Budding entrepreneurs know that coming up with a good idea is just the beginning. The hard part is taking that idea and turning it into something real. For even a great concept to make it in the market, a tremendous amount of planning and refinement is necessary. If the idea needs funding, that, too, must be found before work can continue.
For the average business student, this lengthy process could seem like an insurmountable challenge. To students at Willis College, it’s something they’re specifically trained to do. Through the Lion’s Den program at Willis, students learn all about entrepreneurship in a highly practical manner that exposes them to leading business figures in their community. Inspired by the Dragon’s Den television series, it’s the ideal preparation for those who hope to someday embark on business ventures of their own.
Want to learn more about the Lion’s Den? Here’s a closer look.
Learning from lectures and regular classroom exercises is a good way to get a fundamental grasp of a topic, but true mastery is achieved when skills and knowledge are put to work to solve a real problem. This is exactly what the Lion’s Den project has our students do.
Over the course of seven weeks, participating students hone their skills in business, project management, and marketing while collaborating in groups to develop workable ideas for a business. At the end of the process, each team presents their business proposal to the panel of business leaders brought in to serve as judges – or “Lions” – in our Lion’s Den.
Students are expected to be prepared to answer questions and make the best case possible for why their business is viable and likely to find success in the marketplace. It’s an intense exercise, requiring participants to draw from everything they have learned on their courses to find success, but the results are a practical deep dive into entrepreneurship that is perfect preparation for a real world situation.
One of the key difference-makers in this process is the team of “Lions” brought in to evaluate the ideas presented by the students. Drawn from a number of influential and well-regarded companies, they bring a keen knowledge of business and a well-honed critical eye to the table, asking important questions of students and thereby helping them to refine their ideas into concepts with real potential.
For the 2017 Lion’s Den, leaders from the Ottawa Community Loan Fund, ChangeBuzz, iexpressions, and other interesting organizations served as Lions. Combined, they offered valuable guidance from the worlds of business lending, environmental services, organizational development, and elsewhere. Access to a diverse, attentive business audience of this calibre is a rare thing indeed, and students in our business diploma program are regularly impressed with the value that the panel of Lions has to offer.
Here’s a look at the reactions from one group after completing their Lion’s Den presentation:
Though the Lions have high standards for what they consider to be good business, they continually find themselves impressed by the output of the students in Willis College’s business programs. Ken Wood, a Senior Financial Advisor at CIBC Imperial Service and Lion in the January, 2016 edition of Lion’s Den, said that he “really enjoyed the quality of the presentations,” praising the ideas, research, and marketing behind each group’s work. Other Lions consistently offer similar praise for the work that they see.
For students, this consistent track record of success bodes well for future opportunities, as more and more leading figures in the local business community recognize the highly developed skill sets of graduates who complete the Lion’s Den project. To attend Willis College and complete this project yourself is not only a way to polish your entrepreneurial abilities, but something that could put you on a faster track to a successful career after you graduate.
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