Leading businesswoman Katie Bulmer-Cooke inspired gifted Academy 360 students with the story of her rise to TV fame and industry acclaim.

Sunderland-born Katie led a business development task with students identified by teachers as gifted, talented and able in subjects across the school curriculum.

She set them the challenge of creating their own business with a £50 start-up fund, with a brief to detail its unique selling point, brand identity and market ambitions.

The winning team – who wowed Katie with their concept of mini World Cups filled with sweets – were given prizes by the fitness entrepreneur.

Katie spoke to the students and their families about her rise to the top to be recognised as the UK Fitness Professional of the Year in 2013, as well as winning a host of other industry accolades.

She sells products and downloads to 11 countries across the globe and has just opened up The Guilt Free Kitchen in Shiney Row.

The healthy deli was a long-standing dream for Katie, who pitched the idea to Lord Sugar as part of the BBC TV ‘The Apprentice’ programme which propelled Katie to national fame as a contestant.

But he decided not to make her his business partner. That didn’t deter Katie, who has gone on to open the deli and continue to build her business and reputation as one of the UK’s premier personal trainers.

“The Guilt Free Kitchen has gone on to become a successful reality,” Katie told students.

“I would say to anybody no matter what it is you want to do, whether it takes you four hours, four weeks or four years – never give up on it.

“Sometimes the timing’s not always right, but if you believe in something enough and have got your numbers in the right place, then anything is possible.

“So while Lord Sugar might have said ‘no’, it doesn’t always mean that it’ll be a ‘no’. If anybody says ‘no’ to you, it doesn’t mean that it always has to be a ‘no’ forever.”

Rachel Donohue, Academy 360 Principal, said: “Katie is an inspiration to young people; she presents a personal journey of drive and determination bringing her ideas to life.

“At Academy 360, we expect students to aim high. We offer personalised support to ensure that our students have every opportunity to make the most of their talents and achieve academic success.

“Katie’s life story, growing her business and brand from Sunderland to become an international success story, really hit home with our students who see her as a role model to guide their own ambitions.”