Derry's Dr Leah Totton among Lord Alan Sugar's Apprentice hopefuls
A cosmetic doctor from Derry is among the ambitious hopefuls aiming to win this year's The Apprentice.
Dr Leah Totton, 24, trained in Harley Street and has worked as a model. She set up a company which specialises in skin rejuvenation alongside her work as an NHS doctor.
She said: "I'm very hard-working and feel I can bring youth, vibrancy, enthusiasm and a touch of class to any business I'm part of."
Born in Northern Ireland, Leah now lives in London and says she is passionate about medicine and health.
But while regular viewers will be familiar with boardroom battles and backstabbing, "laid-back" Leah says there is no need for bitchiness in business.
In her audition she said she preferred to “disarm with charm” and says her friends would describe her as caring, kind and professional, though she can be too ambitious.
Dr Leah, who grew up in the Waterside, set up a medical aesthetics company and her clinics in England have been so successful that she flies home twice a month to hold clinics across Northern Ireland, according to the Londonderry Sentinel.
She attended Foyle and Londonderry College, then moved to England where she studied medicine.
Her sister Jodie Totton tweeted today: "My beautiful sister Leah Totton is one of the candidates on The Apprentice series 9. So proud!"
The hit BBC1 show The Apprentice returns for a ninth series next week, when viewers will watch Dr Leah compete with 15 other wannabes desperate to win £250,000 of investment from electronics tycoon Lord Alan Sugar.
Among them are a Monaco marketing firm boss who spent a season as a racing driver, a jazz singer and an analyst whose first deal was selling kittens at school, aged six.
Viewers will see the group being put through their paces over 12 weeks and hoping to avoid being fired in a boardroom confrontation with fearsome Lord Sugar.
Also back on the series are advisers Karren Brady and Nick Hewer, who will observe the candidates during their series of tough tasks.
Lord Sugar said: "This process is not about a job, it is about me ploughing £250,000 into a business. This is an unbelievable opportunity. For me to choose you, you've got to be brilliant."
The business brains had a cat-astrophe when they tried to sell some some Chinese lucky charms in the first episode.
The two teams of would-be entrepreneurs, divided into men and women, had to work through the night to sell the contents of a shipping container including loo roll, bottled water and leather jackets.
They also had to sell dozens of boxes of plastic cats with waving paws - which the Chinese believe bring good luck - but struggled to close the deal.
The women managed to find the one place in London that already had a ready supply of the cats - Chinatown - and arrived so early the shops were not even open, despite being warned by team-member Sophie Lau the shopkeepers could buy them cheaper straight from China.
The men did a little better and managed to offload their cats but only after wasting hours fitting them with batteries.
Team leader Jason Leech, who said his brain worked like a "machete in the jungle", struggled with the task and admitted the contestants had "to take the lessons we've learned from the cat catastrophe forward".
The series begins on May 7.
Francesca MacDuff-Varley, 32 - entertainment entrepreneur
A classically trained dancer who lives in Leeds, one of her first jobs was teaching ballet to toddlers. She now runs a dance studio and a lookalike agency.
She says: "I'm prepared to fight to the death to become Lord Sugar's business partner."
Jaz Ampaw-Farr, 41 - director of literacy and education company
A married mother-of-three, who lives in Milton Keynes, she has previously worked as a teacher and says she is tenacious and determined.
She says: "I'm half machine. I can process things at a speed that is out of this world."
Luisa Zissman, 25 - retail entrepreneur
The mother-of one lives in St Albans and runs her own cupcake shop, a baking website and an electronics business. She once posed naked to raise cancer awareness.
She says: "I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit, and a brain like Einstein."
Natalie Panayi, 30 - recruitment manager
A qualified make-up artist and keen jazz singer living in Rickmansworth, she trained in drama and dance at the Italia Conti School in London and is setting up her own fashion label.
She says: "When it comes to business, I am the complete package, and when it comes to sales, I'm the best."
Rebecca Slater, 35 - medical rep
Her first job was working in a Post Office shop but she now works in medical sales. She lives in Wigan and describes herself as authentic, generous and adventurous.
She says: "I'm a pretty tough person. I don't let people walk all over me in life or in business. And if somebody crosses me, it's game over."
Sophie Lau, 22 - restaurateur
She started out as a waitress for a catering firm but by the age of 19 was running her own restaurant, while still studying. She lives in Bristol and admits she struggles with mental arithmetic.
She says: "I don't have a multimillion-pound business but what I do have is the raw talent, the drive and the competitive streak."
Uzma Yakoob, 32 - owns her own make-up brand
She studied at the London College of Fashion and has previously been nominated for an Asian Women of Achievement Award. Born and based in London, she has also set up a non-profit organisation to help women.
She says: "If I believe in something, I will go to the end to make sure it's done."
Alex Mills, 22 - company director
He sold lollies as a young teenager and started his first company at the age of 19. He headed a firm making slate signs and now the Cardiff-based businessman runs a legal firm.
He says: "I'm an old head on young shoulders. I believe that I'm the new breed of businessman that this process requires."
Jason Leech, 29 - historian and property entrepreneur
Claiming to have never been formally employed, the Athens-born, London-based Leech has been either a student or self-employed throughout his adult life.
He says: "Some people might come to this process with a game plan. I just feel my effortless superiority will take me all the way."
Jordan Poulton, 26 - business analyst
He got his taste for business selling kittens at the age of six. He set up an online ticket resale business at school, founded an investment club while studying at Oxford and now works for a communications company.
He says: "I've worked in Third World countries and First World countries. I know what it's like to struggle to feed kids and I know what it's like to fly in a private jet."
Kurt Wilson, 26 - health drink entrepreneur
His first job was washing dishes as a kitchen porter but the Liverpool-based businessman went on to set up his own smoothie company.
He says: "I'm an alpha male; I always get my own way and know how to make people do what I want."
Myles Mordaunt, 39 - marketing company founder
He spent a short time as a professional racing driver, has been in the property business and now works in luxury brand marketing. He has lived in Monaco for the past decade.
He says: "I'm business perfection personified."
Neil Clough, 32 - regional manager for Goals soccer centre
A keen footballer, based in Altrincham, who once played semi-professionally, he has worked in telesales, has been a sales manager for health clubs and now looks after a number of soccer centres.
He says: "I'm here to win. If that means being tough and making tough decisions, that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Tim Stillwell, 23 - Mexican food entrepreneur
He founded his own leaflet distribution firm before setting up a catering company while still in his final year at university. He lives in Birmingham.
He says: "I'm definitely a team player. I'm not a lone ranger in any sense of the word."
Zeeshaan Shah, 27 - head of a property investment company
He grew up in Pakistan and reckons he is street-smart and well-connected. He began his career as a part-time waiter and lives in London.
He says: "I'm a 'great' of my generation. I'm an innovator and leader in business. I take inspiration from Napoleon; I am here to conquer."