Dragons* Den with Havering College

(*not featuring any dragons)

Connect Mentors was invited to attend a ‘Dragons Den’-style event with the students of Havering College and Marshall’s Park in Essex, UK, as organised by Bob Noseda — an expert in the construction industry. Bob Noseda is a Mentor on Connect Mentors and a well-respected trailblazer in his industry, having worked on the London 2012 Olympic stadiums, so we were privileged to have been invited to join the day.

We were excited to support Bob and the team at the event, and looked forward to the opportunity to get in front of new students and potential Mentees. Havering College was the perfect educational faculty to run a ‘Dragons Den’ event because the college is ‘an award winning centre for lifetime learning and training’. Here the college ‘aims to deliver high quality education and training that responds to the needs of employers and individuals’ by offering courses that are ‘developed in conjunction with employers’, ensuring the opportunity to develop the relevant skills required across industries. This was the perfect setting to run an event where the students were hugely enthusiastic to get their minds working on the presented challenge. During the day, we worked with AS-Level students from Havering College and Year 9s from Marshall’s Park, so not only was there a friendly school rivalry, but also a tense atmosphere of competing ages.

The event was in honour of Max White, a well-known supporter and advocate of National Apprenticeship Week events, so a fitting tribute. Students were asked to create a fictitious fundraising event for a charity of their choice, but they also needed to think about associated costs and outgoings, as well as how much money they expected to raise for their charity. Each team member needed to contribute to the overall idea, presentation and be responsible for their own part of the delivery of the challenge.

The day was kicked off with introducing the students to Connect Mentors and also to the agenda of the day, as well as of course the overall challenge. Neither sets of students had previously been told anything about the day, the challenge nor Connect Mentors’ involvement, which built the suspense even more!

Both schools were separated into different classrooms and were asked to initially come up with names for their teams. They came up with some great names, as you can see below!

  • Hamper Heroes
  • Nexus
  • RIKS
  • Safe
  • Helping Unicef
  • To the Max
  • Homeless Helpers

The teams were tasked with coming up with their ideas, creating their presentations and allocating speaking roles to each member of the team, as well as practising, all before lunch! Then over the course of 90 minutes, the students presented to the Dragons: Luke from YESSS Electrical, Mu from Wavemaker and Heli from Connect Mentors.

Each team was given 10 minutes, 4 slides and 1 chance to impress the judges! Read below for summaries of all the presentations, ideas and judges’ comments.

With some amazing branding, this team presented an idea where they would hold a celebrity cooking event in Old Spitalfields Market, London, where people could come along and buy tickets with all the profits being given to Unicef. They would invite British chefs who are Unicef ambassadors to cook on stage against other student chefs, in a competition, and talk through their recipes. There would also be food stalls/trucks where local chefs could come and serve food to the attending public!

Judges’ comments: It was a well thought-out idea, practical and relatively easy to execute. Costs for the venue had been taken into account as well as understanding the venue (with available facilities for the public, easy transport and security), and the team had also given an idea of their marketing & spending budget, as well as their prospective profit. Really well thought out, presented and with a very impressive presentation! Well done!

This team was a close first in the judges eyes! They had a cracking idea to build a fundraising initiative for a homeless prevention charity, such as Crisis, whereby members of the public would be able to buy pre-filled hampers and then give them out to the homeless in their local areas. Prices per hamper ranged from just a few pounds, up to £10, where the more money spent, the more items offered in the hamper. The items chosen included thermals, feminine hygiene products, sleeping bags, tents, clothing and cans of food, which would all be donated from supermarkets and charity shops, such as Tesco and the Salvation Army. Within some of the hamper packages, donors could also buy shopping trips to partnering supermarkets, where the recipient would be able to do a food shop! If that wasn’t enough, this team also had the idea to organise a 2–6 mile run where people would donate money for each mile that they completed.

Judges’ comments: This was a really well executed idea — up until the running event! This over-complicated the idea and the judges pushed the team for answers on the feasibility of organising the event regarding public health & safety, facilities etc, where the team slightly fell down. We fell in love with the hampers and felt that it could actually be launched to market. The team worked really well together, they presented in an engaging way, had all their costs and approach aligned for the hampers showing great teamwork. A really great idea!

And now, in no particular order.

