Stephen Higgins: start-up firm failed

A finalist on TV3 programme The Apprentice who owes €4,500 to a digital marketing company has vowed to pay off the debt.

Stephen Higgins, the owner and director of The Wedding Trainer, a company that specialises in helping people change their body shape, is being pursued by Strategem, a Dublin digital marketing company, for not paying the debt.

Stratagem claims it is owed the sum for work it undertook for Higgins' company at the beginning of the year.

Strategem's managing director Keith Lee told the Sunday Tribune: "Strategem always want to support innovative Irish entrepreneurial start-ups.

"We normally do not work with very small one-man start-ups, as most of our work is with bluechip Irish and international businesses like GSK, Diageo, AIB and Danone, but for Stephen we made an exception."

Lee says the first invoice Strategem sent to Higgins was dated on 26 February 2009 but remains outstanding. Their last communication was in an email sent by Higgins on 7 October.

"Unfortunately The Wedding Trainer as a company failed to get out of infancy stages so we have had to wind down the company," he wrote. "I am currently chasing a number of outstanding debts, which I'm sure you have experienced (not least with ourselves).

"Please be assured that every effort is being made to raise funds to get rid of our outstanding balance with you and I would hope to be in a position to do this by year end. Your patience on this matter is greatly appreciated. I will be in contact once I have [sic] in possession of the funds."

Strategem has now, in MD Keith Lee's words, "reluctantly engaged a solicitor to endeavour to collect this debt".

Lee said that with the money outstanding, he was surprised to see Higgins (25) as one of the contestants taking part in The Apprentice when its second season aired on TV3 last September. "When I saw Stephen on The Apprentice, I thought, 'Oh my goodness me, that's a surprise,'" said Lee.

Stephen Higgins was unable to talk directly to the Sunday Tribune about Strategem's claims because contestants on The Apprentice are barred from talking to the media until they have left the show.

However, he issued a comment through the programme's PR company promising to honour the debt.

"Anything outstanding will be cleared by the end of the year," he said.