Dragons breathe new life into community causes

Seven voluntary and community sector organisations from across Shropshire are getting new life breathed into their work after successfully securing support and advice from local businesses at a ‘Dragons’ Den’-style event.

The organisations, including social enterprises, community groups and registered charities, were given the unique opportunity to make a pitch to secure the services of a panel of five entrepreneurial ‘Dragons’ at a special evening held at The Academy in Shrewsbury last month (July 2012).

Seven finalists – Confide, Citizens Advice Shropshire, Imagematch, Landau, Young Advisors West Midlands (Shropshire & Telford), West Mercia Women’s Aid, and Autonomy Self Help Group – were each given the opportunity to make a ten minute presentation to the panel on why their organisation deserved to receive free support and advice.

After a series of passionate presentations and some intense questioning, each of the seven participating organisations successfully secured the services of at least two of the five Dragons, who comprised public relations expert Felicity Wingrove of Zen Communications, Mike Surzyn of PCB Solicitors, Justine Vaughan of human resources and people management consultancy Triangle HR, Keith Winter of accountants Dyke Yaxley, and change management specialist Nick Gilbert of Muller Dairy.

Sarah Fishbourne, Director at Impact Consultancy, who helped to organise the event, commented:

“Working alongside the ‘Dragons’ in the weeks and months to come could be the stepping stone these voluntary organisations need to secure more investment for their worthwhile projects, as well as helping to generate a greater awareness for their causes.
“The event was a huge success and we’d like to offer our thanks to everyone involved, especially the five ‘Dragons’, who have so kindly pledged to provide their support and advice for free, and Toby Poulsom, Principal Consultant at The Academy, who gave the seven finalists invaluable training and advice in the run-up to making their final pitches.”
The Dragon’s Den event was held as part of a series of initiatives led by the Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly (VCSA) and funded by Shropshire Council, which is aiming to encourage collaborative working between the county’s business sector and the voluntary and community sector.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for the voluntary and community sector, said:

“Many people we’ve spoken to within this sector in particular have really struggled to get in front of businesses and potential investors, and the fact that we have a panel of influential business leaders willing and able to offer their advice is simply fantastic.  We hope their expertise will really rub off on these organisations, who will be given the opportunity of learning from some of the very best business brains that Shropshire has to offer.”

News of the initiative has spread on a national scale with an article on the event being issued in The Guardian. The event also has a Blog which will monitor the participants progress from initial pitch to implementation of support from the

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