The curse of the reality TV business ventures

The curse of the reality TV business ventures: From doomed Towie lingerie stores, restaurants and salons to failed Love Island fashion – the crumbling empires of stars from Joey Essex to Pete Wicks

With millions of avid followers and a powerful social media presence, launching a business seems like a no brainer when you’re a rising reality TV star. 

Looking to emulate the success of Love Island’s Molly-Mae Hague – who has raked in an estimated £6million since appearing on the hit ITV show – they often dive into the world of business, opening up restaurants and boutiques and launching clothing lines.

Appearing on shows like The Only Way Is Essex, aka TOWIE, the likes of Gemma Collins and Joey Essex have become household names, allowing them to front a whole host of different products and companies. 

But for some famous faces, the reality of running a business and making it successful has proven harder than it looks. 

While some have struck gold, below are some who just missed the mark…


Gemma Owen’s clothing range makes a loss

The daughter of ex-England striker Michael Owen, Gemma gained her own fame on season eight of ITV’s hit reality programme Love Island, however while she was a roaring success as a reality TV star, her business empire got off to a rocky start.

She founded GRO Clothing Ltd in 2020, and counts her swimwear brand OG Beachwear as one of its subsidiaries, however according to accounts for the firm, she made a loss in 2021 of £756.

Owen previously hit back at claims made by trolls claiming she is ‘another rich footballer’s kid living off their daddy’s money’.

The businesswoman, who is now an ambassador for PrettyLittleThing, said: ‘It’s constant but I want to make it clear to people that with the business side of things it hasn’t been an open wallet.’

Gemma Owen (pictured) modelling her swimwear brand OG Beachwear

The influencer has distanced herself from claims her ex-footballer father Michael Owen has offered her an ‘open wallet’ for her business ventures

Even if Owen’s clothing brands fail to make their desired impacts, a deal to become an ambassador for fashion behemoth PrettyLittleThing (PLT) is likely to open plenty of opportunities for the Cheshire-born influencer.

The Love Island runner-up was handpicked by the online retail giant following a series of meetings in Manchester with founder Umar Kamani, 34, and his close team.

Owen became the first PLT UK ambassador since it signed Molly Mae.

MailOnline has contacted representatives for Gemma for comment.  

Gemma Collins’ bust boutique (but she’s still a millionaire)

Most people probably know of Gemma Collins for her unmistakable Essex accent and her appearances on TOWIE, Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, however she also made a good go of the business world, lending her name to a number of different ventures.

Some have been more successful than others, with her clothing brand, Gemma Collins Collection, reportedly racking up debts of around £42,000, according to the Mirror.

Collins was also hit with a three-year ban from owning any company in 2020 after the Insolvency Service discovered she had paid herself out of Gemma Collins Boutique Ltd’s funds despite missing VAT deadlines.

The boutique went bust and she was left owing £76,000. 

A spokesperson for Gemma told MailOnline: ‘Gemma believed her accountants were taking care of all financial aspects of the business while she did everything else. She was shocked at the situation she found herself in. 

‘The Insolvency Service found there was no personal benefit. Gemma had put substantial sums of her own money into the business.

‘Gemma also offered to pay the creditors in full over time but this was rejected by HMRC triggering the liquidation. ‘

Gemma Collins (pictured modelling her collectoin) was reportedly hit with a three-year ban from owning a company in 2020 after it was discovered that she had paid herself out of her firm’s funds despite missing VAT deadlines

Gemma Collins pictured at the opening of ‘Gemma Collins Boutique’ in Brentwood (November 8 2014)

Gemma Collins seen during filming of her show ‘Diva’ as she shuts down her boutique during the pandemic

Closed: The once popular boutique was also home to many exciting scenes from TOWIE – where Gemma first found fame

But despite some stumbles, the Essex-born star officially became a millionaire last year, an impressive feat after leaving school at 16 with a U in GCSE maths and later dropping out of college. 

The much-loved personality turned things around thanks to a series of savvy business moves, including pumping out sponsored posts on Instagram. 

She has also signed lucrative endorsement deals with Durex, Walkers, In The Style, Amazon and others. 

Speaking to the Daily Star, she previously revealed: ‘In one day, I earned £75,000 from social media posts, and that was on a Black Friday.’ 

