Canterbury students enter the Dragons’ Den

Student entrepreneurs will pitch their business ideas live on stage during a Dragons’ Den-style competition in Christchurch next week.

The students will be promoting their ideas at an event on Tuesday, February 4, at The Piano: Centre for Music and the Arts on Armagh St.

Some of the initiatives on offer include a compostable kelp-based plastic alternative, a social enterprise that provides affordable ball dresses for high school students, a technology to recover zinc from industrial waste and a company that provides data services to the blockchain industry.

The students have been developing their new ideas for 10 weeks as part of the university's Centre for Entrepreneurship summer startup programme.  The scheme is an opportunity for students to fast-track their commercial or social enterprise venture into reality.

An initial group of 24 will be narrowed down to the top 10 students who will take part in the showcase on Tuesday.

The finalists will have three minutes to present their idea to a panel of industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs, including Melissa Davies, Ben Kepes and Peter Montgomery.

The university's Centre for Entrepreneurship director Rachel Wright said the process is challenging and exciting for the young people involved.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for UC students to develop their creative business and social enterprise ideas and make a positive difference in the world.

"Through the summer startup they benefit from the skills and expertise of local business leaders and make valuable connections.

"The showcase is also a chance for people in the community to come along and discover what the next generation of entrepreneurs in our city are up to.

"People enjoy watching the British TV show Dragons’ Den - this is a chance to see it for real."

Harvard Business School graduate Richard Doyle, who is founder of Harpoon Brewery and chairman of Enjoy Beer Holdings, a partnership of independent brewers in the United States, has been the entrepreneur in residence during the programme.

His role involves daily mentoring and coaching with the students and he has been impressed by the "very entrepreneurial spirit" of the group.

"It’s creative and there’s a wide swathe of innovative products," he said.

"This is summer time and these are college [university] students, and they’re here. That shows a level of commitment and they’re working hard,” he says.

"They face a lot of constructive criticism and they take it the right way, without any defensiveness. When they get out into the business world they will all be better for having been in the Programme.”

The Canterbury University Centre for Entrepreneurship Summer Startup Showcase will be on at The Piano: Centre for Music and the Arts, 156 Armagh St, on Tuesday, February 4, from 6-8pm. It is open to the public and free tickets are available through Eventbrite.

The event will also be live streamed on the university's Facebook page.

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