Young entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity was the victor at Macclesfield College last week, following a virtual ‘Dragon’s Den’ event judged by a selection of its key business partners from across the region… and beyond.

 The event, which was held in the College’s new ‘Velocity’ boardroom, took place on Thursday 19th November, hosted by members of the Business Team.

The ‘Dragon’s Den’ Challenge is a regular annual feature of the College’s high-quality business curriculum. Based on the highly popular TV show, it is designed to encourage students to use the skills they have acquired in small business management, market research and accounting, to explore potential gaps or niches in the market and conceive and develop  innovative commercial ideas for presentation to a line-up of local ‘Dragons’, selected from the College’s key business partners.

Due to the current restrictions in place regarding COVID-19 however, this year’s Dragon’s Den Challenge was a truly unique experience for staff and students, with strict social distancing rules in force on campus, and all business pitches being presented digitally to the judges via an all-day Zoom call. This year’s panel of Dragons comprised Managing Director of Arighi Bianchi, Nick Bianchi, Founder of Maguire Advisers Limited, Paul Newell, Commercial Manager of Bio-Energy Ingredients, Ken Fallows, Owner of Pro Football Academy Limited and Macclesfield FC, Robert Smethurst and Managing Director of Shropshire based personal fitness specialist, The Body Barn, Daniel Robb.

This year saw no fewer than 12 teams of budding entrepreneurs, and one single candidate, take to the digital stage to sell their business ideas, ask for virtual investment into their fledgling ventures and face some tough questioning from the Dragons.

As predicted by the College’s Business Team, there were some extremely innovative and impressive ideas backed by solid, well-conceived pitches this year. These included a same-day food and sundry goods delivery service to elderly and vulnerable people across the region, a digital app that enabled you to design your own, personalised special occasion cakes and an online, financial advice and management system tailored to the self-employed.

As well as offers of virtual investment and real-time commercial and logistical guidance, two of the businesses on show, bespoke clothing brand PTRN Manchester and café style bagel shop BB Bagels, were also offered some truly unmissable business opportunities by Macclesfield FC owner, Robert Smethurst.

Following their successful pitches, PTRN have been given the chance to market and sell a selection of PTRN-branded merchandise on the club’s online store via Shopify, whilst BB Bagels were offered the opportunity to showcase their products at Macclesfield FC’s state-of-the-art new gymnasium at the ground, once it is fully completed and the current restrictions surrounding COVID-19 are lifted. “Once the gym is fully open, we are aiming to have over 1,000 members, many of whom are going to potentially need breakfast,” said Robert. “How about I give you the opportunity to come to Macclesfield Football Club in the mornings, and let’s test this out and see how BB Bagels goes once we are open?”

The overall winning business ideas on the day were digital marketing and social media promotions company, ‘Digital Dynasty’ set up by Kayley and Amy and ‘Ocean Jewels’, a unique jewellery manufacturer using recycled ocean waste to produce and market a range of high-fashion rings, bracelets and necklaces.

Commended by the judges for their ‘excellent presentation’, ‘confident sales delivery’ and ‘sound idea’ tailored to small businesses across the region, Kayley and Amy were offered their requested, virtual £20k for a 15% stake in ‘Digital Dynasty’ by Nick Bianchi, whilst ‘Ocean Jewels’, conceived by Hannah and Izzy,  was successful in its pitch for a virtual £25k, following ‘a clear and concise explanation of an excellent, environmentally aware concept’, receiving notional investment pledges from both Ken Fallows and Daniel Robb. Indeed, Daniel was so impressed by ‘Ocean Jewels’ that he asked Hannah and Izzy to contact him after the event, so that he could buy some of their jewellery from them.

“This event was really worthwhile, as it gave us the chance to work with and advise the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Ken Fallows. “For many of these young people, this was their first time pitching a business idea, and I thought they all did extremely well, especially given the current situation in which we all find ourselves regarding COVID-19.”

“There were some truly brilliant ideas today,” elaborated Paul Newell, “and the presentations, in the main, matched those ideas. In some cases, they even surpassed them. Some very confident, mature and articulate deliveries all round.”

“Some of the businesses today really got their visions across,” concurred Daniel Robb, “and with real clarity and passion. We threw some very business-orientated questions at them, putting them on the spot in some cases, and they really delivered. Well done to everyone.”

“I am really proud of the effort and enthusiasm our Business Team has invested into making our latest Dragon’s Den challenge a success,” concludes Principal and Chief Executive of Macclesfield College, Rachel Kay. “Staging this year’s event was particularly tricky for obvious reasons but, thanks to the ingenuity of our staff and the co-operation and much-appreciated support of our Dragons, it proved to be a hugely successful and worthwhile occasion for all concerned.”