Other streams of revenue include her fragrance line Diva Pink, GC candy and a £1m deal with New Look. 

Kem Cetinay’s restaurant forced to close 

As post-Love Island life goes, Romford-based Kem Centinay has done fairly well for himself, appearing on a number of ITV spinoff shows with his good friend Chris Hughes and even opening his own restaurant in his native Essex.

Array, located in Shepherds Hill, Romford, was a luxurious bar and restaurant owned by Cetinay and his business partner Nadir. 

The flashy operation boasted a British and Mediterranean fusion where evening-goers could also enjoy elements of a nightclub and bar.

Kem Cetinay (middle) with former Love Island contestants Liam Reardon (left) and Millie Court (right)

Array (pictured) boasted a British & Mediterranean fusion where evening-goers could enjoy elements of a nightclub and bar too

Array, located in Shepherds Hill, Romford, was a luxurious bar and restaurant owned by Cetinay and his business partner Nadir 

However Cetinay became embroiled in a number of controversies involving the restaurant, which forced it to close its doors last week.

Array released a statement saying it had ‘listened’ to the local community and would be closing, but was looking to rebrand and reopen in the future after a number of complaints which included fighting and noise disturbances.

It is unclear whether Cetinay will be involved in the new management set up as of yet.

Cetinay’s media team did not respond to MailOnline’s questions asking for clarification on the restaurant’s future. 

Pete Wicks’ clothing and tattoo firms 

Like many of his reality TV peers, TOWIE’s Pete Wicks entered the world of business after his stints on national TV.

Wicks set up PW Promotions just weeks after his final appearance on the long-running ITV show. 

But after signing off paperwork in January, it was revealed that the 35-year-old’s firm was £100,000 in the red, owing £7,477 in VAT, £66,702 in corporation tax, and £26,500 in monies to Lloyds Bank.

Like many of his reality TV peers, TOWIE’s Pete Wicks entered the world of business after his stints on national TV 

The business was set up in 2015 to manage his income and marks one of three businesses he owns.

He launched Unkempt in 2021 and TCDOR in November last year – both of which are dormant alongside Hermano Clothing and Pirate Pete’s Tattoo, which both opened and closed without trading at all.

Representatives of Pete Wicks were contacted by MailOnline for comment.

Joey Essex dissolves clothing boutique 

Wicks’ co-star Joey Essex decided to capitalise on his new-found fame in 2013, when he opened a clothing boutique in Brentwood, Essex, called ‘Fusey’.

Things went south however when local traders accused the TV star of distancing himself from the community, claiming ‘he didn’t want to know’ when they tried to involve him. The star shut down the store and moved to online.

One said: ‘Joey just didn’t seem to want to be part of the community down here. 

‘People like owners who are born and bred in Brentwood seem to get involved with the community and the other shops.’

Joey Essex inside his Fusey store during its launch party 

Joey Essex’s ‘Fusey’ store (pictured) which opened up on Crown Street in 2013

Essex (pictured at the 2014 TRIC Awards, London) got into a disagreement with market traders after they claimed he ‘didn’t want to know’ when they tried to get involved

Joey Essex (middle) has now reportedly moved to Dubai

Essex, 32, refuted the claims, saying he wasn’t closing down due to a lack of customers and was merely moving his business online. 

‘I also hope the other traders in Crown Street can continue to be successful when we close as I appreciate a few were unhappy with the thousands of fans that visit my shop stating it affects their business,’ a statement read.

Companies House records show that Fusey was dissolved in 2018.

Since then, Essex has now reportedly moved to Dubai, writing on his Instagram: ‘Thank you to Mahmoud Al Burai & Shahab Ahmed Alsaadi for everything you have put in place for me and dubai police / dubai tourism board / dubai media for getting in touch and taking time to meet me and giving me the warmest welcome to their beautiful country.’

Ekin-Su parts ways with fashion label 

After winning Love Island with Davide Sanclimenti, Ekin-Su Culculoglu was quickly snapped up by fast-fashion retailer Oh Polly as an ambassador, signing a £1million deal.

Plenty of her Love Island co-stars attended the launch party of her first collection, but the influencer was dropped by the fashion label just six months later.

It was reported that the two entities went their separate ways due to their relationship not ‘working’.

