I’m a man on a mission to make the world a fairer and better place for the next generation. You may call me a social entrepreneur, campaigner or a crusader.
Since I was little, I always found the world an interesting and sometimes confusing place. I suffered with bullying in school and began to think I perceived things differently to others. It was when I was aged 11 that I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. I’m diagnosed as ‘high functioning’ which means I can do pretty much what every other ‘normal’ person does every day, but my brain sometimes processes things in a different way.
After diagnosis, I didn’t want this new ‘label’ to become a stigma or something to be used against me as I grew into my adult life. I was determined to do my best and beat those childhood bullies. Things did get bad for me, especially when I wasn’t achieving well at school – me and my parents took the brave decision to move me out of my secondary school in Sheffield, Yorkshire just three months before my final GCSEs.
Moving schools was a big upheaval for me. I travelled with my dad every day to Nottinghamshire to and from my new school, it was the only school with a place at such short notice. Two hours of daily travel and that extra commitment, along with the right support at my new school meant I left Year 11 with an equivalent of an amazing 27 A*-C GCSEs including some early A Levels.
School wasn’t all bad for me. Whilst I was in my Sheffield school I set up a micro enterprise, creating interactive resources for teachers to teach with. I managed this with my brothers and a friend and we went on to win thousands of pounds worth of prize money for our school and made some money ourselves as we went along! I was fuelled by this enterprising spirit and desire to do something creative, different to everyone else. This uniqueness made me driven and focused on my goals.
Therefore it will be no surprise for you to hear that when I was doing my A levels in College I still had an entrepreneurial itch. So I asked for my A level ICT to be fast-tracked and I completed it within 1 year instead of the ordinary 2 years. I transferred onto the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy where I had secured a place and continued to develop my business and gained a practical qualification at the same time. This threw me into the world of work and gave me so many experiences which I am really grateful for now. Here, I relaunched my business as an IT consultancy.
Dragon’s Den success story Levi Roots offered to become my mentor and has given me a helping hand to develop myself and my projects through the years. After entering the Academy’s annual awards at the end of the course I pitched to Dragon’s Den star Peter Jones himself and became a National Ambassador for his academy network, meeting and supporting hundreds of students across the country to become more enterprising.
My small business developed and I gained a healthy client base, then decided to set up an enterprise challenge and initiative in my home town of Sheffield to further encourage young people to become entrepreneurial passing on the skills I’d learned. We had a great time in 2013, 2014and plans for 2016 are well underway. The project was kindly supported by UnLtd – the foundation for social entrepreneurs. I also worked with youth charity Sheffield Futures to improve youth policies and strengthen youth voice in the city from 2011-2012, working on Music Strategy, Crime Reduction, Education Reform and other pertinent topics.
An inspiring opportunity came up for me to become a Development Manager at UnLtd, supporting young people with funding and advice to set up their own social ventures. I loved this and worked with hundreds of young people across the country in this way from 2012 – 2014 as part of the Live UnLtd programme. Whilst still running my business part-time, this was an excellent development opportunity and gave me many new skills to help me create social change – an area I was becoming increasingly passionate about. In 2014, I was also chosen as a youth ambassador to the ONE Campaign – U2 lead Bono’s campaign to fight extreme poverty. We travelled to EU Parliament in Brussells and lobbied MEPs to commit to foreign aid investment and visited 10 Downing Street to meet senior figures – the campaign managed to enshrine in law a commitment to developing countries round the world.
My heart for a fairer, better society grew stronger and stronger and in 2013 I decided to talk very publicly about autismin a bid to help others understand the impact the condition has on those diagnosed and their families. This radio and media crusade started with the press and saw me visit schools to talk about autism. I even went back to my old infant school to speak to parents about when I was first diagnosed and how I’ve used autism as a positive and driving force in my life to help me succeed. I was honoured as my previous secondary school in Nottinghamshire then decided to dedicate an award in my honour – the ADAM awardfor Achievement, Determination, Aspiration and Motivation. This is such a wonderful honour.
It was in 2014 that our family was hit with a bombshell which has become very well-known. My father was sent to prison and as a family we didn’t know the full extent of the story. Unfortunately, he had developed a very serious gambling addiction which he had kept hidden – as so many other gambling addicts do. He said he was going to court the next day (April 2014) to give evidence as part of a matter relating to a company he used to work at and he’d be returning home the next day. He didn’t – he was sent away for 2 years, and we only found out the full extent of what he’d done through the local newspaper. It was a massive betrayal and still very hard to live with now. You can read more here. As a family we decided to speak out about gambling addiction and have called for it to be treated as a health problem, just like drug and alcohol addiction. Our campaign also wants the industry to step up and implement better measures to protect vulnerable people like my dad. He’s back home now, after serving 7 months of a two year sentence and has joined the campaign with me. Our campaign has been in the national press across TV, Radio and print and has attracted the attention and support of Prime Minister David Cameron, the NHS, MPs and industry bodies and we are driving towards better protection for players and more support for addicts in the near future. In 2014 I also joined Rethink Gambling, a non-profit being set up to further these specific issues. I am no longer working with the charity and focusing on turning me and my father’s campaign into a social enterprise.
I also gave a TEDx talk in 2013 about how young people need to defy the statistics and be unique to stand out. I served on the board of Rethink Gambling until January 2016 and currently sit on the advisory board of Learning Initiatives for Employment (an organisation supporting ex-offenders through enterprise). I write for the Huffington Post and Guardian newspapers regularly.
Now, I am still in business and working on a number of consultancy and charity projects – including autism awareness, the gambling campaign, young people’s engagement and enterprise development. Me and my team work across the UK and further afield to advance social change in these areas in strategic development, campaigning and digital campaigns. Having worked in the past with brands such as Google UK and the University of Australia, we are well qualified in this distinct and emerging area and work with brands and causes across the country.
I am delighted to be honoured as one of Her Majesty The Queen’s 2016 Queen’s Young Leaders in recognition of my work making the community a better place. I also write for the Huffington Post, Guardian, City AM and Sheffield Star.
Follow me on Twitter at @Entre_Adam