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'Apprentices' Troy McClain and Jessie Conners launch credit-counseling website

By Wade Paulsen, 04/15/2004 

Forbes Magazine reports that the two candidates on NBC's hit The Apprentice who brought only a high-school education to the table are the first two to launch a business based on their time on the show.

Troy McClain, 32, and Jessie Conners, 21, are developing a credit-counseling company named The company will offer most of the same services that other credit-counseling companies do -- advising people about credit risk, obtaining credit, boosting their credit ratings, and loans and mortgages -- but it will have the advantage of the well-known faces of Troy and Jessie pushing it.

According to Troy, the idea was Jessie's. Although the business plan is still under development, the model currently in play is subscriber-based. People who join the site will be charged $20 to $40 per month for various merchandise and services, ranging from DVDs and newsletters to seminars. The two budding entrepreneurs have set a target subscription base of 1,000 -- meaning that the site would have gross revenues of about $250,000 to $500,000 annually when the target is reached.

Troy said that the target for the site are people who became discouraged when they were young and believe that they will not be able to buy first houses or improve their credit ratings or start businesses. Since that description doesn't seem to fit either Jessie or Troy, we wish them good luck in connecting with that market.

In addition to his efforts with this project, Troy owns eight properties in his home state of Idaho. He also sells insurance and works as a mortgage broker. However, his new plan is that he would like to someday devote all his time to ... if it becomes enough of a success. Oh, and he also wants to make the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people within five years.

Did someone say "loose cannon"? Nevertheless, Troy knows that he and Jessie need to strike while the iron is hot: "We've used up ten minutes of fame. We have about five left."

For her part, Jessie, a realtor from Wisconsin who has her own small management company, would rather dish about her teammates. In particular, she told Forbes that third-place finisher Amy Henry had taken acting lessons before coming on the show, and that Amy, her friend Kristi Frank, and Tammy Lee had joined the show mainly to see if they could launch careers in a peculiar type of business ... show business.

Turning our attention back to, we wish Jessie better luck with it than she is likely to have with her recent quixotic venture into trademark registration. According to CNN, Jessie has decided to take on both Donald Trump, in the battle to trademark the generic phrase "You're Fired," and Mark Burnett, over that phrase and the phrase "The Apprentice." Jessie claims to want to produce a "You're fired" line of clothing and to write a book and maybe start a magazine titled "The Apprentice."

As reported last month, Donald Trump has filed a petition to trademark the generic phrase "You're fired" for use in clothing and entertainment. Meanwhile, JMBP Inc., Mark Burnett's production and licensing arm (for those of you arriving late to the world of reality TV, "JMBP" stands for "J. Mark Burnett Productions" -- although the "J." has generally disappeared in recent years), has also filed to trademark "You're fired" for clothing, as well as "The Apprentice" for clothing, entertainment and television purposes.

Considering that Jessie has a contract with the show and that she neither uttered the words "You're fired" or became "the apprentice," we think that characterizing her claim as "very weak" runs the risk of overstating her chances of success. On the other hand, if her efforts help spoil the chances of either The Donald or Mark Burnett ever gaining trademark rights to phrases in common use, we thank her on behalf of the American people. But we hope her legal bills don't get too high.


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