Dragons’ Den Competitions Make the Grade

January 15, 2014 | Uncategorized

A little over a year ago, Andrew Rivest thought he was just going to school like any other day. Little did he know, he would soon be running his own business.

As part of a province-wide approach to instill entrepreneurial values and experience among youth, Rivest participated in a hands-on workshop to develop and defend a business idea to a panel of judges.

Noranda_Students_wearing_infinity-tshirts_webBased on the concept of the “Dragons’ Den” television show, this budding entrepreneur along with his teammates Christopher Piché and Xavier Girard from Noranda School, pitched his future company, Infinity T-Shirts. They quickly made the leap from imaginary to reality.  With a business plan in-hand, and feedback from the business community to improve it, the team persevered through some minor hurdles to produce their trendy tees which sold out quickly.

Laurel Albert, CEDEC Director, has introduced the Dragons’ Den concept to schools in Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d’Or. She says the competition is about inspiring business owners of tomorrow.

“The experience helps them to develop self-confidence by standing in front of judges, makes them take ownership of projects, introduces them to key players and service providers in the community and gives them a chance to get their idea off the ground.”

“And the television show is something the students can relate to. Students often request this activity as their preferred entrepreneurial activity, especially as they have seen the success of the Infinity T-Shirts business.”

Chantal Bergevin, GOAL and Entrepreneurship Representative at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School in Ormstown, Quebec, sees the Dragons’ Den activity as an asset to both students and teaching staff. “It has an avenue in different classes and there are many competencies (and employability skills) that can be graded by teachers,” said Bergevin.

Bergevin’s school has added community impact as part of the learning process. Students must choose a local cause to donate profits. “As students make connections in the community, they are networking and learning how to handle themselves for first impressions. They have to do phone calls, write letters requesting donations. They cannot ask their parents for money, they need to look to the community.”

[pull_quote align=”right”]“If we want to be serious about building entrepreneurial communities, we need to continue diversifying activities and educate youth year-round and further into their years as young adults.”[/pull_quote]The Dragons’ Den concept is being used across Canada with the goal to create excitement around entrepreneurship. For example, the community of Central Okanagan, British Columbia, which has one of the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the country, has held youth entrepreneurship competitions for the past 19 years. Also, the Community Futures of Greater Trail in West Kootenay, BC, recently launched a Junior Dragons Den competition and Kevin O’Leary, from the popular television show “Dragons’ Den”,  who funds the Future Dragon Fund Contest had already begun awarding cash prizes to young entrepreneurs across the country.

Frédérick Perrier, CEDEC Director, has watched the Dragons’ Den activities organized by Bergevin take root in her school and provide a new approach to preparing young people for the working world.

“Activities such as Dragons’ Den are important but are just one tool in the entrepreneurial development box,” said Perrier. “If we want to be serious about building entrepreneurial communities, we need to continue diversifying activities and educate youth year-round and further into their years as young adults.”

CEDEC’s participation in youth entrepreneurship education serves not only to promote entrepreneurship in the classroom but also in the broader community with activities occurring in youth centers, sports teams, adult vocational centers, colleges and universities.  To learn more about how CEDEC is introducing entrepreneurship education to youth in innovative ways, contact Sterling Lambert, Project Manager, who is leading CEDEC’s planning for entrepreneurial development across Quebec.

Since 2001, the federal government has invested a total of $75.5 million in the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) through Canada’s Economic Action Plan.