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Nanaimo Christian Students Enter Dragons’ Den

Students in the Entrepreneurship and Marketing course get a taste of starting a business.

Nanaimo Christian School entrepreneur students

This fall, students in the Entrepreneurship and Marketing course at Nanaimo Christian School in Nanaimo, British Columbia, got a taste of what it takes to start up a business through an exercise patterned after the television show The Dragons’ Den.

This is the first year the school has offered the course, which is co-taught by Glen Friesen and Alex Toews. “In August, Glen and I sat down with the new BC curriculum and began to plan out the year,” said Toews. “Our goal was to give the student an opportunity to experience taking an idea with a business framework from a concept to reality.”

Twelve groups, ranging in size from five students to one, developed proposals for products or services they wanted offered through the school store. They then presented their proposals to a panel of business people, who asked questions, evaluated the ideas, and approved some while rejecting others. “The Dragons’ Den idea began with principal James Sijpheer, Glen Friesen, and myself being the dragons,” said Toews. “As Glen and I began to speak with local business people in our community, it became clear that we were striking a chord that excited people. We drew up an invitation letter and we soon had more interest than we could ever imagine. We did have five dragons from our community, and James Sijpheer stayed on. Glen and I were able to remove ourselves and became partners with our students, helping them build their proposals.”

In total, 30 students presented. The proposals included:

  • Fries and hot dogs: approved
  • Fudge: approved
  • Convenience snacks
  • A full length film, with ticket sales being how they would pay back their loan
  • A graphic designer selling her artistic services: approved
  • A group of boys selling their brand: approved
  • A proposal to help fund a kitchen renovation
  • A prototype computer case
  • A basketball training camp offered by a student: approved
  • A custom logo backpack

Although it’s easy to see the world of business as cutthroat and contrary to Christian values, questions were included that asked the students to focus on the ethics of their products as well. “By asking if the product or service is socially responsible, we highlight that Christian business is not about profiting off our community, but bettering it,” said Toews. "For example, the french fries group made a deal with the dragons that saw 40 percent of their profit going to charity.”

Dragons are already on call for the next round, and the students are excited as well. Said Toews, “I saw a level of learning that I could not have imagined. Students who were denied and those that were successful were given a wealth of knowledge from the dragons. All the dragons involved were here to teach; some students felt that their presentations were picked apart, but all of them have said it has been a positive experience. The dragons enjoyed it so much that they plan to hold a conference call between them to better help the groups reach further than just our school community.”

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