She has been called the most glamorous young entrepreneur in the UK. Luisa Zissman lost her battle with Leah Totton in the final of The Apprentice for a £250,000 prize and the right to become Lord Alan Sugar’s latest business partner.
But whereas Dr Totton has been open in the BBC series about a medical background preventing her from having much experience with spreadsheets and forecasts, Ms Zissman has made a series of what The Independent can reveal are sweeping claims regarding her business past.
The 25-year-old says she is the owner of three businesses and has spoken of a multi-million pound turnover in the series. She is in fact a director of one company – incorporating a bakery with an online store – with net assets of less than £200.
Her business plan was to use Lord Sugar’s £250,000 to create a wholesale firm catering to the baking market whereas Dr Totton wanted to set up cosmetic clinics across the UK.
At the start of this year’s series, Lord Sugar denied there was a BBC policy of “let’s get a load of dolly birds” after viewing figures for last year’s final were down by 3.5 million on the previous year, but Ms Zissman revealed in promotional interviews for tonight’s final that producers “have to get candidates who are entertaining and who look good”.
Ms Zissman herself claimed to have a “body like Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein”, and her business background does not appear to stand up to similar scrutiny. Her BBC profile says she “now owns her own cupcake shop, baking website and electronics business”.
In the penultimate show of the series, Lord Sugar’s troubleshooters questioned during the round of interviews why Ms Zissman was on The Apprentice if she had made such an apparent success of her businesses so far.
Claude Littner, the bulldog who threw fellow candidate Jordan Poulton out of the interview room for a series of claims on his business plan that left him infuriated, was seemingly impressed with Ms Zissman’s apparent business success and turnover figures to date.
However, the ebay “electronics store” she told Littner in her TV interview has a turnover of around £1.5 million appears to be a one-stop shop for several sellers, including electronics, baking and beauty products. A customer service number is given for “contacting the team” of the General Trading Store but customers are asked to “bear with us if the lines are busy as we are only a small team”. The landline is in fact the same number as The Baker Shop’s warehouse in St Albans.
The Baker Shop in St Albans, and the website dixiescupcakery.co.uk, are both trading names of Boutique Trading Ltd, which lists Ms Zissman as both director and company secretary under her real name of Louisa Christina Zissman. A company records search shows no other businesses owned or run by the Apprentice finalist.
Boutique Trading Limited’s annual accounts for the last financial year report ‘cash at bank’ of £4,584, ‘liabilities’ worth £36,156, ‘assets’ worth £23,489 and a ‘net worth’ of just £194.
Ms Zissman is reported to have split from husband Oliver, a former award-winning young entrepreneur himself, with whom she has a daughter. Confusingly, Mr Zissman continues to promote both of his ex-wife’s bakery companies online where he states he is “bringing the world of baking to the people of the world in over 90 countries”.
The Independent asked Mr Zissman what his official role is in the companies but he declined to respond. Oliver Zissman also has some reality TV experience having appeared on BBC Three’s The Last Millionaire five years ago. The programme saw entrepreneurs battle each other on business tasks in foreign locations. Mr Zissman, who said on the show that “anyone who says they can do without money is a liar," was a winner in the second episode of the series.
Mr Zissman and his older brother Elliot were described as “business whizzkids” by their local newspaper after their gym equipment business Totally Fitness won a small business award in Birmingham after doubling turnover every year.
But as any businessman or woman knows, turnover does not equal profit and the business, despite reportedly having Jim Carrey and Julia Roberts among the clientele, was dissolved in 2012.
Eliot said at the time he hoped the award would boost his company’s credibility. History may be repeating itself as Ms Zissman no doubt hopes that becoming The Apprentice 2013 winner will do the same for her.