At the University of Sunderland, Adam Corbally, a motivational speaker and a finalist on the reality show The Apprentice in 2012, has been imparting his business expertise and abilities to budding entrepreneurs.

The Apprentice features a competition among participants to become Lord Alan Sugar’s future business associate by completing various tasks and projects.

After his appearance on the hit BBC programme, Adam became a professional speaker inspiring others with his story – how he left home and school at 16 with no qualifications to starting his first successful business as an independent greengrocer. He then returned to education to help him grow from market trader to market leader.

Innovate Create: The Social Challenge - A Success Story from University of Sunderland’s Digital Incubator
University of sunderland students listen to The Apprentice finalist Adam Corbally talk during the workshop event at the Digital Incubator Picture: DAVID WOOD

Adam has set up several new business ventures of his own, including, which aims to inspire students from all walks of life to come up with ground-breaking business ideas and teach them how to turn their ideas into reality.

Most recently, the 43-year-old has been at the University’s Digital Incubator to help host Innovate Create: The Social Challenge – a two-day event aimed at students and graduates with a passion for enterprise.

The participants were split into teams and had to develop a business idea that responded to at least one of the 17 United Nations Sustainability Development Goals.

Guided by Adam and Ian Farrar, business coach and founder of South Shields-based business development specialists, Far North, the teams learned about idea generation, business mapping, marketing, finance and more. They created their own brands and presentations, which were then pitched to a panel and an audience made up of competing teams.

The winning team were awarded £200 each, thanks to funding from Santander Universities.

Innovate Create: The Social Challenge - A Success Story from University of Sunderland’s Digital Incubator
The Apprentice finalist Adam Corbally talks to students at the University of Sunderland during the workshop event at the Digital Incubator Picture: DAVID WOOD

Adam, from Glossop, Derbyshire, said: “I had a fantastic time being part of the Social Challenge alongside Ian Farrah. I received a warm north-east welcome to the University of Sunderland from all of the team and it was fantastic to meet the students and see their confidence grow over the two-day challenge then listen to them pitch their ideas to judges.

“Events like this help students develop so many qualities such as team work, problem-solving, resilience and communication skills along with brainstorming and developing ideas which really impressed me. Five teams came up with five ideas for sustainable businesses that would make a positive social and environmental impact, in just two days! Wow, amazing work, very proud to be a part of it.”

Funded by UK Research England, the North East Local Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Digital Incubator is housed in the University’s David Goldman Technology Centre at St Peter’s. It was launched in 2021 to support the next generation of digital entrepreneurs.

Pippa Christie, Student Innovation and Knowledge Exchange Officer at the University of Sunderland’s Centre for Graduate Prospects, said: “We’re delighted to have brought Adam Corbally onto campus for our recent innovation challenge where we welcomed students and graduates who were curious to learn about enterprise and entrepreneurship.

“Adam brought passion, inspiration, tips and enthusiasm, which left every participant with the knowledge and belief that with the right skill set and idea, they too could be entrepreneurial. Adam’s journey from education to successful businessman is incredibly motivational and left the students feeling empowered to strive for success in their careers.

“We recognise how important experiential interventions are to enrich the student experience and hope to encourage an innovative mindset in our employed and self-employed graduates.”

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