Newport Dragon Den

22 December 2014

Newport sixth formers present their business ideas to the Dragons

Hannah Poulton, Head of Multi-Channel Communications, blogs about being a "Dragon" at a recent Business in the Community (BITC) event at St Joseph's RC School in Newport.

I head up the team at Principality that looks after our community and sponsorship activities but with so much on my agenda it’s easy to become ‘deskbound’ sometimes, even though at Principality we support staff in taking time off for volunteering. So, when the opportunity to be a ‘Dragon’ at a BITC Dragons’ Den event with Applied Business / Welsh Bac students at St. Joseph’s RC School in Newport came up, I jumped at the chance!

My fellow Dragons (colleagues from Principality and our distribution partner L&G) and I received summaries of the students’ business ideas in advance, and I was immediately impressed by their innovation. Many of them had identified gaps in the market through competitor and market research, and had put their creative business minds to work to come up with ways in which they could take advantage of these.

Arriving at the school took me back more years than I care to remember (and certainly more than I care to mention on this blog!) but once I’d got over the nagging feeling that I was going to be told off for a uniform violation or not keeping to the left in the corridor, I was very excited about meeting the students and seeing them pitch their ideas. 

Ideas pitched included a bridal shop, a luxury cat hotel, a custom-made PC shop, a mobile dog grooming service and an agency supplying care staff. The students had taken inspiration from their own hobbies, experiences and passions to bring to life a range of different propositions for us.

I was blown away by the confidence that the students had in standing up and presenting to us. I present a lot in my role, and I still get nervous sometimes, but it does get easier overt ime. But for most of these sixth formers it was the first time they’d presented anything like this. I don’t think I would have been as confident as some of them were in pitching to a load of scary dragons when I was at sixth form!

I was also struck by the wealth of technology that students have available to them now, compared with when I was at school. Now, their research is done via Google, their presentations are in PowerPoint and they carry their work around on a flash drive. I was very impressed by how technology is being used in the school and found myself wishing I’d had those facilities at my fingertips when I did my own business studies!

After much deliberation (and some quite heated Dragonly debate with a bit of fire-breathing going on!), we chose our winner: Luke Conibeer. Luke’s idea was an outdoor activity centre near Newport. He had done his research, knew his subject inside and out, and had chosen an idea that he was passionate and enthusiastic about – which
really came across in the confident and credible way that he presented. Luke won a
£350 sponsorship from Principality’s Cwmbran branch to be spent on something of his choice for the school. When he said a few words, off the cuff, to thank BITC and the Dragons for putting on the day, it just confirmed that we’d made an excellent choice. He’s a natural speaker!

We closed the day by giving feedback to all of the students, which I hope will be useful to them in the continuation of their studies and in their future careers. It was very rewarding to see them taking in our comments, and even though I’m sure some of them didn’t enjoy the pressure of standing up and presenting at the time, they all said that they’d enjoyed the process in the end – although I think I heard some sighs of relief when we Dragons flew off at the end of the day!

Published: 22/12/2014