A new series of The Apprentice begins on Wednesday March 25. Michelle Dewberry, winner of the 2006 show, explains how women can make it to the top in business - even during a recession.

She was branded the 'silent assassin' and the 'ice queen' after her quiet but effective ways won over Sir Alan Sugar in the 2006 series of The Apprentice.

Three years on, 29-year-old Michelle Dewberry is still committed to the softly softly approach, even in the aggressive world of business.

"If you're delivering the results you don't need to go on about how great you are the whole time," she says.

Next to more outgoing contestants on the show, Michelle's level-headed approach earned Sir Alan's respect and her triumph-over-adversity background gave her the eventual edge over fellow finalist Ruth Badger.

Michelle has so far been the only female winner of the show, which has just started its fifth series, and she is keen to see another woman win this year.

"I love to see females doing well in business. Women are very competent in the work place and it's nice to see that reflected," she says.

"Women do have to work hard to prove ourselves, there are some men out there who don't take us as seriously as they should so we sometimes have to work that bit harder to get noticed," she continues.

The show has so far begun by separating the male and female contestants into opposing teams - a situation that is barely reflective of real business - but Michelle thinks this is a good method to get viewers interested.

"I think the reason they do that is because it creates an interesting dynamic," she says.

"When you put a group of males together there's always a lot of testosterone which makes fantastic viewing. I think that's quite a good starting point."

Michelle also defends the reverence with which the contestants treat the big boss, referring to him constantly as 'Sir Alan'.

"That's his title, you'd call him that wherever you met him. He's worked hard to get that title so it's important you use it. That's quite genuine," she says.

Michelle, who is single and lives in London, is keen to watch this year's series - last year she was working in New York and unable to see it.

And while the show has already been filmed, thus escaping the full brunt of the recession, she thinks the slowing down of the economy will have had an effect on the series' progression.

"The economy has obviously changed, and it's more difficult to secure funding and advertising but the contestants should have an advantage as they should be able to negotiate better prices and better deals. People are more open to deals now because they have to be," she says - adding that the contestants could even have a chance to impress Sir Alan and his sidekicks Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer with their quick thinking.

"In terms of selling a product or advertising they need to think more creatively about how to do that, and they need to push harder if they're getting stuff in as there's lots of deals to be had," she says.

She is also full of praise for the show's power to highlight business as a career option for young people.

"It's the kind of show I like and it does great things in terms of promoting business and promoting enterprise among young people. I speak to a lot of young people now that are seriously considering enterprise that perhaps wouldn't have done because they can see people like me and I'm nothing special," she laughs.

So what has the woman who says she is 'nothing special' been up too since leaving the show? Only, among other things, writing an autobiography, setting up a business consultancy company, working in New York for a year, starting a new money saving website - www.Chiconomise.com for women after deals on designer garb - and running a marathon for charity.

"Whether you're in business or not, it's important to give back. When things are going good it's easy to forget about people not having such a good time. I'm in training for the marathon again - call me bonkers - for the NSPCC," she says excitedly.

Michelle is also quick to point out that she spent nearly a year working for Sir Alan at Amstrad, even though she had left by the time the series was over - leading people to believe she had never worked there..

"I worked with him for 11 months which people don't always recognise because of the time frame of when the pre-recorded show went out," she states.

"Our offices were next door to each other for 11 months so I saw him on a daily basis. It was interesting, it was varied, I used to be self-employed so it was very different to what I was used to, and I learnt all about doing your research, which is what I did on the project I was assigned to.

"But we'd concluded what it was that I was working on. I decided I wanted to move on to different things so I did," she says.

Michelle was also the subject of press speculation when it was revealed she and fellow Apprentice contestant Syed Ahmed were expecting a baby together, and again when she suffered a miscarriage.

Ever confident, Michelle takes the press coverage on the chin.

"If you go on a reality TV show you can't then start complaining about intrusions to personal life because when you're on a reality show people want to know the person.

"It was a very difficult time. There were things that happened that were very very difficult and I had to take some time out to deal with those, and come to terms with them. I took time out, kept my head down, and I dealt with some of the hurt that was caused," she says, slowing down.

Michelle still sees Syed, fellow contestant Jo Cameron and - of course - Sir Alan, but now their meetings are for pleasure, not business.

"We just meet up socially. Work-wise, I don't know what they're up to at the moment, and I can't see Sir Alan wanting a good deal on a Gucci dress," she laughs.

Michelle Dewberry - Extra Time :: Michelle beat off competition from 15,000 people to win The Apprentice.

:: The best piece of advice Michelle got from Sir Alan Sugar was to remember not to rush into things. "One of the best bits of business advice I got from Sir Alan was having due diligence before you rush into something and doing your homework and looking at the market research."

:: Her advice for other people is to be what she calls 'self competitive'. "Set your own standards and know what you want for yourself. There's always going to be people worse than you and better than you so that's when confidence issues can start."

:: Michelle worked as a 'life coach' for Glamour magazine, mentoring three girls for six months.

:: The fifth series of The Apprentice screens on BBC One on Wednesday nights.

:: Michelle Dewberry's latest business venture, www.Chiconomise.com, specialises in finding the best deals on luxury items for women.