Ekin-Su Culculoglu (pictured) at a promotional shoot for fast-fashion label Oh Polly

Ekin-Su’s representatives refuted claims the deal with Oh Polly collapsed over a lack of popularity for the products.

Olivia Attwood’s luxury fashion label woes 

Ex-Love Islander Olivia Attwood has dabbled in a number of different ventures since she left the programme, one of which was her failed luxury clothing brand ‘We Are Foolish’.

The line failed to make a mark on consumers, folding after just three months after it was plagued by serious delivery problems.

Attwood attempted to salvage the operation quickly, moving it to a new warehouse, however the label closed down just two weeks later while having to refund its entire customer base.

Speaking at the time, Olivia told the Sun: ‘I’m really proud of it,’ adding: ‘It’s not fad fashion, it’s about timeless, classic pieces. I would never put my name to something unless it was fully right.’

Olivia Attwood pictured in her brand’s clothing which now only has two items of womenswear in stock on its website

A spokesperson for the brand said: ‘Since launching Foolish, our customers have experienced severe delays with their orders. For that we are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience caused and therefore have made the decision to move into a superior and larger fulfilment centre that will ensure our customers receive their orders efficiently.

‘We will be back up and running very soon and look forward to providing our customers with the service they deserve.’

While the website is now back up and running, it states only two items of womenswear are currently in stock.

Accounts filed through Companies House in March 2022 revealed the company appeared to be £72,264 in the red.

Attwood’s representatives were contacted for comment by MailOnline. 

Curtis Pritchard turns to panto

Curtis Pritchard became immortalised in Love Island folklore when he told his partner Amy Hart that after waking up in the morning, he’d rather make everyone in the villa a coffee than be affectionate with her. 

After leaving the reality show, he decided to launch his own performing arts agency Jay C P Limited. While it’s no million-pound company, it is still more than £100,000 in the black.  

He also took a stab at acting, appearing in the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks alongside his brother and Strictly Come Dancing professional AJ. 

While his performance did not win him any awards, his ‘how’s Trish’ dialogue with his sibling became a viral sensation and continues to be widely shared on social media. 

Curtis Pritchard (right) with his brother AJ, both wearing panto costume

He now makes a small fortune by starring in pantomimes, which during the Christmas season can earn big stars as much as £200,000 per week. 

Molly-Mae steps down from PrettyLittleThing

Molly-Mae Hague is arguably Love Island’s most successful contestant ever, becoming PrettyLittleThing’s creative director for an eye-watering £400,000 a month in August 2021.

The influencer gushed over her new role, but faced criticism over whether she’d have got the job if she’d not appeared on the ITV programme.

Hague was then blasted by viewers of Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast for her ‘tone deaf’ comments, in which she said ‘everyone has the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce’.

The influencer, who boasts 8million followers on her Instagram profile, last month stepped down from her £5million-a-year role after 22 months to focus on being a mother to daughter Bambi.

Molly-Mae Hague (pictured) is arguably the show’s most successful contestant ever, becoming PrettyLittleThing’s creative director for an eye-watering £400,000 a month in August 2021

Hague was criticised heavily by viewers of Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast for her ‘tone deaf’ comments implying that ‘everyone has the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce’

She addressed the decision on her YouTube channel saying: ‘Over the last few weeks, I have realised that I’m only going to get this time once with my first-born child and I’m only going to get Bambi being four months old once and I feel like I’ve had to rearrange my life a little bit and lose some commitments that I did have.

‘Myself and PLT have decided collectively that as much as the creative director role was incredible and I have literally loved being the creative director of PLT more than anything it was such an amazing chapter for me it has naturally come to an end.

‘I am a mum now and I never really gave myself a maternity leave and I got straight back into work instantly because my work is my phone and showing my life is my work. The last thing I would want to be is in a role that I can’t fulfil right this moment.’

She added: ‘There is no drama, there is absolutely no tea… nothing has gone on.’

The BBC’s latest star, Zara McDermott

Zara McDermott’s managed to find a comfortable niche posting comedy videos on TikTok with her partner Sam Thompson, but after wowing users with her voice through singing snippets on social media, she decided to feature on Brad O’Neil’s track Closer.

Unfortunately, it failed to impress listeners, garnering just 39,000 views on YouTube in three years. The track also peaked at 50 in the charts.

