When Birmingham entrepreneur Nick Holzherr missed out on winning The Apprentice, he might have been looking forward to a few job offers and messages from would-be investors.
What he got was a torrent of tweets from teenage girls, some adoration from housewives and some pink pants.
The former Birmingham Young Professional of the Year (BYPY) winner has become something of a sex symbol on social network Twitter, and has been sent two pairs of pink Calvin Klein undies worth £50 from a gay fan.
But it is all business for the 26-year-old, who just missed out on the £250,000 investment from mogul Lord Sugar, and launched his new online firm Whisk this week – despite criticism from the multi-millionaire on the show.
His idea, outlined on national television, is an online system that allows people to convert recipes into shopping lists that can be bought through online stores with just one click.
Lord Sugar said: “It’s simpler just to go to a restaurant”, but Holzherr said he was not swayed as he had established a demand for the new business over two years of working up plans.
He also rejected his advice to head to America – favouring Birmingham as the home for the new company.
“In all honesty I don’t take Lord Sugar’s and his advisers’ comments that seriously,” he said. “I don’t mean that in a bad way – it is amazing that he has built an empire from very little and is one of the most successful businesspeople in the country.
“I have software advisers, who may also give me negative feedback, but have also given me a lot of positive feedback.
“We have shaped this idea for two years because of feedback.”
Holzherr survived the entire series of The Apprentice, which pits young executives against each other in a series of business tasks, with one being voted off each week. Despite missing out on the investment, he said he was not motivated by proving Lord Sugar, the founder of Amstrad and former Tottenham Hotspur chairman, wrong.
“I don’t think the Lord Sugar element drives me forward,” he said. “The main thing that drives me forward is I really believe in the idea. It is a useful idea which saves ingredients, which is a worthwhile cause, and it is a big challenge, which drives me as well.
“It has the potential to be a valuable company.”
Holzherr kept his cards close to his chest about Whisk – including the identity of his business partner.
But he admitted he was searching for investment around the £250,000 offered by Lord Sugar – albeit for a smaller equity stake than the 50 per cent he would have had to offer up.