Enterprising students pitch business plans to local dragons

13 June 2016
Central Sussex College students recently entered the dragon's lair to present their 'Elevator Pitches' for their business propositions to a panel of five esteemed local businessmen during the most successful Dragon's Den in the College's history.

This annual event mirrors the successful BBC TV programme, giving students the opportunity to plan and present innovative business ideas.

The event was the culmination of months of workshops, mentoring and activities delivered as part of the College's 3E initiative which promotes Enterprise, Employment and Entrepreneurship (3E).

Enterprising students from business, aeronautical engineering, fabrication and welding, learning development, construction and media courses, were put forward by their lecturers, who identified them as ideal candidates to take part in the competition. These candidates were then given a tight timescale to prepare their pitches and were selected in a semi-final by Lombard’s Credit Management Team.

This year's dragons included: Head of Operations at Hitachi Capital, Graham Lines; Head of Asset Management, Collections and Audit at Hitachi Capital, Andrew Woodhouse; Head of Specialist Asset Finance Credit Unit at Lombard, Peter Lambert; Founder and Managing Director of Route 1 Fitness, Glen Oliver; and Founder and Managing Director of Inspiration Enterprise, Richard Deighton.

Eight shortlisted student businesses took to the floor at the event in front of College staff, fellow students, and invited family and friends. Vice Principal, Dean Wynter, opened the event saying, “It’s fantastic to see so many people here today. Dragons Den goes from strength to strength and this year has been our most successful one to date. The College’s 3E initiative makes up an important part of the study programme for our students, and it’s great to see so many innovative business ideas being presented today.”

Presenting their business plans on the day were: ‘College Radio’, who pitched their student-led college radio idea; ‘Brownie Bros’ and ‘Spirit Essence’ who both presented ideas to take on the food and drink industry; ‘Walk With Me’, came up with a proposal for a smart-phone app which enables visually impaired people to move around their local area independently; ‘Gharial Steel Safe’, who pitched their plan to capitalise on the technology accessory market with their range of affordable and sturdy tablet, console and mobile holding devices; ‘Comic Café’, who presented their plan to establish a tech-free café in Brighton for lovers of comics, magazines and literature; ‘Greenleaf’, came up with an idea to improve accessibility to banking in rural areas of the UK through their collaborative banking approach; and ‘Imperium’, who pitched a cyber-security solution which could protect both families and businesses from a range of online threats.

The students met the judges challenging questions with confidence and expertise, after which the students and guests enjoyed a buffet lunch, whilst the judges deliberated on the winners. The judges took their time and after much anticipation the winners were announced. ‘Spirit Essence’ won the prize for Best Pitch, sponsored by Hitachi Capital, scooping mentoring, vouchers and a ‘very smart pen’. ‘Comic Café’, was awarded the prize for Best Idea, sponsored by Route 1 Fitness, winning two days mentoring and guidance on how to start-up a business and market it. The prize for Best Marketing Plan, sponsored by Inspiration Enterprise, went to ‘College Radio’, who will receive 12 months of business mentoring from Managing Director, Richard Deighton. ‘Brownie Bros’ won the award for Greenest Business Idea, sponsored by the College’s Enterprise Society.

‘Imperium’ scooped the most prizes on the day, taking home the awards for Best Business Plan, sponsored by Lombard, and Best Cash Flow, sponsored by the College’s Enterprise Society, securing £100 seed fund and the opportunity to enjoy a lunch with the judges, as well as mentoring from Lombard’s professionals.

Imperium founder and IT student, Thomas Hussey, 20, from Haywards Heath, commented, “It’s very nice to be able to hold these two awards. I was put forward for Dragons Den after making it to the final of the Young Start-up Talent Gatwick competition earlier this year, and I’m surprised to have won the awards today. I’ve been working on my business for a while and I hope that it will grow into something successful in the future. I think these awards will help me as my business progresses and will be useful ammunition in the future.”