Our Director of Business & Strategy, Iain Harper, has just returned from a day out in Gloucester pretending to be Theo Paphitis. He tells us more?
“When the invite dropped into my inbox, I wasn’t sure what to expect. SPLASH is organised by Working Knowledge, a Social Enterprise to bridge the gap between education and the workplace.
Their events raise the aspirations and confidence of students about to enter work, by helping them to be effective employees or to run their own businesses.
The event was billed as a cross between Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice, something I clearly couldn’t resist.
I was asked to take part as a business ‘expert’, despite a nagging concern that trade descriptions might get involved.
On arrival at the excellent Launchpad venue, part of Gloucester College, I met my fellow experts and we were briefed on what to expect from the students and what was expected of us.
Although the group included a sprinkling of seasoned management consultants, managing directors and even the odd chief executive, we all felt a sense of trepidation and were probably more nervous than the students we were about to meet.
The students’ brief was to come up with a product or service they really believed in and to sell it to us. Over the course of the day we had several encounters with the students, from an initial 30 second pitch (which was an entertaining free for all), to assessing different aspects of their ideas from a marketing, finance and product perspective.
I was taken aback by the quality of the ideas. Every single product or service showed real market insight. They ranged from a makeup stick for women on the go to a monumentally ambitious urban beach.
What soon became clear was that although the students had great concepts, these needed grounding in business reality. Throughout the day I tried to make practical suggestions without knocking the creativity out of their ideas.
Soon enough it was time for the final Dragons’ Den style presentations (thankfully, no stairs). The presentations were pretty damn good, with fewer nerves on show than I expected. To their credit the students had been really receptive to our thoughts and suggestions and it was fascinating to see the evolution of their ideas over the course of the day.
I left SPLASH feeling exhausted but inspired by what the coming generations are capable of. Their perceptiveness in spotting genuine market niches and developing strong products and services in just a day was impressive. There were at least two ideas that could be taken to market without much difficulty.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited, I’d definitely recommend getting involved. A day in the company of a group of young people utterly unconstrained by any pre-conceptions is a day well spent.”