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I visit two schools every month in my copter and tell the pupils to say 'I am terrific' 40 times before they go to I did; Irish Apprentice Bill's rise from Dublin slum to Millionaires' Row.


HE'S the man set to strike fear into the hearts of Ireland's Apprentices with the words: "You're Fired."

But businessman Bill Cullen knows his new TV role and sharp pinstripe suits are a long way from penny apples.

Slackers, liars and idlers can't expect to last long on The Apprentice, because for Bill hard work and determination are what he values.

It was these attributes that took him out of the slums of Dublin and ultimately made him a millionaire.

Born in 1942, Bill came into this world in a caul - an unbroken womb membrane believed to protect sailors.

His family sold it to the highest bidder in Thomas Delaney's dockers' pub for pounds 25 - enough to feed the family of 14 children for a year.

Bill said: "Did that accident of birth create a lucky charm for me?

"I don't think so. Themore my mother called me her lucky child, the more I believed it. I took chances because I believed things would work out for me."

Bill was born into grinding poverty in Summerhill - an area of tenements in Dublin's north inner city.

His family lived in a one-room slum with a leaking roof, no electricity or running water.

They had three beds for 16 people and two infants in the family died from viral pneumonia.

Bill said: "My mother cooked on an open fire in the corner. Our only cutlery was spoons, sharpened on one side.

"We had no light, no heat, no sanitary facilities. Nothing."

But there was a strong sense of pride in the Cullen house - the one room was kept clean as a whistle and Summerhill might have been poor but there was a strong sense of community.

People looked out for one another and they cared about their neighbours.

Bill said: "You had your bath every Saturday night. You never had your own space but it was exciting. Busy, like Central Station. There was no lock on the door and the extended family was all around, there was tons of love."

At five, Bill was working, helping his mum and granny sell apples from a fruit stall.

He said: "I was five when my mother first sent me out down O'Connell Street selling fruit to the cinema queues.

"She told me always to smile and, if it was a couple, to address the lady. For it'd be she who made the decision, and the fella who'd have to pay.

"She taught me how to negotiate, how to sell quickly and make a profit."

And at home, his mumand gran were busy laying the foundations of his future success.

He said: "When I was seven my grandmother stood me in front of a mirror and said, 'You're a fine big fella for your age, you've got a good pair of shoulders, a great heart and you can do anything you believe you can do. You need never fear any man. You are terrific.' I've never forgotten that.

"My parents loved me and I had two meals a day. We had no money but we were never poor."

Bill sold everything he could on the streets - from Christmas decorations to flowers - so the family could make ends meet.

He said: "At eight I made a huge profit selling dolls.

"The Wizard Of Oz was the big film that year, and while everyone else sold plain dolls, I'd got my sister to sew on little pinafores, and I called them Judy Garland dolls.

"I sold them for double the other fellows were charging."

At 14 Bill was kicked out of school for playing soccer.

He applied for 700 jobs but didn't get an interview because of where he came from.

But by using a teacher's address he landed his first job.

He said: "I earned a punt a week as a messenger boy at Walden's motor company.

"The hours were 9am to 6pm, but I used to go in at 7am and give a hand on the petrol pumps. I used to stay till 9pm or 10pm and help to fix the cars. I became known as the guy to ask if you wanted something done.

"No matter what it was, I said, 'Yes, I can do it'." Cullen earned enough money to put himself through night school studying book-keeping, commerce and marketing.

He said: "Because I had an hour's gap between classes, I took a year's course in the only subject available - shorthand and typing.

"It came in useful one night when the boss came out of his office at 6.30pm looking for someone to type up a letter.

"I said, 'I'll do it!' That became the model - 'If you want something done, ask Bill Cullen' - I stood out, and that's the secret - exceed expectations all the time."

Bill opened his first motor franchise in 1977 and is now a regular fixture on the rich lists.

And as he told his mum about his first multimillion euro deal, she said: "It's a long way from penny apples".

It later became the title of his autobiography.

Bill has also raised and donated more than EUR20million to charity and gives motivational talks to children.

He said: "I visit two schools a month inmy helicopter and say, 'Do you want a helicopter when you grow up? Well, that means no smoking, no drinking, no drugs.You have to get your exams'.

"I leave them a little sticker to put on their mirror. It says, 'I am terrific'.

"I tell them to say that 40 times before they go to school, as I did. You have to do the things you need to do to make those words come true."

The more my mother called me her lucky child, the more I believed it.. I believed things would work out for me

At eight I made a huge profit selling dolls.. I sold them for double what the other fellows were charging


EXECUTIVE SET Bill with sidekicks Jackie Lavin and Brian Purcell Picture: BRIAN McEVOY; SUCCESS DRIVEN Millionaire Bill Cullen started his first motor franchise in 1977
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 20, 2008
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