Business and food students enter Dragons' Den with environmental campaigns

June 2019

University College Birmingham students have been facing down local 'Dragons' after creating their own campaigns for an environmental project.

Four students from The Business School and the College of Food have spent the past nine months on the Environmental Leadership Programme (ELP) run by national youth leadership development organisation UpRising.

The part-time programme, which gives participants the chance to learn about environmental change and network with sustainability leaders while gaining key employability skills, included designing and running an environmental social action campaign.

Having devised their campaigns, the students then had to enter the 'Dragons' Den', where they pitched their ideas to a panel of local investors at law firm DLA Piper in the hope of securing up to £100 of funding for their proposals.

UCB Business School trio Lucy Czachowski (BA Aviation and Airport Management), Sasha Iles (BA Events Management) and Kinga Cichon (BA International Tourism Business Management) secured £70 for their social action campaign called the Brum Wildfile Project, centred on personal green spaces and gardening.

Team member Lucy said: "I'm really glad UpRising gave us the opportunity to present our ideas to investors as it built confidence in our idea and, most importantly, helped me personally to be confident in the process of creating a campaign about a topic I am passionate about and executing it.

"It grew our persuasiveness and the ELP sessions provided us with ideas for strategic approaches to be successful when presenting to investors.

"Experiencing a real-life Dragons' Den situation sounded extremely daunting at the beginning," Lucy added. "However, after several meetings with my team members, good preparation and realising that we were pitching on something we are all passionate about, it was an amazing learning experience.

"Creating a social action campaign and the Dragons' Den itself was a big stepping stone to personal and professional development regarding new situations and stepping outside of our comfort zones. I'm positive this experience will help us in the future in professional settings as the programme provided us with a combination of theoretical knowledge and practice."

Also presenting to the Dragons was BSc Bakery and Patisserie Technology student Watanya Thaklaewpun, who pitched an idea for reducing food waste by sharing surplus food through a community fridge located in a public space.

And her plan, called 'Brum Open Fridges', clearly made an impact on the Dragons who decided to offer the maximum £100 investment in the campaign.

"As someone who is frightened by public speaking, the thought of standing up and speaking in front of a crowd was slightly unnerving," said Watanya. "However, after the support I have received from both my team and UpRising, combined with my determination to accomplish my goals, our team successfully secured the maximum amount of budget for our campaign.

"I feel very grateful that I had the chance to go through with Dragons' Den as this experience was a massive learning curve for me to work harder towards overcoming obstacles. Overall, my experience was stimulating, challenging and rewarding all at the same time."

The Environmental Leadership Programme is one of a number of initiatives run by social enterprise charity UpRising, who champion critical issues surrounding diversity, social mobility and equality by providing routes to leadership and employment for young people aged 16 to 25 who have talent, but lack opportunity.

UCB Employer Engagement and Alumni Officer Sabath Shazia, who leads on the UpRising projects for the University, said: "We are pleased to be working closely with UpRising, along with hosting a number of projects for the last few years, here at UCB.

"We have had a number of students take part in the Environmental Leadership Programme. This has helped them gain a variety of skills and work on designing and leading a social-led campaign to increase their confidence, boost their career prospects and make an environmental change.

"It was a pleasure to see our students present their ideas at the Dragons' Dens event, and I was pleased to be representing UCB to support our students.”

UpRising have started recruiting students for leadership programmes for the 2019/20 academic year - for more information and to apply, click here.

Find out more about hired@UCB, the University's dedicated careers, employability and placement service for students and alumni.

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