Zara McDermott featured on Brad O’Neil’s track Closer

McDermott advertised her weight loss content on an Instagram page called @ADayWithZara

After wowing fans with her astonishing weight loss journey which saw her go from a size ten to a size six in a year and a half, McDermott launched a fitness website.

Customers were charged up to £9.99 a month to get exclusive meal recipes and fitness plans.

But she drew criticism from fans after appearing on the BBC’s ‘Disordered Eating’ programme in which she explored eating habits and disabilities, with some claiming she promoted the weight loss lifestyle.

McDermott advertised her weight loss content on an Instagram page called @ADayWithZara.

The TV personality this week signed a contract with the BBC to become a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, MailOnline revealed.

It appears that neither McDermott’s food website or Instagram exist anymore in light of the signing.

Zara’s team were contacted by MailOnline for comment.

Jack Fincham’s management fund goes bust 

After winning Love Island with his partner on the show, Dani Dyer, Jack Fincham used his share of the £50,000 prize money to set up his own firm to help manage his appearances, Fincham Ltd.

However as the appearances started to dry up, Fincham was forced to liquidate just last year after racking up £53,000 in debts.

Jack Fincham (pictured) set up Fincham Ltd to manage his personal appearances, however it was liquidated after getting into debt

The ex-Love Island personality (pictured) has since tried his hand at professional boxing after being a talented amateur in his teenage years

Companies House documents show Fincham’s company owed £3,000 to HMRC and a further £50,000 to NatWest after it was the beneficiary of a bounce back loan, which was designed to help businesses through the pandemic.

Fincham also has made movements towards becoming a professional boxer after being a talented fighter in his amateur years.

But on his professional debut he took a beating, losing every round to MMA fighter Anthony Taylor, featuring on Floyd Mayweather’s undercard with influencer Deji.

Indiyah Pollock’s hairdressing firm falls flat

Indiyah Pollock left Love Island with Dami Hope and their relationship seems to have gone from strength to strength. 

She also launched a hairdressing business, but it was forced to close little after two years of being set up.  

Indiyah Pollock (pictured) set up Junkie Colours in South London before it was closed after she failed to submit her first year’s accounts

Junkie Colours began trading in London in 2018, but after she failed to submit her first year’s accounts, the firm was closed down last year.

MailOnline has contacted a representative for Pollock for comment.  

Dan Edgar’s investment firm exposed  

Dan Edgar first found fame on Towie after working as an electrician. After being linked to a number of women while he was on the programme, including castmates Jessica Wright and Lauren Pope, he decided to turn his hand to an investment business.

Not long after launching the firm in 2017, it was reported that his investment scheme had scammed customers out of £450,000.

Customers were being flogged fake diamonds which didn’t always exist, which meant Edgar was forced to sign a disqualification undertaking which prevents him from promoting, managing, or being a director of a limited company until 2031.

Dan Edgar (pictured) set up Reco Commodities which reportedly scammed customers out of £450,000

Documents revealed that Reco Commodities ‘inflated the price of the diamonds by hundreds of per cent, meaning that they were not suitable as an investment.’ 

It was also found to have made a number of false claims and failed to purchase diamonds that customers had already paid for.

Young sales reps were also reportedly using aggressive tactics to force investors to pay for its services.

An investigation carried out by the Insolvency Service found that only one of Reco Commodities’ customers actually received the diamonds they purchased. 

Reco Commodities claimed to manage over 2,000 clients but in reality there were less than 30 on the books.

MailOnline contacted Edgar’s team for comment. 

Chloe Brockett misses with fashion firm

TOWIE star Chloe Brockett was seen in scenes aired last year sobbing over her failed fashion label, Miss Babe.

The 22-year-old set up the business when filming for the reality show and Celebs Go Dating. 

Unfortunately for Chloe Brockett, her Miss Babe label failed to take off, leaving the personality feeling ‘rubbish’

Chloe Brockett’s Miss Babe (logo pictured) was set up when filming for the Celebs Go Dating and a season of Towie

She was filmed saying: ‘The other day I was sunbathing with Elma and she’s asking me about my business and I don’t want to talk about it, because it’s not going on any more.

‘It’s just so rubbish. I put so much into it and I really wanted it to do really well. There’s a part of me that just feels rubbish’.