Made up of team members first initials, RIKS designed a festival for underprivileged young people, in London, over two days in June 2020 and to be held at Finsbury Park. The team decided to have Arsenal, Coke and Virgin sponsor the event, therefore covering a high proportion of costs. For food trucks and tents to be rented, the team estimated realistic costs, with some very impressive headliners. They said 90% of profits would be given back to their charity of choice. The team chose social media as an appropriate channel to advertise through, to raise awareness of their festival to their target young audience.

Judges’ comments: This was an extravagant festival with lots of amazing ingredients to make it a huge success. The judges had a few reservations about the success, mainly around how the team planned on inviting such A-list celebrities, filling the festival to full capacity, having enough entertainment for such a large venue as well as general security & health and safety. They knew their target audience inside and out, so could imagine what their customers would want from a festival, however overall the costs to pull this festival together were a little outlandish (as well as the expected revenue!).

Team Nexuus wanted to organise a sponsored run in a local free park for men and women to participate in, to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness. The team allocated 300 places for people to participate in the event and envisaged raising £930 — a very healthy amount for a modest event. The team provided great statistics about breast cancer awareness in the UK amongst both men and women, showing that it wasn’t a gender-specific illness. With regards to using the power of their available network the team decided to print leaflets and raise awareness, not only of the event but of the cause itself, within their local community, and also to ask St John’s Ambulance to be on-hand for any injuries.

Judges’ comments: It was a well thought out presentation and cause, however the actual event was quite simple and the presentation content was a little too geared towards public health statistics, rather than the event. They presented very well and clearly.

This team decided to go a little off-brief and created their own charity where they could provide advice and support for families. SAFE was a smart acronym that delivered their company vision directly to their audience. This team decided to get into the nitty gritty details of what it would take to run it as a functioning charity; from an operations, team, HR, location and company perspective! This was really considerate, to think of running costs including having a 24/7 hot-line like the ‘Samaritans’ charity has.

Judges’ comments: The judges felt that the team fielded all our tricky questions very well, in a very professional manner, however slightly missed the boat of not answering the brief — what fundraising event would you develop for your charity of choice. The team tackled extraneous issues, such as salaries and office rent, very thoughtfully however this effort took away slightly from the overall brief. A concerted effort with a great premise for a charity.

Named after the challenge founder, this team decided to run a family-friendly event in a local park in Essex, where revellers could buy tickets online in advance of the event along with specific food tickets. If however passers-by wanted to join in the fun on the day, they could buy tickets that granted them entry for a specific timeframe and these members of the public would only be allowed to buy certain foods. Entertainment in the park would include bouncy castles and other fairground attractions.

Judges’ comments: Even though the costs were well researched, the judges felt that £20/ticket didn’t justify the ‘early bird’ ticket of gourmet food and all-day access to the event. The event in general didn’t have a lot happening, in comparison to other presented events, so the judges felt that the scope was a little narrow.

Lastly, one of the most imaginative (and humorous) presentations of the day was given by this team. The idea was simple — a local talent show, showcasing homeless people with impressive skills and talents, performing in a show alongside other local talented people, not from the homeless community. Not only would audience members buy tickets, therefore raising money for the monthly event, but they would also have the opportunity to participate on stage!

Judges’ comments: Apart from using (not so local) celebrities to raise awareness, such as Jim Carrey; an advocate of reducing homelessness, the judges felt that this would be a simple yet effective way to engage local communities, remove stigmas and prejudices against the homeless and break barriers to improve social mobility. Having a bit of a laugh, fielding difficult questions and delivering an important message are key presentation skills, so very well done to this team.

The judges were all so impressed with the level of detail, professionalism and energy each team brought to their presentations, especially from the younger students. The top two teams were awarded medals and certificates, whilst all other teams were awarded with certificates.

Well done to all and thank you to Havering College for hosting us. We hope to work with you again in the future!

The Connect Mentors team

Written by Heli Metsmaa-Petersons, Operations Director.

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Connect Mentors is managed by Aerate Inc (www.aerateinc.com). Aerate is a social enterprise that creates and develops scaleable concepts that connect and support people through online platforms and applications. Aerate’s concepts are all interlinked and complementary, providing solutions to support people professionally and personally. Each is designed and built around a strongly intuitive user experience to enhance engagement with the product.

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Aerate is a social enterprise that creates and develops scaleable concepts that connect and support people through online platforms and applications.