A blog by Richard May, Managing Director at virtualDCS.

On the 24th June I took part in a Working Knowledge event at Huddersfield New College. SPLASH is a social enterprise, for 16-19 year olds, which has been designed to bridge the gap between education and the workplace. Working in groups of 4-5 the students were assigned a series of business tasks, based around a unique product which they invented themselves.

The product could have been related to anything, it simply had be a solution to a problem that many people encounter on a regular basis. For example, in the teams I mentored, students envisioned: an application that showed bus locations, a heated knife for spreading butter, an application which enables users to vote for suppliers to stock specific products, and a computer mouse with a number of additional buttons and features.

My role on the day was to act as business expert / ‘Dragon’ for the students and to share my personal experiences of managing my own company. Other businesses which were represented included Salesforce.com and Thomas Cook. Hopefully the knowledge passed on will aid the students in their future endeavours.

The day was divided into five sections, all driven to a penultimate Dragon’s Den style presentation of their overall business plan and concept. These five tasks consisted of:

The sales pitch

As an ice breaker for the day – the students were tasked with selling their product to the ‘Dragons’ through a one minute elevator pitch.

Expert interviews

The business experts were then interviewed by the students in small groups, with the goal of providing them with an insight into running a company and the challenges faced on a daily basis. The students seemed very intrigued about the rapid growth of virtualDCS and how the business growth plan has developed.

Business meetings

During this section, I acted as a business advisor to some of the student teams, guiding them on the business plan for their unique products. Acting as a business mentor I helped the students complete a comprehensive business strategy and share what I thought would be the best way for them to receive maximum profit and market share. I also had to review each team, assessing their performance and providing them with constructive feedback which would benefit them in future.

Presentations

This was the penultimate event where I acted as a Dragon on a panel of judges, listening to short presentations from the student teams based around the day’s events and their overall business concept. I was then tasked with asking the students some thought provoking questions.

Feedback

Presentations were then followed by comprehensive feedback, where we also had to present awards for the best teams and the most outstanding individuals from the day.

I was delighted to be asked to be involved with SPLASH and it was immensely rewarding to help inspire another generation of entrepreneurs. From feedback, the students gained some invaluable experience and I’d highly recommend others to take part.

Comments from the day:

“I feel the SPLASH event gave me a better understanding of what work life is like. I learnt about managing business ideas and promoting products.” – Ibrahim, Red Stream 2A.

“It has made me think positively about what and how I want to pursue my career. I learnt real life business skills and how to be confident using them. I liked that the experts were open to talk about the business they worked in.” – Hannah Dealey, Blue Stream 1D.

“SPLASH has taught me how to work with a group of people that I have never met before. I now know how to solve problems and then plan a strategy from a business point of view.” – Alan Chung, Green Stream 3C.

 

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