Shotton Hall Academy will represent Sunderland AFC in a regional business and enterprise challenge after winning through the club heat at the Stadium of Light.
More than 100 pupils from North East secondary schools and academies competed in the Premier League Enterprise Challenge which tasked them to increase SAFC's fan base and income streams within the USA and present their concepts to a panel of judges.
Team EHCL from Shotton Hall's idea of forming a partnership with restaurant giants McDonald's, leveraging social media and broadcasting live streams of Premier League games to increase fan engagement impressed the panel of Foundation of Light Head of Commercial Richard Hopper, Teesside University's Head of Business Innovation and Leadership Management Dr Elaine Hooker and Added Value Coordinator at Esh Group, Sarah Ward.
The pupils also took part in a Q&A with Kevin Ball, who drew on his experience as captain of the Black Cats to talk about the importance of leadership, teamwork, communication and preparation and how this can be applied to education.
"It feels great to win the competition," said the all-female team.
"We didn't think we would as there was some tough competition amongst the schools. Everyone deserved to win.
"It was nerve-wracking and scary presenting in front of everyone but it's about having confidence in yourself and thinking quickly on your feet, especially when the judges were asking questions.
"We put in extra hours after school to research our ideas, put them together and prepare for today. We'll do exactly the same for the next round which we're really looking forward to."
Shotton Hall will now travel to Stoke City in January for the semi-finals, which will include North East rivals Middlesbrough and Newcastle United, for the chance to progress to the national final in London.
Dr Hooker added: "I'm really impressed every time I come to Enterprise Challenge events. It's not a particular easy challenge how to crack the market in America but all the teams worked hard doing their research and costings, giving really confident presentations.
"The winners stood apart because of their ideas and how they delivered them. There were varied presentations, some very slick, but ultimately it's down to the idea and how sustainable that is.
"Going forward and further into the competition the idea has to be really strong. It was idea of partnering with a major company such as McDonald's which impressed us.
"It's a tough competition but I think the girls will do Sunderland proud.
"The Premier League Enterprise programme, which began in 2009 and which is run in partnership with Sport Relief, uses the business models of professional football clubs to engage young people in educational activity and a national competition.
"The transferable skills the pupils develop from the Enterprise Challenge and from an event today cannot be underestimated," added Dr Hooker.
"They improve a lot of softer skills which they will need for work life.They're working in teams, they build on their communication skills, have to come up with ideas and putting those into practice."
To find out how your school can get involved in the Premier League Enterprise programme, contact Chris Towers firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0191 5692765.