THE only South Island candidate in The Apprentice wants to show to the rest of New Zealand small-town people “have what it takes”.
Invercargill man Stephen McDowell is one of the top three left in the television show and next Tuesday he will find out if he is the winner, after weeks of challenges, marketing and business plans.
Mr McDowell was eager for the victory but he also hoped his part in the show could inspire his fellow Southlanders to go after their dreams.
“I’m not just the only person from Southland, but actually the only person from the South Island.
“It’s been cool to actually step up and prove myself against a lot of these Aucklanders and show that small-town guys have what it takes.”
Raised in South City, Mr McDowell was a pupil at Verdon College and like many lads, he dreamed of being an All Black.
However, two hip surgeries cut his dream short and he had to come up with a plan B.
He always wanted to travel the world, but being the young child of a single mother with four children he thought it would be almost impossible.
“A lot of people down South feel unheard… we feel we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities growing up because you’ve been constantly told can never do that because you are from Invercargill’.
“But that is not actually the truth and I want to prove that and inspire other small-town people around New Zealand you can do that, you can compete against the best, you can go against the Aucklanders to do whatever you dream.”
And that is what he has done he created the Instagram account “The Buzz Kiwi”, which has almost 50,000 followers.
In the past five years, he has travelled to different parts of the world on a small budget, staying in backpackers accommodation and couch surfing.
to show people hey, you can have these amazing experiences with very little money. You don’t need to have all that wealth in the bank.”
I’m representing Southland very proudly … I actually feel I’m representing the whole of New Zealand with the exception of Auckland–Stephen McDowell
The Instagram initiative progressed further than he expected and he was soon approached by companies to produce photographs and video content for them.
However, with the Covid-19 outbreak, he was forced to return to New Zealand and think of another plan.
He wrote and directed the documentary Grass Roots: The Reality of Legalisation and created social media content for some ventures.
It was around that time the opportunity of The Apprentice came.
He already had a business plan and thought it was the perfect opportunity to put it in place.
He described the experience on the television show as a crazy journey.
It was challenging, as at times he received great feedback while at others he was being grilled.
Mr McDowell said the whole experience had given him a bit of anxiety, but he had enjoyed every bit of the ride.
Living in Auckland, he thought it was fun being recognised by people in random places such as the supermarket and gym.
He said it was not often “a little Invercargill boy” was recognised by the whole country.
Mr McDowell would be returning to Invercargill soon to visit his family and was curious to see if people would recognise him, as he had changed a lot since he lived in Southland.
With only a few days until the final, Mr McDowell hoped his region was cheering for him.
He would love to receive positive messages on his social media from fellow
“I’m representing Southland very proudly… I actually feel I’m representing the whole of New Zealand with the exception of Auckland.
“I need that support because I’m up against the big dogs, I’m up against the big whales that are the Aucklanders.
“The more positivity I’m surrounded with, the more successful I will be in that show and it is something to be proud of. Southlanders can do whatever they want.”