As a former student of Sheffield Business School, it was a proud moment when I was invited to join a team of Entrepreneurs and Academics as a Judge at the School’s international Dragon’s Den event to evaluate the business pitches for products or services developed by over 100 Chinese students.
I felt the buzz of excitement for the evening with 100 + students keen to present their pitch to each of the four Judges’ teams. Principal organisers, Dianna Conheeney and Poppy Turner facilitated the Dragons’ Den for twenty groups of approximately 100 undergraduate Chinese Level 6 students attending the University to study: hospitality, finance and management and 10 different event management courses. With so many participants, the competition was staged in two heats with the three winning groups going through to the Final.
Winning entry, Go with Me Travel Pal Cup Holder, showed the team was on top of their brief which they delivered with style, flair and creativity offered at a competitive price with a clear marketing strategy and a sound understanding of their supply chain. The runners-up offered a: Back Pack that converts to a Sleeping Bag and an Automatic Water-Boiling Cup.
Sheffield Business School has run this successful and popular inter-cultural evening over the past six years to enhance the motivation, engagement and confidence of their students who are usually asked to pitch within the first semester of their joining the University.
John Grant, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of the Natural & Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University praises the way non-traditional teaching models such as Dragons’ Den engage students far more intensively than chalk and talk methods. He adds that “it’s great fun to be with a distinctly different crowd than the daily routine and to be with people who keenly anticipate they’ll make a difference to the young contestants and increase their business nowse rather than doing the same old stuff”.
Factors that we Judges considered in deciding on the winning teams, were how the groups delivered their presentations in terms of the business plan for the product they’d created and the extent to which they met the brief of pitching a viable business plan. The calibre of the winning teams’ presentations was to a very high standard and it was evident that their excellent teamwork had shone through.
Although original ideas were welcomed, as Judges, we were looking for outstanding delivery, excellent presentations and a strong business case where all the financials stacked up. Many good projects fell by the wayside because of weak business plans.
In Wendy’s team there was some high drama when one of the groups were called back to resolve queries about their excellent business idea to simplify the process of buying rail tickets. Wendy said the app would have saved her hundreds of pounds on regular trips over the years to visit friends and family in London. Unlike their strongest competitor, that team had also neglected to ask the Judges to back their proposal. Much as Wendy loved the concept and definitely wanted to back that team, very sadly, they were pipped to the post simply because the proposal omitted the financial data required for the Judges to send the project forward to the Finals.
The winning team received a day trip to Cambridge, the City that inspired the famous Chinese poet, Xu Zhimo, to write his poem, Leaving Cambridge. A romantic expressive poem, it is taught in all Chinese schools and has made the City of Cambridge the must-see City to visit for all Chinese tourists.
Other Judges included Annie Matthews of Statement Vintage, Jayne May of Clear Pathway Hypnotherapy with Business Studies Lecturers Diana Conhoney and Jo Webster.
I felt it was a great honour to be a Judge at Sheffield Business School’s Dragon’s Den and a representative of Sheffield’s Business Community because I am very keen to forge strong links with the School and its students. I love to coach or mentor young people and am confident they’ll make really super contacts with the Entrepreneurs at this inspirational event which the Business School is running for the sixth time this year!” Having launched my research career with Sheffield Business School’s M.Sc. Organisation Development, I can see that the Dragon’s Den model as the ideal framework to help students learn how to present themselves effectively.