How Startup Apprentice Began

One in seven. That’s how many people under 25 are unable to find a job in Australia, the US and UK.

Over the last 20 years the workforce has evolved to a service based economy but the education system still rewards knowledge over ability. Employers are looking for soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, resilience, communication and creativity.

After running several successful Startup Weekends on the Gold Coast, Sharon and Sam were inspired by a spark of an idea after seeing an increase of teens pitching and participating in their startup weekends. They thought, wow wouldn’t this be cool to teach to teenagers?

And that’s how Startup Apprentice started … before they knew it, their idea was picked up by the Gold Coast City Council, Smith Family Partnership Brokers and Varsity College and an eight week program came to life.

Startup Apprentice was just a whim of an idea, but the demand was high and after researching how their business could be an impactful social enterprise they discovered that the youth unemployment rates were three times as high as adults and the Gold Coast youth unemployment in particular was higher than average.

So they decided that Startup Apprentice would be best suited to intervention. By introducing the lean startup methodology to high school students they hope that they can inspire them to think differently about their working life before they get to the dole queue (You can read more about their social mission here).

Are you going to join them in their mission to inspire 1,000,000 million young minds?

Chief Executive Officer – Nicole Gibson

Nicole Gibson

Nicole Gibson is a millennial visionary and was the perfect choice for us to appoint as CEO of Startup Apprentice.  Nicole is also the Founder and CEO of her own charity organisation, The Rogue and Rouge Foundation (R&R), which she started when she was 18 years old. Together our organisational partnership sees us with a shared vision of transforming young Australian’s into Masters of their Lives by equipping them with the soft skills and inner wisdom they need for self mastery.

Nicole is committed to making a positive difference in the lives of young people. After overcoming mental health challenges herself as a young person, in particular anorexia nervosa, Nicole has been channeling her energy for the past five years into motivating other young people through R&R to be the best they can be.

Nicole has facilitated over 2,500 workshops with over 200,000+ young people across Australia to help them understand the true meaning of being themselves.

Nicole is currently one of Australia’s National Mental Health Commissioners, the youngest ever to be appointed in the Commonwealth. She was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year 2014, named one of Australia’s top 100 most influential women, named as one of Australia’s 2012 Young Social Pioneers and received The Pride of Australia Inspiration Medal in 2014.

“It’s crucial to provide young people with the tools to master themselves and give them permission to express their talents through their own creations.” Nicole Gibson, CEO & Founder The Rogue & Rouge Foundation

We are so honoured to have Nicole leading the growth of our organisation and our team.



Sharon Hunneybell

Sharon has a passion for technology, innovation and collaboration and has a keen interest in promoting and increasing female and youth participation in startups and technology.

Sharon has been an active contributor to the Queensland startup ecosystem, fulfilling roles at both Silicon Lakes, a not for profit startup community for entrepreneurs on the Gold Coast and ilab, Queensland’s biggest technology accelerator, before teaming up with Sam to create Startup Apprentice.

Sharon started her first business when she was 23 as a young mother which she ran for three years before selling it to return to the corporate world with a new focus on IT. After moving to the Gold Coast QLD, she decided to work as a consultant allowing her more flexibility to immerse herself in the startup ecosystem.

Sharon was named as one of three finalists in the Start-up Leader category of the 2014 Westpac Community Leaders Awards, an annual event designed to recognise and reward individuals making extraordinary contributions to the social fabric of their communities.

Sam Winter

Sam has a passion for building businesses that make a social impact and loves educating and supporting fellow social entrepreneurs in a cohesive collaborative way.

Sam has been an active participant and contributor in the Gold Coast startup ecosystem since moving from Sydney three years ago. While volunteering at Silicon Lakes, a not for profit startup community for entrepreneurs on the Gold Coast, where Sam teamed up with Sharon to create Startup Apprentice.

Sam has been an online entrepreneur for 10 years with a background in PR, marketing, communications and events management in both the private and government sectors. Sam was a finalist in 2011 at the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Online Business Awards.

Sam is an Alumni graduate of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Marie Forleo’s B-School and Jonathan Fields Rev U programs.

Darren Rackemann – Education Ambassador


Darren Rackemann’s passion for 21st Century Learning has seen him join the Startup Apprentice team as our Education Ambassador. He has been a strong advocate for SUA since the program was piloted at Varsity College in 2014. Darren took a punt on the idea while he driving the Academy of Mathematics and Science which saw him play an integral role in creating a whole-of-school innovative learning environment.

Darren has been responsible for creating and strengthening the curriculum in the SUA programs. He is helping SUA bridge the gap between schools and the business community and influencing a change in the educational system to value skills over content and better prepare our youth for the changing job market that is rapidly approaching.

Darren has worked in public education for the last 18 years on the Gold Coast. He was most recently the Assistant Principal at Varsity College, Queensland’s largest public school and before that held roles as Deputy Principal Middle School and Head of Mathematics across two local Gold Coast schools.

Darren is an innovative educator who is incredibly passionate about driving 21st century learning and educating others in new and engaging methods of leading student learning.

In addition to being a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Darren is also a recipient of the Science Innovation Champion award in 2014 from the Queensland Government for his work across Education Queensland in the field of 21st century learning. He’s also been invited to speak to educators in Sweden about his vision for learning in the 21st century, and he’s translated that experience into fruitful connections with colleagues outside of his native Australia.