FXU Dragons’ Den participants reach new heights


“Your voices have been heard, the votes are in and the judges have made the final decision on who shall win the first FXU Dragons Den competition.” This was the lasting remark of the talk host, Ben Rowswell. After several tense seconds had passed, which seemed more like minutes, the guest judges deliberated,  and finally, Ben revealed Sophie Corrigan, from the Wild Doc Soc, as the overall winner.

Some significant time has passed since the initial buzz and emotional displays of students’ ideas, hopes and expectations and now it is time to see exactly how the students have delivered so far in their promises. Over the course of three articles, I will be meeting with the finalists of the FXU Dragons Den competition in a series of interviews providing insight of their progress on their current projects; and reflecting on their journey before the competition, now and their plans for the future. I will also explore the techniques and strategies they have used and will decide on which finalist, in my opinion, will be successful in this process.

Credit: Finalist winner Sophie Corrigan, photo courtesy of FXU

I first sat down with the winner Sophie, whose project is aiming at popularising academic work from the wildlife industry by regularly hosting visits from world-class professionals from across the industry

The overall impression she gave was that she still feels excited and motivated about the project, even with trying to juggle it with the seemingly endless production of assignments, of which she says she “is doing successfully”. Managing finances was a considerable concern in terms of forecasting expected expenses with actual expenses, as cash can be quickly spent if left unchecked. Here she discusses these issues in our interview:

 What have been your developments of the project since receiving the funding?

“Going ahead with the planning, contact different universities around the UK, and as many as possible”

How have you found the experience so far?

“It’s been a great experience so far, it’s a bit of a juggling act but I am used to it, as I am part of the wildlife documentary society.”

Have you been in contact with any external business people to help promote your start-up?

“It’s not really a start-up it is more like a festival, we contacted some guest speakers and news outlets”

What business issues do you think you will face in the upcoming year?

“Last year we struggled with advertising, we might struggle again this year, hoping to publicise it well this year.”

For Sophie, I think managing finances could also pose an issue in the future. As constructive input, I think Sophie should carry on the way she’s managing the overall project but should consider inviting local speakers as soon as possible to further engage students on campus and keep an eye on the outflow of expenses. There are very useful free apps which could visualise these finances effectively.

I then met with Ben Morrison and Frederic Bolton, who represents the mining society.  Their organisation wanted the funding to help create minging workshops with professionals in the industry and help pay for their travel costs.

The first impression they gave was an enthusiastic and positive one, this is no surprise as they were one of the most engaging team of presenters at the event. This was reinforced by their comradely relationship, as they bounced ideas off each other. This exchange of ideas seemed to have fuelled their innovative ideas:

Credit: photo of Ben Morrison and Frederic Bolton courtesy of FXU

What have been your developments of the project since receiving the funding?

“So far, we haven’t actually used any of the funding, we just got in contact with the people from the workshops. At the moment, we are just sorting out the costings and dates, hopefully, in the new year we will actually start paying for these costs.”

How have you found the experience so far?

 “The actual event was good fun, good learning curve, in terms of actually learning how to pitch, the Uni gives us a lot of support and we had 10 hours of training, we thought we would be thrown in the deep end, but they were really supportive. In terms of what happened since there hasn’t actually a huge amount of developments, but we have big plans for the future.”

Have you been in contact with any external business people to help promote your start-up?

“No, not yet.”

Would you say you have a leader of your organisation or would you say the leadership is joint?

“it’s just me (Ben) sorting it out since I’m emailing them but it’s just really Freddy and I but the committee will get behind us when we have got the marketing done, then the committee will be behind us.”

What business issues do you think you will face in the upcoming year?

“Just managing finances, we will have an idea of how to actually make money for the society and have a time schedule of when we would break even and then afterwards reinvest the profit back into the society.”

With the latter project, there does seem to be a more spontaneous or impulsive planning strategy, as if they wake up one morning and put a finger in the air and say today, we’ll go where the wind will take us. In fairness, these are early days, they see the end result, and are determined to get there, they just might need some guidance in getting there.

In the second article of this series, I will be discussing the projects of Ryan Hill, Seb Alexander and Mary Yemisi Shobowale.