I was born and raised in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. That’s still where I live now. School wasn’t the most pleasant place for me to spend my younger years. If I do say so myself, lots of the students didn’t have the highest of aspirations. I’ve grown up and lived in an area which doesn’t have the cleanest reputation attached to it; and that can be hard, especially when I decided to speak out about feeling trapped in school. The environment didn’t suit my burning passion to release myself, achieve my potential and do well. The bullying and stigma I faced from mostly staff but also students due to this really took its toll on me and this all came to a fore 3 months before my GCSE exams in March 2009. Within 24 hours of the school head teacher victimising me once more, I was moved out and to a school far away in Nottinghamshire where my dad worked in order to complete my GCSEs. I did really well, and with my second school’s support I achieved 27 A*-C Grades at GCSE including 12 A*/A grades. That still shocks me today, but keeps me motivated to strive for my very best every time I feel down.
I did have some other success in school though; after entering my team’s initial business idea in a local competition we won over £10,000 worth of prizes for our interactive educational resources - that really spurred me on to get started in the world of enterprise and business!
Peter Jones Enterprise Academy: 2010-2011 Humble beginnings
It was a great step forwards in my life to be accepted onto the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, one of the first to experience this unique learning journey as it opened in Yorkshire. It was a privilege to be a part of the launch event attended by Peter Jones himself; the famous TV dragon. This whole year changed my life dramatically and I feel it made me categorically into who I am today - a more driven, confident and skilled entrepreneur ready to take on the world. It was during this year that I managed to secure the support of Dragon’s Den success story Levi Roots who helped me to launch my current business UnITe Computing - a results-focused IT consultancy for the third sector and startups. My launch event supported by the BiG Young Entrepreneurs Club was the launch of my enterprising career and captured the attention of around 100 Yorkshire business owners in the room on the night and the local press. Since then Levi offered to become my mentor and has been advising me ever since. I believe strongly in the power of mentoring to advance entrepreneurial careers, bringing a helping hand along a path which sometimes has no handrail… It was in July 2011 that I received a letter from the Peter Jones Foundation asking me to pitch for a series of prizes awarded by Peter Jones as part of the Academy. Only a select number of students from the Academy get invited to an exclusive end-of-year pitch which featured Peter Jones CBE as a judge, the head of the Academy, a Director of Coutts Bank and the Academy’s Head of Curriculum. Following this and a very gruelling pitch, I was selected as one of Peter Jones’ National Ambassadors representing his Academy and supporting youth enterprise in his name across the country.
Giving back: 2011+
In 2011 I started a project supported by Live UnLtd to raise the aspirations of young entrepreneurs and provide them with office space, support and peer mentoring to help them set up their own businesses. The project is steadily growing and will develop to incorporate a downloadable game next year alongside a number of international events headed by myself to raise awareness of enterprise amongst young people. In August of 2012 I took up a unique opportunity to work at Live UnLtd also, finding, funding and supporting young people aged 11-21 years old to set up their own social enterprises. Amongst this, my own business and my private engagements it is a real pleasure to give back to our youth who are all too often told that any hurdle presented to them is a real challenge. I’ve overcome bullying, rejection and the challenges of being an entrepreneur to make it to where I am today: nothing can stop me, and nothing should ever stop you too.