With Love, Jess Wright 

Brockett’s castmate and the sister of Mark Wright, Jess, launched her own fashion boutique in 2011 called ‘With Love, Jessica’.

It sold a range of clothing and accessories in Loughton, Essex, before it was ‘moved online’ after two years.

A spokesperson for Wright said at the time: ‘It is simply that Jess’ online business has rocketed and it makes much more sense to progress this further rather than the store’.

As true as this might have been, the company was seen to dissolve in 2015, according to Companies House.  

Jess Wright (pictured) at the National Television Awards

With Love, Jessica dissolved in 2015 after running for a couple of years selling clothing and accessories in Loughton, Essex

Fashion brand hopeful Jake Hall

Former Towie star and fashion entrepreneur hopeful Jake Hall was forced to close down his popular fashion label Prevu, earlier this year.

Prevu had initially been a hit with fans, which prompted Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group to acquire it in 2022. 

At one point, Hall was thought to be worth approximately £5million off the back of the brand, which was popular with A-list celebrities such as Bella Hadid, David Beckham’s sons and even the England football team.

Jake Hall (pictured) was said to be ‘devastated’ after the collapse of his clothing brand Prevu

The Beckham boys take a tour of Prevu before it was forced into liquidation 

However the brand was forced into liquidation, owing at least £1million to creditors in 2020, according to reports.

An insider said that the personality had ‘worked so hard’ on the brand and that it was a ‘shame when it all collapsed’.

James Lock’s cafe forced to close 

James Lock (pictured April 8 2022) has been seen spending time with ex-Love Islander and model Megan Barton-Hanson

In 2018, popular Towie personality James Lock was forced to close down his ‘healthy’ food café in Romford (pictured)

TOWIE star James Lock was forced to shut down his Essex cafe after profits plummeted

James Lock’s cafe Lockie’s Kitchen shut its doors a year after the Romford eatery went into liquidation

The handwritten note pictured on the front of Lockie’s after it was closed in 2018

In 2018, popular Towie personality James Lock was forced to close down his ‘healthy’ food café in The Quadrant, which is one of Romford’s popular shopping destinations.

Plummeting profits at the deli forced the doors to close, with Lock placing the business into liquidation in 2017. 

A  handwritten sign at the door read: ‘Thank you to all our lovely customers. Lockie’s is now no longer trading’, next to a sad face.

Chloe Sims bows out of successful beauty salon 

One of TOWIE’s most well known personalities Chloe Sims opened up her own beauty salon in 2014.

While it was around for a good few years, Sims, 41, decided to close the business, saying she was no longer able to give it the commitment and energy it required to keep it open.

She wrote on her Instagram: ‘End of an era! After 5 incredible years….Chloe’s Beauty Bar is coming to an end! Our last day of trading will be Saturday, 2 March 2019.

Chloe Sims’ beauty salon had a good run out, last for five years before it was closed in 2019

Chloe’s Beauty Bar (pictured) opened its doors in 2014 

 The Essex star told fans on social media that the Brentwood salon would be closing its doors 

‘It has been an incredible journey but with new and exciting opportunities right now we are no longer able to give the business the energy and commitment required.

‘We have thoroughly enjoyed the journey and would like to thank all of our wonderful clients, we couldn’t have done it without you!’

Lucy Mecklenburgh’s boutique fails to take off 

Lucy Mecklenburgh eventually walked away from her fashion business which she started in 2012, after it accumulated huge debts of nearly £270,000.

It was set up by the TOWIE star at the peak of the show’s popularity, and was initially successful.

However it was reportedly forced to shut-up-shop and it was revealed it only had £673 in its account. 

Lucy Mecklenburgh eventually walked away from her fashion business (pictured inside boutique) which she started in 2012, after it accumulated debts of nearly £270,000

The shop was reportedly forced to shut-up-shop and it was revealed it only had £673 in its account 

At the time, a source close to the star said: ‘Lucy has decided to sell the business and take a consultancy role as running it alongside her other venture was taking its toll.

‘Working 13 hour days while heavily pregnant was just proving too much for her and she wanted to take time to prepare for her new arrival.’

Although they added that Lucy’s Boutique was moving online, records by Company’s House show it was dissolved in December last year.

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