Belfast Telegraph

The Apprentice winner Leah Totton reveals exciting business plans and why she loves Northern Ireland

By Ali Gordon

There's no place like home for The Apprentice winner Leah Totton.

With her Dr Leah cosmetic business set to launch its third clinic in England this year, Northern Irish businesswoman Leah has exclusively revealed her plans to expand the brand to Northern Ireland.

“I love Northern Ireland and it’s not just because my friends and family are there, I love it as a country,” the London-based entrepreneur told Sunday Life.

“I would love to bring a clinic to Northern Ireland, I really would. At the minute, London is the hub, it’s an economic bubble, so I think to saturate that market before scaling out would not be the most sensible move.

“We’re looking at a third location in London now but beyond that, hopefully a Northern Ireland clinic will be on the cards.

“As the business expands and we scale the clinics out, it’ll definitely be in our plans to spend more time in Northern Ireland.”

Londonderry-born Leah’s two clinics, in London and Essex, have won a string of cosmetic industry awards since she launched her business in 2014. She now has a staff of 18 and is on target for 1.4 million sales this year.

But, as she made clear to Lord Sugar in The Apprentice in 2013, Leah always wanted to return to work as an NHS doctor after setting up her business.

“Things are crazy at the moment,” said the 29-year-old. “I’m back doing quite a lot of NHS work which takes up a lot of time, as well as the two clinics in London and Essex and I hope to open a third soon, but I still see myself as a doctor more than a businesswoman.”

Leah, who is dating 2014 The Apprentice winner Mark Wright, works part-time as a GP and admits it has been “an eye-opener”.

She said: “It’s my vocation though and I’m so passionate about the NHS and the amazing service it provides.

“I locumed on the side of building up the Dr Leah brand so I knew what I was getting into.

“I’m doing general practice now and there’s a hospital part as part of your training so you really do see the pressure the system is under at the moment.

“It’s quite a worrying time for the NHS and morale amongst medical staff is at an all-time low. It’s been an eye-opener going back in, just to see how bad things really are.”

Hard work seems to be paying off for Leah, though, and she has no plans to slow down.

“My career has always been a large part of my life and I’ve put a lot of work into it,” she said.

“I’m nearly 30 now so I probably need to think about settling down, but at the minute my priority is still very much my business. In my mid-30s, I’ll hopefully settle down and have kids, but for the next three or four years I want to focus on my career because I’ve put so much work into the Dr Leah brand and my own NHS career.”

No matter where her career takes her, Leah never misses an opportunity to “fly the flag for Northern Ireland”.

“I find it very odd because people from England sometimes don’t have that link to where they’re from,” she said.

“I am very passionate and proud to be from Northern Ireland and it’s still home for me.

“It’s great to have anyone in the public eye who is an ambassador for Northern Ireland, especially a woman so I was really pleased to see (Newry makeup artist) Grainne McCoy do so well in last year’s The Apprentice.

“Carl Frampton is a fantastic ambassador for Northern Ireland, as is Rory McIlroy and the Northern Ireland football team, but I love to see the girls flying the flag on the big stage too.”

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