Derry doctor Leah Totton has become the new business partner of multi-millionaire Alan Sugar.
In a gripping final episode of The Apprentice on BBC1 tonight, the tycoon said: “The devil in me is wanting to take a risk. Leah, you’re going to be my new business partner.”
And speaking to the ‘Journal’ about her win, 24-year-old Leah said: ”I just can’t get over it, it’s amazing.”
While filming on The Apprentice finished last December, Leah only found out she had won two days ago.
“It just hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said, “I am so happy and it is great for my hometown, especially with the City of Culture.
“There has been so much going on with Radio One’s Big Weekend and Jordan O’Keefe on Britain’s Got Talent. Now there is this.”
She revealed how her little sister Jodi has been staying with her as she has done all her press interviews.
“We are such a close family,” she said.
Leah’s first clinic is set to open in October in London. However, she says she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of opening a clinic in Derry.
“I’d love to open a clinic in Northern Ireland,” she said. “I benefited from a great education there which was second to none.”
But Leah also admitted that she has struggled to cope with some of the negativity in the press and some of the flak she took on Twitter.
“I found it difficult and sometimes it has been upsetting when people were questioning my ethics. Thankfully when that was happening there was always someone from home supporting me. The support from the city has meant so much. I am just a normal 24 year-old girl and I have to take it on the chin, but I’m delighted to have won and that makes it all worthwhile.”
As for going in to business with Lord Sugar, Leah said: “He is a brilliant person, I feel so lucky.”
And of her opponent Luisa Zissman, Leah added: “She is amazing, if I had lost it couldn’t have been to a better person.”
It has taken 12 intense weeks and Leah has seen off the other 15 candidates to secure the business partnership with Lord Sugar and an investment worth up to £250,000.
Tonight Leah and Luisa battled it out with the help of their former Apprentice team mates, and worked over the course of three days to launch campaigns for their businesses crafting a brand, a website and a promotional video to present to 100 industry experts and Lord Sugar.
After their toughest task to date, Luisa and Leah were called back to the boardroom.
Before making his final decision, Lord Sugar asked Leah and Luisa to leave the boardroom so he could consult with aides Karren Brady and Nick Hewer.
Lord Sugar stated: “Two completely different business models. As far as Leah is concerned, she doesn’t look like she wants to listen. It’s all very well being adamant about what you want to do but she will need to listen.”
Karren, who was impressed by the young professional from Derry, responded to Lord Sugar’s concerns: “I have to say, having observed her closely, she is an incredibly bright young woman. I mean she really does know what she’s talking about. She’s shown that she can take a gift that she has and use that to create a business. I think that shows a really unique skill.”
Leah and Luisa were brought back into the boardroom to hear Lord Sugar tell them: “Well ladies, this is the most important meeting we are going to have in this process here. It’s the most difficult for me, because we do have two very credible business plans. I’d like to give you a last opportunity of explaining to me why you think you should be my business partner.”
Leah said: “I think I’m first of all, pitching a fantastic business opportunity, completely unique and it’s extremely lucrative. And also, you’re investing in me as a person and I genuinely think I’m a dependable, trustworthy person to invest in. And I really think that this is a fantastic opportunity for you and myself.”
Deciding on his winner Lord Sugar said: “So, I think I’ve made my mind up now. At the end of the day, the devil in me is wanting to take a risk. Leah, you’re going to be my new business partner.”
Speaking in the car following her successful news, Leah stated: “To have Lord Sugar show this faith in me is absolutely unbelievable, it’s amazing. I had much less experience than the other candidates in business coming in to the process and I really can’t believe that I have got this far and that I’ve actually won it! I can’t believe it. I’m really going to do everything that I can to prove that he has made the right decision and I won’t let him down.”
(See more coverage in Friday’s Journal)