Today Show and Martha's show. I had so many phone interviews, and I went up to Sirius radio and did a couple of radio shows. It was definitely overwhelming, but it was so much fun. It was great. I had such a good time with it. I know Bethenny did a lot of that also. And I think for both of us, it was a pretty neat, unique experience that not very many people get. Who knows if I'll ever get the opportunity again, but it was a lot of fun.

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