Budding young entrepreneurs from East Ayrshire academies entered Sir Tom Hunter’s Dragons’ Den once more, in a bid to scoop the top prize of £3,000 – and Monsieur Soleil swept the board!
An educational board game in French/English, Monsieur Soleil (Mr Sunny) was the brainchild of the team from Doon Academy, Dalmellington, which took them to victory on the night.
Sir Tom praised the quality and innovation of the game, which could also expand into other languages – and he urged them to consider Mandarin.
He said: “Doon Academy is the overall winner of the Sir Tom Hunter Challenge 2014. We think their product has global reach – and importantly, it makes learning fun. Even better, it is manufactured in East Ayrshire”.
As part of his commitment to mentor local pupils, billionaire entrepreneur Sir Tom challenged youngsters to come up with ideas for products, innovations or businesses of the future.
Nine teams presented their business plans to Sir Tom and his panel of judges – Heather Dunk (Ayrshire College), Marie Macklin (Klin Group), Willie Mackie (Chamber of Commerce) and David Ross (Keppie Design) – in the Dragons’ Den style contest in Loudoun Academy, Galston, hosted by last year’s winners.
Top prize of £3,000 went to Doon Academy’s first-ever enterprise group, Focus – Kirsty McCormick, Ashley Mitchell, Halle Fitzsimmons, Paige McMahon, Fiona Kennedy, Katie Graham and Naomi Allan.
Graham Short, Director of Educational and Social Services, had already purchased 50 units of Monsieur Soleil for schools – and judge Heather Dunk had also bought a game, which she said was ‘superb’.
James Hamilton Academy scooped second prize of £2,000 for H2NO –a ‘socially-responsible’ mobile phone cover, which inflates and protects a phone dropped in water. All profits made will go to WaterAid. The judges praised it as ‘a really innovative idea which could be used in the marketplace today’.
Auchinleck Academy was awarded third prize of £1,000 for its creative Re-Dezyn app, which allows users to re-design any room in their house.
The other six schools’ presentations were considered to be so good that Sir Tom awarded them £500 each.
Ideas from the other teams included the hAPPy Helper Pack (Cumnock Academy); Unico event management (Loudoun Academy); Ritual cosmetics (Grange Academy); the ErgoTable (Stewarton Academy; Café Diem (St Joseph’s Academy); and Lapspace convertible laptop case (Kilmarnock Academy).
Sir Tom Hunter said: ““East Ayrshire Council has taken the lead in the field of enterprise in education. This should be happening all over Ayrshire and indeed all over Scotland.
“The role of education is to equip young people with open minds and challenging minds, to encourage them to collaborate in teams and have fun while learning.
“Everyone here is really a winner. The important thing is the journey pupils go through to learn and understand – not just the inventions they come up with”.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “This was a keenly fought competition, where our young entrepreneurs had the opportunity to demonstrate not only their business skills, but also their fantastic creativity.
“Engagement with business is now securely embedded in the school curriculum and our vision is to ensure that every pupil will develop the skills and abilities for a successful career.
“Above all, we want to foster in our young people that vital ‘can-do’ attitude and positive mindset. Events like this clearly show what a talented pool of young entrepreneurs we have here”.
The Sir Tom Hunter Challenge formed part of the Council’s business enterprise programme, designed to develop entrepreneurial skills and help make young people ‘business ready’.
All school teams were invited to Sir Tom Hunter’s E-spark Hatchery in Dundonald for further mentoring.