Dragons’ Den test for business youngsters

Dorset youngsters with business aspirations have been put through their paces in a Dragon’s Den style exercise.

Just like on the TV programme, they had to pitch ideas to the dragons, as part of the county’s 2020 Young Enterprise (YE) programme, to gain investment.

Dixie Rowland, Company Commercial Paralegal at award-winning Dorset law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP, took part as one of three Dragons from influential county businesses

She was the only legal representative on the panel which robustly quizzed four YE teams from west and rural Dorset during the event at Blandford School.

Blandford-based Dixie said: “We were looking at their ideas, their presentations, how their companies were run and what investment they required.

“They were a bit nervous as the other teams, parents and teachers were all watching, but I was impressed with their attitude and resolve. Some made mistakes, of course, and will learn from them, just as in the real life business world.

“I find it very rewarding to be working with young people. They have a great deal of enthusiasm and vigour and come up with interesting and wholly innovative business ideas.”

These ideas included a test to check if drinks had been spiked, canisters to contain used dog mess bags, clothes with printed logos and beeswax wrapping sheets.

Dixie added: “I also feel it is hugely important that anyone involved in a successful business in Dorset has a certain responsibility to give something back to the community – especially if that involves helping to shape the county’s potential business stars of the future.

“At Blanchards Bailey we are very much investing in our own future through constant recruitment of bright young people, allied with a great deal of in-house training – the correlation between that and the Young Enterprise process is unmistakable.”

Following the event she wrote to all four school teams offering them in-depth analysis of their presentation technique and suggested possible tweaks to the products.

Dixie herself participated in Young Enterprise, manufacturing hand sewn heat pads, while at school in Reading.

Young Enterprise is a charity which motivates and helps participants to develop key employability skills, practical knowledge and workplace competency which empowers them for a successful transition into further education or an employment environment.

Young Enterprise Dorset Area Manager Mel Bissagar said: “We are very grateful to the judges from the business community who give up their valuable time to help us deliver the programme.

“To have professionals evaluating our young people’s companies from a business perspective not only lends huge credibility but is a fantastic experience for the students and enriches their learning.

“Although the Dragons’ Den aspect of the process was non-competitive, it gave our young people – mostly Year 12 but also Year 10 – exposure to a business setting and the opportunity for pitching and public speaking.”

Another Dragons Den event is taking place in the east of the county. The Dorset YE final is an all-day event taking place on May 6 at Poole Harbour Commissioners, with the winners reaching the regional final in June at Yeovilton, with the national and international finals after that.

Eighty-strong Blanchards Bailey is a Legal 500 firm – making it one of the top firms in the South West – and is based in Blandford with offices in Poundbury, Shaftesbury and Weymouth. 

Blanchards Bailey

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